Megacity London: ever growing, ever more unequal?

What is it about London? Population growth is slowing across most of Europe – people are having fewer children and, it could be argued, steps are being taken to try to reduce social inequalities. But London is unusual. London continues growing, and London is becoming more youthful. The middle aged and those who are poor, but not desperately poor, are being squeezed out. Graduates from the rest of Britain and the rest of the world flow in ever greater numbers and require ever higher degrees of optimism. Many fail to achieve their aspirations. Above them a few are becoming ever richer. Below them, as private rents and social housing becomes too expensive for huge numbers of lowly paid families and many leave, a new poor may be growing, less well documented, less well protected, with even less to lose.
With a population of currently 8.2 million (according to the 2011 Census), London is not only unique for one of the old world’s megacities by being projected to continue rising significantly in population size over the forthcoming decades, but also by its specific demographic structure. Like many large cities, London has a large share of people in the younger age groups – over 20% in the cohorts from 25-34 – but also a significant share of the youngest with around 7% of its population being 0 to 4 years old. Here is a population pyramid of London compiled from the 2011 Census data that has been released recently:Population Pyramid of London 2011 Continue reading

Sheffield – A City in Context

A City in ContextWhat happens if you lock two creative people and three geographers in a pub, pour some statistics about their city over them and let their mind work out the rest? You could find out the result at this year’s Festival of the Mind of the University of Sheffield that went on for 10 days throughout Sheffield. Nick Bax and Daniel Fleetwood of Humanstudio were the two creative minds that teamed up with Carl Lee of Sheffield College and Danny Dorling & myself from the University of Sheffield to take a look at the impact of higher education on the city in a slightly unusual way. The result of this collaboration is the short film ‘A City in Context‘ viewed during the festival and now available online. Continue reading

Mapping the global village

Changing times was the title of a session at this year’s Annual Symposium of the British Cartographic Society (not to be confused with the Society of Cartographers which will have its annual conference in September).
My contribution as a speaker in this session was titled Changing views of a changing planet. In the presentation I took a look at how changes in data and technology can provide alternative ways of mapping a globalised world, and mapping cities as the hotspots of globalisation. Continue reading

New York City: Mapping the melting pot

AAG Annual Meeting 2012New York is the host city to this year’s AAG Annual Meeting. For my plenary presentation at the Population Specialty Group session I therefore decided to add a little bit of a local touch to the talk by including a new map of New York City in the slides. Continue reading

Megacities on the Map

Megacities are major global risk areas. Due to highest concentration of people and extreme dynamics, they are particularly prone to supply crises, social disorganization, political conflicts and natural disasters. Their vulnerability can be high.

This quote from the IGU’s MegaCity TaskForce draws a quite bleak picture of what some believe to be the future of living for humankind. The UN World Urbanisation Prospects finally saw the urban populations surpassing rural living for the first time in human history in recent years, but we must not forget that these urban populations do not all live in what is referred to as a megacity.
A megacity basically is nothing more than a very large city. Widely used is a population of 10 million, but other definitions do exist, ranging from 5 or 8 million, and some people, such as German geographer Bronger are also including the population density of 2000 p. per sq km as a defining factor). The definition of a megacity should also be seen as a rather vague delimitation for a phenomenon that – despite it’s quantitative dimension – has a very qualitative nature: What happens, when extremely large numbers of people live in a very limited amount of space, and what happens, if these areas of very high density living even continue growing.
In the year 2000 there were 39 cities with a population of more than 5 million inhabitants, 2/3 of which were in the developing countries. This was a population of 225 million people, not even 5% of the world’s population. Today we have about 400 million people living in the largest cities on the planet – still far from the majority of the now more than half of the world’s population living in cities. And perhaps the majority of people on this planet may never live in one of these megacities. Why is everyone talking about megacities then anyway? The sheer size make these cities the ultimate examples for urbanization, and provide an insight to the diverse processes in such complex urban spaces. They are like a real-life laboratory for urban geographers who try to understand the impact and implications of urbanization processes, and may contribute to solutions how the urban future of humanity can be actively created and lead to a better and perhaps more sustainable life on this planet.
A gridded population cartogram can help to understand not only the locations of these largest of cities, but provides a look into their setting within the global population patterns by giving space to people and allowing to see where many people live in these large cities, and where people are in relation to these cities. A normal map (see further down) shows the high concentration of megacities especially in Asia, but we can see from the population cartogram that these are in those anyway very densely populated regions, while the megacities in South America appear more like (relatively seen) solitary bodies.

Cartogram / Map of the World's Megacities in 2015
(click for larger map)

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Urban development in the city of Cologne (Köln)

Mapping Cologne
In a previous post on this website I looked at urban mapping showing population changes in London. This time I dug up a different example for mapping cities from my map archive: The German city of Cologne (Köln) is one of Germany’s largest cities with a total population of approximately 1 million people. It its over 2000 years lasting history, its urban landscape changed considerably, and since the Prussian times in the 19th century fairly good mapping records cover the modern land use change from the pre-industrialised to the post-modern city. In a GIS mapping project some years ago, these changes have been digitized in full detail from some major topographic maps, covering the changes in the urban land use since 1850 (see bottom image of this page for the legend to this animation):

Map animation of the Land Use Change in the German city of Cologne / Köln

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