Global tree cover

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There is a long tradition in the emotional relationship between people and forests. We can get an understanding of the extent of the global tree cover from satellite sensors such as NASA’s MODIS
Calculating the average tree cover in an area allows us to estimate the extent of the world’s forests. Forest landscapes can be mapped in various ways and is often done in conventional maps. However, much of the land area is not covered by forest and the few remaining untouched forest landscapes keep shrinking while deforestation continues.

Gridded cartogram visualisation of global tree cover
(click for larger version)

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Wood-works: Mapping the world’s commercial forestry

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While ‘sustainability’ is in everyone’s mouth – from academia to politics – few are aware that the term was originally shaped in relation to the early days of modern forestry: In the early 18th century, Hans Carl von Carlowitz coined the German word ‘Nachhaltigkeit’ which in a simplified way meant to ensure that enough trees were replanted to ensure the long-term existence of wood supplies (from where the term found its way into its broader meaning that we use it for today). While wood has for a long time been an important resource, it todays is also an important global trade product. In 2007 the FAO stated that “over the last 20 years international trade of forest products […] increased from US$60 billion to US$257 billion, an average annual growth of 6.6%.”
The following cartograms show different aspects related to forestry, including the production of wood for economic activity, the consumption of wood and wood-related products (such as paper), as well as global exports and imports of this (using data for 2011 by FAOstat):

Cartogram visualisations global forest production, consumption and trade
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Tsunami 2004: Ten years on

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On December 26, 2004, at 7:58 am local time an undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 approximately 160 km west of the shores of Sumatra (Indonesia) and 30 km below the sea surface triggered tsunamis in the Indian Ocean. They hit the coasts of countries East and West of the epicenter, among them Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives, the Seychelles, Myanmar, Malaysia, Bangladesh and reaching as far as Somalia and Tanzania on the African coastline over 6000 km away.
The coastal populations of the affected countries were hit the hardest, suffering deaths, injuries, displacement and the destruction of their livelihoods. Indonesia was affected most, with an estimated number of 170,000 casualties and approximately 500,000 displaced people. The following cartogram shows the distribution of the estimated 230,273 deaths allocated to the country where the deaths occurred, making each country as large as its total share of the people who dies at the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami:

Map of the distribution of people who died in the 2004 Tsunami
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Have you ever seen the rain?

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The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol is held from 1 to 12 December. For COP 20 / CPM 10 delegates from around the world increased their carbon footprint by heading to Lima, Peru, to hopefully produce more than just hot air. So again it is time to speak about the weather…or climate.

Animation of a gridded cartogram projection of global annual precipitation patterns
(click for larger version)

This animation is a visualisation which I originally produced for my PhD research and which was published in my book Rediscovering the World. Continue reading

Inequality and Sustainability

“We should … dethrone the idea that maximising the growth in measured prosperity, GDP per capita, should be an explicit objective of economic and social policy.”
Adair Turner, Chair of the UK Financial Services Authority, 2007

Today I gave a talk at the meeting of the Sustainability Knowledge Alliance and the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) of the UK Parliament at the British Academy in London. The event aimed at discussing the relationship between growing inequality and sustainability. As the meeting’s announcement explains, “in so many ways inequality is a backdrop to many features of modern political, economic and social arrangements where structures of self-reinforcing power and influence combine to buttress non-sustainability. We see this in the lobbying for the perpetuation of a carbon economy, in the promotion of the “war on terror”, and in the huge biases built into the interweaving connections between business, politics, regulation and consumerism.”
In my talk I explained how inequality and a consumption correlate. I looked at the issue mainly from a global perspective, using evidence that Danny Dorling and I compiled to find out to what extent inequality and (un)sustainability correlate. The following series of charts give in insight into how the level of inequality and a range of indicators related to consumerism and consumption compare:

Inequality and the ecological footprint
Inequality and the ecological footprint Continue reading

Hedgehogs and beyond: Introducing Londonmapper

LondonmapperGood things come to those who wait. Today we are officially launching the Londonmapper website, a project that I started working on following the completion of my PhD in 2011. Over the past 2 1/2 years we developed the scope of the project which aims to become a new Social Atlas of London, a project that has not been undertaken since Shepherd et al’s work in the 1970s. But it wouldn’t be me if this would be an ordinary mapping project. Londonmapper is a growing collection of all kinds of cartograms that map a wide range of data to give a comprehensive picture of the diversity in the city. Continue reading