Healthy Soils for a Healthy Life

International Year of SoilsHealthy Soils for a Healthy Life is the motto of the UN International Year of Soils which aims to “increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.” As explained on the campaign’s website, “soil is the thin layer of material on the Earth’s surface. It is a natural resource consisting of weathered and organic materials, air and water. As it is the medium in which plants establish themselves and grow, the most widely recognized function of soil is its support for food production. Soil provides nutrients and water that are absorbed through plant roots and contribute to the regulation of water and atmospheric gases and therefore play an important role in climate regulation.”
Soil therefore matters most where is is near human population, which at the same time puts soils under extreme pressure in these areas. Soil types not least determine where humans used to settle when they gave up their nomadic lifestyles and started becoming more stationary as farmers. Nowadays, some of the most fertile soils are found in the most densely populated spaces on the planet, which is shown in the following map. The map shows the major soil types classified in the FAO/UNESCO Soil Map of the World reprojected on a gridded population cartogram where a grid is resized to give every person living within a grid cell an equal amount of space (reducing the map in those spaces most where there are fewest people):

Map of major soil groups
(click for larger version)

Continue reading

The Evolution of Life Expectancy in the World

Featured

Life expectancy equals the average number of years a person born in a given country would live if mortality rates at each age were to remain constant in the future.” (Wikipedia)
Depending on the exact sources, global life expectancy currently lies at approximately 71 years although a global estimate tells very little about the differences between the countries. What applies to every country is the fact that women, on average, live longer than men.
The following map shows the distribution of life expectancies based on national-level data as documented in the 2014 revision of the Human Development Report displayed on a gridded population cartogram in which every human gets an equal amount of space:

Gridded Population Cartogram showing Global Life Expectancy in 2013
(click for larger version)

Continue reading

Women in Parliament

#makeithappen - International Women's Day 2015Make it happen is this year’s theme of International Women’s Day. The day is Internationally the day is celebrated every year on March 8th since 1911 and in 1917 demonstrations in the context of the Women’s Day lead to the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. What had started as a socialist event to recognize women’s economic, political, and social struggles and achievements has now lost this ideological connotation. Today it is rather regarded as an opportunity to raise awareness for the inequality women still experience in all societies.
In some countries the day is still an official holiday, such as in Russia and other former socialist republics, but also in Afghanistan, Angola and Eritrea. In China, Madagascar, Macedonia and Nepal it is a holiday solely for women.
Gender inequality remains a pressing challenge globally and is seen as a major barrier to human development which is why the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) has a specific indicator to take these problems into account. The Gender Inequality Index (GII) measures gender (in)equity in health, education, work and politics.
The following map shows one indicator from the current GII that highlights the political representation of women in parliaments worldwide measured by the share of seats in parliament (with data for 2013). The map uses an equal-population projection which gives every person on the planet an equal amount of space:

Map of women in Parliament
(click for larger version)

Continue reading

Water worlds: Ocean Chlorophyll levels

Featured

The ocean is the last frontier that has not been discovered by cartogram techniques before. As such, it was an inevitable step in my PhD research some years ago to test the creation of a gridded ocean cartogram, a cartogram that is limited to the extent of the world’s oceans (also linking nicely to my past research on coastal ecosystems).
Chlorophyll concentrations in the world’s oceans are important indicators for the presence of algae and other plant-like organisms that carry out photosynthesis. As such, phytoplankton (which contains the chlorophyll) is an essential element of the food chain in the seas as it provides the food for numerous animals. Variations and changes in the chlorophyll levels are also relevant for the study of the ecology of the sea. Changing chlorophyll levels can indicate changing sea temperatures and other conditions in the oceans that cover about 72 percent of the planet’s surface.

Gridded cartogram visualisation of Ocean Chlorophyll concentrations
(click for larger version)

Continue reading

20’s not so plenty: Road safety in Britain

“20’s Plenty for Us is a voluntary organisation that campaigns for the introduction of a default 20 mph (32 km/h) speed limit for residential streets and urban streets. By seeking to obtain implementation across a complete local authority or community then the organisation believes that worthwhile speed reductions can be achieved without the usual physical calming features.” (Wikipedia) In collaboration with Rod King of 20’s Plenty and Danny Dorling of Oxford University we looked at how far the campaign has gotten so far with convincing local authorities to implement a speed limit of 20 mph in residential areas. Today 12.5 million people live in areas where cars travel more slowly. Although nationally pedestrian deaths on the road are still rising, it marks a first step towards more road safety by a very simple measure. Looking at the spatial patterns, the implementation can be observed all across the United Kingdom, though there appear to be very little on a conventional map. Looking at the issue through an equal-population projection reveals the real extent and puts a spotlight on these areas that really matter for this measure: the most densely populated areas. Here it can be seen that the majority of Scottish people live in areas where 20 mph zones are prevalent, just as the Liverpool-Manchester region (and Sheffield) have seen very successful campaigns, while in other parts of the country the red patches are still covering very large shares of the population:

Cartogram visualisations global forest production, consumption and trade
(click for larger version)

Continue reading

Global tree cover

Featured

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)

Continue reading