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

Visitors of the World 2012

2012 has been a quite busy year on this website with the number of annual visitors breaking the 100,000 mark for the first time. The analytics tool Piwik which I use for monitoring my website counted precisely 113,359 visits in 2012, up from almost 90,000 the year before. So thanks everyone for visiting either once (as 85,000 people did) or as one of the 16,800 more regular visitors. This asks for a new map that’s showing, where each of the counted visits came from last year: 176 individual countries were counted, as well as a larger number of unknown origins (and of course all those who prefer blocking any analytics tool, they do not appear in any of these statistics). Despite such a large diversity of visits from around the world, the majority comes from places that one may expect, given certain characteristics of this website (language, location, etc.), and also given the accessibility of the internet, which until today remains a very unequal story, even if availability of the online world slowly finds its way to the less privileged places on this planet. But I digress, so here is the map of all visits to viewsoftheworld.net in 2012:

Cartogram / Map of the Visitors to ViewsOfTheWorld.net in 2012
(click for larger version)

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A World Map of Organic Agriculture

Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved. (IFOAM 2009)

The practice of organic farming is not only relevant for soothing the bad conscience of wealthier societies, but it plays an important role in preserving croplands from degradation that is often caused by conventional intensive methods of farming. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recognised this need and set up the Organic Agriculture Programme. Its objective is “to enhance food security, rural development,sustainable livelihoods and environmental integrity by building capacities of member countries in organic production, processing, certification and marketing“. With a still growing world population and the rising demand for food, more sensible (and thus sustainable) ways of agriculture are needed more than ever to stop damage to the world’s arable lands.
In a joint paper published last year in the European Journal of Social Sciences (Vol. 24, Issue 3) John Paull and I presented a new world map of organic agriculture that presents countries as proportional in size to their share of the total of world organic hectares (data sources are described in the paper, reference see below):

Cartogram / World Map of Organic Agriculture
(click for larger version)

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Art meets Science: Views of the Arab World

Arts-Science encounters‘ are much talked about but much less often put into practice (for their supposedly little economic benefit – not least in times of tight science budgets). Science and art are not such opposing worlds as we often see them today, as they were much less divided world in the past. As I wrote in my PhD thesis, “Cartography has always been connecting the worlds of art and science. McLuhan & Powers (1992) underline the importance of cartography by claiming that without the map ‘the world of modern science and technologies would hardly exist’ (McLuhan & Powers 1992, quoted from Thrower 1999: 1). One may not fully agree with this notion, but the importance of cartographic contributions to our understanding of the physical and social environments is hardly questionable.
More widely, science and art remain closely intertwined. From the view of science, this link is often to be found in the field of scientific visualisation. The exhibition Places & Spaces: Mapping Science for example “is meant to inspire cross-disciplinary discussion on how to best track and communicate human activity and scientific progress on a global scale” (see scimaps.org). And where both worlds actively start to meet, the outcome can be a valuable contribution to a new perspective on research, as well as research can gain inspiring ideas for its own work. As stated in the Guardian, “the results [of such collaborations] can be seismic“.
Less seismic in a literal sense but not less inspiring have been some of the collaborations that originated from the Worldmapper project. Amongst these collaborations that I was involved in were the Story Map: What I Heard About the World by Sheffield-based performing artists Third Angel and the short film Sheffield – A City in Context by (again) Sheffield-based creative agency Human where we as academic geographers learned a lot about the approach artists take to see and explain our world.
A very different example of science and art encounters are the sculptures by Bay Area-based artist Jennifer Brazelton who came across my gridded population cartograms that I created as part of my PhD research and published online in the World Population Atlas. Here is an example of her work showing a sculpture based on the shape and structure of the gridded population cartogram of Syria, a country that made the most recent but also so far most lasting headlines in the events of the still so-called Arab Spring:

Syria
Sculpture and Gridded Population Cartogram of Syria
(click here for a full-size picture of the sculptureor here for the population map)

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World Population Cube

Last weekend I was invited to a workshop on future developments of society. The event took place in Berlin and was organised by the German research institution Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI) as part of the Foresight Process initiated by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The Foresight Process is described as ‘a strategic instrument (…) that provides technology foresight and the determination of future societal needs in terms of research and development‘. The workshop was a day full of creative buzz to squeeze interesting ideas out of the participants. To kick off the discussion everyone was asked to bring an item that symbolises one’s own work. For my work that had to be something abut maps. But to make it a more interesting item than a flat map I decided to craft a more sophisticated version of my maps that also stands for the challenging world views that lie behind the cartographic techniques that I work on. Cubic globes are not a new idea, but are quite handy when wanting just a little bit more than a simple map. They are much less work than creating a spheric version of the earth, and (as said by Carlos Furuti on his online cube globe collection) the cube is an ideal introduction to folding one’s own pseudoglobes.
My very own version of a cubic globe is the World Population Globe which I took with me to the workshop. It shows my gridded world population cartogram including topographic and bathymetric details and is reprojected onto a six-sided figure with square sides. If you want to create your own world population cube from my map, you can use the following template, print it out and have your hands on with a pair of scissors and a little bit of glue. The key instructions are shown on the printout (make sure to click the image or the links below for a full-size DIN A4 version of the template). Change your views of the world – enjoy the world population cube!

World Population Cube Cutout template
(click here for a full-size jpg imageor here for a pdf version)

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