Europe appears to be far from being a perfect union these days, with many countries suffering severely from high debt levels as a lasting legacy of the financial crisis that brought the slowly shifting economic equalisation between East and West to a halt. In a symbolic move the Nobel Committee made the decision to award the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. It reflects a plea for European Unity which is seen as a great achievement for a continent where countries had repeatedly been at war for centuries. The Committee argues that the EU “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe“. The European Union is a project to unite the population of the continent peacefully in all its diversity, a population which is shown in the following map. The map displays a gridded population cartogram of the EU27 member states without any borders drawn onto it. The map is as a reminder that here we really are all in this together regardless the place we live on the continent (and the islands surrounding it), instead of all against each other:
22 years after re-unification Germany has become an ‘accidental empire’ (Guardian) in Europe through its economic might. It is the largest economy in Europe and also happens to be the largest country by population. Germany has gotten into a political role that it seemed to be reluctant to take over ever since – in many regards the country is still seen as a reluctant power as Meier described it in a paper published in 1995 (today going much further than the role of the nation’s army). Post-unification Germany has been marked with many changes and the emergence of a reborn nation which stands in the centre of the future challenges of Europe. While the country struggles with a redefined role in Europe, its domestic challenges are appear equally tough: They are those of building a sustainable future for a rapidly changing demographic structure of society that is able to sustain a strong economic base. With a declining population, Germany may be smaller than France or the United Kingdom by 2060 if current trends were to continue (predicting future populations must always be seen with great caution – as some predictions from almost 50 years ago demonstrate quite well). Putting uncertainties about future trends aside, the question may also be whether a decline in population is a negative thing (and on the opposite, whether growing populations are bad either)? The pure numbers are less the problem, rather than the spatial and social implications that come with them.
Panic is never helpful for finding solutions, but look at what demographic changes are actually happening to find ways of dealing with it. The decrease of the fertility rate down to 1.36 children per woman in 2011 (according to the Federal Statistical Office) is already tackled with political measures (which may even already have first influences on the predicted trends as suggested by the MPG) and could lead to a changing trend – though probably not a reversal in the general trend of an ageing population (as reflected in the changing population pyramid of Germany). But most of the negative impact of demographic change in a spatial context have started with reunification in 1990 and lead to specific geographic problems that are the much more imminent for the country, as they led to a considerably changed population landscape:
The British government announced a £9.4bn package of investment in the railways in England and Wales today, which – if it is realised as proposed – adds to the recent efforts to bring the motherland of rail transport up to the standards of many other countries around the world. The announcement comes in a year in which another major railway infrastructure project is widely discussed in the United Kingdom: “High Speed 2 (HS2) is a planned high-speed railway between London and the English Midlands, Northern England, and potentially the central belt of Scotland” (see Wikipedia).
Phase 1 of HS2 has been discussed widely earlier this year, after the latest route plans from London Euston to Birmingham/Lichfield were proposed as part of the HS2 public consultation.
The detailed route proposal shows the geographical location of some of the most critical parts of the line that has some considerable opposition amongst various interest groups. While a high speed rail network requires space for the fastest legs of the journey – usually to be found in the countryside – the shorter parts of the line are not without problems either: As the line connects the most populous areas of the countries, it has to go through some densely populated areas as well, which are less visible on the overview maps of the project (another map is featured on the BBC website). The following map therefore takes advantage of the fisheye perspective of a gridded cartogram that shows the proposed HS2 (phase 1) route plotted on an equal population projection map. The map also includes the average speeds in an area, demonstrating the (obvious) slowdown effect of densely populated areas, mainly London and Birmingham as the main destinations that this line connects in the initial stage. The map also shows nicely how the fastest part of the journey squeezes through the least populated corridor between these areas, and it also gives an impression of ‘travel time’, i.e. where one spends much of the time in a high speed train. Its not the landscapes that fly past the window while travelling at highest speed, but the urban landscapes that one creeps along quite slowly when leaving and approaching the major cities:
With Lonesome George an international icon for conservation has died (although there are still chances that his subspecies of the Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdoni) will continue to exist). The extinction rate of endangered species however remains high and some say may even be the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. Less controversially it can be stated that the current extinction rates are higher than one would expect without humankind’s influence, and that more action to preserve the environment is needed. Continue reading
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
The British monarchy is celebrating the 60-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II as the official head of state of the United Kingdom. The British Monarchy reaches beyond the boarders of the United Kingdom, making the Queen a constitutional monarch of (currently) 16 countries of the 54 members of the Commonwealth. Celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee will therefore not only be a matter of British subjects, a term which adds to the sometimes confusing geographical realities related to Britain. The epicentre of the events is of course the United Kingdom, especially the capital city London where the celebrations peak this (extended) weekend. The media is well prepared to get the global attention aligned to London ahead of the Olympics. In ongoing difficult economic times these upcoming events are a welcoming distraction for politicians to keep the population quiet.
To put the people back at the centre, here comes a new look at the population of the United Kingdom. The following map builds on the gridded population cartogram that I published on this website before (e.g. at this comparison of a choropleth density map and a cartogram, in this report of the Royal Commission, at this comparison of the different parts of the UK, or in this first London feature on this website). The new gridded population cartogram is a revised version using a much higher resolution population grid like in this population map of Germany. The data comes from the LandScan database which allows to map even more detail in the population distribution, which is why this new map shows a higher variation of population densities within the most densely populated areas. The map is the most detailed gridded population cartogram of the United Kingdom produced so far, which allows us to see even smaller cities in their population context. The map is an equal population projection where each grid cell is resized according to the number of people living there. It shows human shape of the United Kingdom in HD resolution as never before: