Global Spaces of Food Production


Global Spaces of Food Production
In the year 2000 there were approximately 15 million square km of cropland and 28 million square km of pasture which are represented in the two main maps. These are equal to 12% respectively 22% of the ice-free land surface. This is according to estimates of a study on the geographic distribution of global agricultural lands by Ramankutty et al (published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 2008) who used a methodology of combining agricultural inventory data and satellite-derived land cover data to come to these figures (data can be accessed via Columbia University’s SEDAC). Continue reading

World Water Day

World Water Day 2011

Water is a basic requirement for all life, yet water resources are facing increasing demands from, and competition among, users. In 1992, the UN General Assembly designated 22 March of each year as the World Day for Water
(quoted from the WWD website).

Water is more than a chemical substance contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms. Water has become a reason for conflicts and a controversial commodity, and yet, it is inevitable for every human being on the planet. The range of issues that are important when looking at water is diverse, and all fields reveal the global inequalities in access to clean water. One of these issues is the commercialisation of water, which on a global scale finds its manifestation in the bottled water industry: Bottled water is one way of getting access to clean water if there is no reliable central water supply or local source of water.
Edward Stanley from University College London looked at the bottled water business for a Geography dissertation project, for which I created some worldmapper maps visualising his data from that research on ‘Commodification and Mass Consumption – The Case for Bottled Water‘.
The topics that we mapped focus on the countries of origin of the globally operating bottled water companies and the bottled water consumption in the world. The first map shows the total bottled water consumption including a world population cartogram as a reference. In addition, the countries are shaded by their per capita consumption of bottled water (a worldmapper-style version of this map is shown at the bottom of this page):

Map I: Global Bottled Water Consumption (total and per capita)Cartogram / Map of the Global Bottled Water Consumption (total and per capita)(click for larger view)

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Global Water Insecurity

Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity is the title of a new study that points out that almost 80% of the world’s population are exposed to some risk of insecure freshwater resources (published in Nature 467, 555-561 (30 September 2010) | doi:10.1038/nature09440). The researchers created a global raster plotting the security level of water resources based on an index of water threats which is discussed in their paper.
Much of the threats in wealthier countries can be counteracted with technology, which explains much less actual insecurity in these countries – but therefore puts biodiversity at risk and resulting in a high price for an inevitable resource of human life.
Talking to BBC News Peter McIntyre from the University of Wisconsin, one of the scientists involved in the study, puts it this way:

“But even in rich parts of the world, it’s not a sensible way to proceed. We could continue to build more dams and exploit deeper and deeper aquifers; but even if you can afford it, it’s not a cost-effective way of doing things.” (Source: BBC)

The unaltered stress level of global freshwater resources as published in the study is presented in this map (Source: Nature):
Global geography of incident threat to human water security and biodiversity / Source: Nature
Accompanied by the map of biodiversity, this gives an interesting insight to the impacts on biodiversity. The impact on human population remains less shown in this depiction but is another crucial issue of the paper. As mentioned before, 80% of the world population are exposed to threatened water resources. By applying their map to the gridded-cartogram technique, the whole impact of these threatened water resources on the population becomes apparent. The 80% at risk become visible, as the map transformation preserves the geographical reference of the underlying grid. The emerging picture is going along quite well with the findings of the study and thus adds another interesting perspective on the issue of threatened water resources in the most populated regions in the world. All data from the study is available on and we used that data to reproject the key maps of the study.
This map shows the “natural” picture of the human water security threat level from the study:

Map of Global Water Insecurity
(click for larger version)

When taking the investments on water technology into account, this picture changes considerably, as the next map shows:

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