Global Mobile Phone Users: A Decade of Changes

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A global shift in predominance of mobile/cell phone ownership in the last decade has seen low-income countries reach near ubiquitous levels. Using 11 years of compiled census data from each country worldwide, Andrew Bastawrous, Iain Livingstone and I analysed the global picture of cell phone ownership and used density-equalizing cartograms to depict this change. This cartogram animation shows a decade of change in the use of mobile phones:

Cartogram animation of global mobile phone subscriptions between 2000 and 2011
(click for larger version)

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Anthropocene Worlds

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The effects of humans on the global environment are perceived to be so significant by some scientists that they argue humans have become a major driving force in environmental change on a par with the forces of nature. It is this rapid impact that has led some geologists to unofficially name (but not, as yet, officially recognise) this very recent period of the earth’s history as the Anthropocene.
Putting criticism and disputes over the geologic validity of this idea aside, the effects of human population and economic development as part of the processes of globalisation influence the natural environment as much as the natural environment previously determined the existence of human life across the globe. One part of our footprint are the major communication and transport infrastructure links that shape the human planet.

Human Worlds - A Map of the Anthropocene
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World at war: Global refugee trends

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UNHCR Global Trends 2014 Refugee ReportThe UNHCR Global Trends 2014 Report released earlier this weekby the UN High Commissioner for Refugees finds that “wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere“.
Commemorating World Refugee Day, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres declared in a statement that “around the world, almost 60 million have been displaced by conflict and persecution. Nearly 20 million of them are refugees, and more than half are children. Their numbers are growing and accelerating, every single day, on every continent.” But while the ‘western’ media takes an often embarrassingly western-centric view, and European politicians struggling to find solutions to this global crisis, the report also shows how big this human crisis really has become.
The following two cartograms show the most recent picture of global refugee trends in 2014 as published in the 2015 UNHCR report. The two maps use the total numbers for ‘refugees and people in refugee-like situations’ according to their country of origin and destination and resizes each country according to its absolute number of refugees. Excluded in these maps are those refugees whose origin is unknown or who are stateless or cannot be assigned to a specific country:

Cartograms / Maps of Refugee Origin and Destination Countries in 2014
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Horsetrading: Equine Europe

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There is a lot horsetrading going on in Europe. Literally. At the request of the European Commission the World Horse Welfare and Eurogroup for Animals have just published a report titled Removing the Blinkers which looks at the health and welfare of European Equidae in 2015. The report is the first comprehensive documentation of where horses are being kept in Europe, how they are kept, and how they are traded. The following cartogram shows a Europemapper-style cartogram depicting the EU population figures for equidea as stated in the report, using their mean figure (averaging the lowest and highest estimates for the number of horses in each country) which counts a total of just over 7 million horses in the European Union (compared to FAOSTAT estimates of only 4.3 million horses kept as livestock):

Cartogram map of horses in the European Union
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Changing Political Landscapes of Britain

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Three days after the UK general election, the formation of a new (old) Conservative government is in full preparation with few new faces on the one side, and soul searching and the search for new faces on the other side of the political spectrum. There has also been plenty of joy for map lovers (even if they may not be equally happy with the outcome), including my own map series of the winning parties in each constituency. The following map series uses the same approach but shows further details on how things have changed in the political landscape of the country compared to the 2010 general election:

Map views of the 2015 General Election in the United Kingdom
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Earthquake risk zones: A people’s perspective

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A M7.8 earthquake has occurred in Nepal “as the result of thrust faulting on or near the main frontal thrust between the subducting India plate and the overriding Eurasia plate to the north.” As the USGS summarises, “although a major plate boundary with a history of large-to-great sized earthquakes, large earthquakes on the Himalayan thrust are rare in the documented historical era. Just four events of M6 or larger have occurred within 250 km of the April 25, 2015 earthquake over the past century”.
In a paper for the Journal of Maps published in 2014 I have analysed and visualised data documenting earthquakes that have occurred since 2150 BC. The following map was part of the material supplementing the publication showing the results of the analysis shown on an equal population projection. The gridded cartogram gives every person on the planet an equal amount of space while highlighting the most densely populated spaces in relation to the earthquake risk (calculated via the intensity of earthquakes recorded since 2150 BC). Also shown are the world’s megacities (over 5 million population). The map shows the large populations that make even Nepal (with its almost 28 million people) much more visible than it would be on a conventional map, highlighting why this event turns out to be quite disastrous. The map also shows what the USGS statement above mentions that Nepal is amongst the areas in the region which are far less subject to major earthquakes (as indicated by the yellow to blue shading in the map there – Nepal is the rather large spot squeezed on top between the areas that represent the large populations of India and China):

Map of earthquake risk zones on an equal-population projection
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Download as poster (PDF, 62MB)

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Volcanoes and Human Population

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The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile erupted for the first time in more than five decades, which in the global media was covered more for its visual spectacle rather than its perception as a major catastrophe. This can be partly explained with the low threat that Calbuco poses to larger numbers of people. As reported by the BBC, “authorities have declared a red alert and evacuated more than 4,000 people within a 20km (12 mile) radius”. This is a relatively low number as the volcano is situated in a sparsely populated, mountainous area. Natural events usually turn into natural disasters when they happen in more densely populated areas. The following map shows how human settlement patterns and the global distribution of volcanoes correlate by drawing a 100km radius around each of the world’s volcanoes and then projecting this data onto a gridded population cartogram. This equal-population projection results in some of these 100km risk zones around the volcanoes to become hugely visible, because there are large populations living in this area, while other volcanoes and their risk-radius become almost invisible due to the low number of people living there. Very often, these are the decisive differences between a volcanic eruption being a natural event (or even spectacle) and a natural disaster, which these events can become in the red-shaded areas of this map:

Map of volcanic risk zones on an equal-population projection
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The Evolution of Life Expectancy in the World

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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
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In Focus: Regions between Recentralisation and Independence

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Political Insight2014 will be remembered as a year in which two nation-states faced the debate around city-regional configuration within their borders in very different ways. The United Kingdom witnessed a closely fought pro-union outcome in its Scottish independence referendum while, in Catalonia, despite a consultation process showing a huge majority declare their desire for independence, this outcome was not recognised by the Spanish government.
In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (April 2015, Volume 6, Issue 1) Igor Calzada and I looked at the rapidly changing balance of power between states and their regions.

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Water worlds: Ocean Chlorophyll levels

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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
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Geographic visualization in social sciences: Draw more maps!

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Wordle Data Visualisation
Geographic visualization in social sciences – or draw more maps! Continue reading

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
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Visualising wilderness

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(click for larger version – high resolution PDF)

Following an article on IFL Science (which itself followed a recent online and print article in Popular Science) here comes some further background and material from my work on visualising travel times to the nearest large cities Continue reading

In Focus: Wealth on the British Isles

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Political InsightThe debate about the relevance and impact of the super-rich on society has gained greater currency as evidence continues to grow that the widening gap between the poor and the rich has a negative impact on societies as a whole. In otherwise affluent countries where the richest one per cent owns the most, child poverty is common, school attainment is lower and medium household incomes are depressed. Along with reduced average living standards, housing is of poorer quality, and health suffers as anxiety rises.
In an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2014, Volume 5, Issue 3) Danny Dorling and I looked beyond the economic, social, educational and medical implications, focussing on the geographical lessons to learn when wealth concentrates. Where the richest of the rich live, work and where they keep their assets is even more imbalanced than the wider and growing underlying inequalities between rich and poor. In societies where the rich have less they tend to be more spread out across a country, but when the wealth of those at the top rises greatly there is a tendency to congregate – with London a prime example.

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Migrants at Sea

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Lampedusa has become a tragic symbol for a crisis and controversy that is discussed across the European Union. The Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea has become a prime transit point for immigrants from Africa and related to an ongoing tragedy in the waters between the European and African continent where people die on an almost daily basis while hoping for a better life in Europe. The debate has turned as far as the UK opposing future migrant rescues in Mediterranean. In a recent feature the Guardian newspaper published a range of statistics related to the topic, amongst them some figures that highlight the countries where refugees make it across the perilous waters into the EU from which I created the following cartogram that shows, which countries have to deal with which numbers of migrants arriving via the sea:

Map of migrants reaching the European Union via the Mediterranean Sea between 2006-2014
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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

Growing old: European Population Pyramids

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“A population pyramid, also called an age pyramid or age picture diagram, is a graphical illustration that shows the distribution of various age groups in a population (typically that of a country or region of the world), which forms the shape of a pyramid when the population is growing.” (Wikipedia)

Population Pyramids of Europe

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Demographies of China

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This week I joined the Department of Asian Studies at Palacký University Olomouc (Czech Republic) as a visiting lecturer by invitation of the CHINET project. In my lecture about New Geographies of China I built on the work I have presented earlier this year at the Conference on the Socio-Economic Transition of China at the same place, teaching the students not only how China’s position is in the global context of demographic, social and economic change, but also how we can visualise this in novel ways. The following three maps are an extract from my presentation that gave an overview of this lecture.
The maps show the distribution of the different age groups in the country divided into children (age 0 to 14), working age (age 15 to 64) and elderly (above age 64) as they are counted in the official Chinese Census released by the National Bureau of Statistics. As the most recent Census figures have not been released at the same level of detail, the following three maps show the state of 2000. Here is an animated version of the three maps showing all three groups one after another (the individual maps are displayed below):

Animation of demographic groups in China projected on a gridded population cartogram
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In Focus: The real size of Offshore Financial Centres

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Political InsightIn an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2013, Volume 4, Issue 3) Jan Fichtner of the University of Frankfurt a.M. and I analysed the size of the foreign assets in the world’s largest offshore financial centres. All ‘offshore financial centres’ (OFCs) have one characteristic feature in common; they offer very low tax rates and lax regulations to non-residents with the aim to attract foreign financial assets. OFCs essentially undercut ‘onshore’ jurisdictions at their expense. The main beneficiaries are high-net-worth individuals and large multinational corporations that have the capital and expertise required to utilise OFCs. Beyond its geographical connotation the phenomenon of ‘offshore’ represents a withdrawal of public regulation and control, primarily over finance. Some important OFCs are in fact located ‘onshore’, e.g. Delaware in the USA and the City of London in the UK. However, historically many OFCs have literally developed ‘off-shore’, mostly on small islands.
OFCs as defined by Zoromé (2007) are jurisdictions that provide financial services to non-residents on a scale that is excessive compared to the size and the financing of their domestic economies. The graphic shows combined data on securities (Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey by the IMF) and on deposits/loans (Locational Banking Statistics by the BIS) at the end of 2011. Capturing the two by far most important components of financial centres allows a reasonable approximation of the real size of OFCs while avoiding double counting. The larger the size of the circles on the map, the more foreign financial assets have been attracted to the particular jurisdiction. The vast majority of the almost US$70 trillion foreign financial assets are concentrated in North America, Europe and Japan. Areas with assets below $US50bn are not shown for their relative insignificance in the global context.

Offshore Financial Centres

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The Human Planet: A modern Mappa Mundi

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A mappa mundi […] is any medieval European map of the world. […] To modern eyes, mappae mundi can look superficially primitive and inaccurate. However, mappae mundi were never meant to be used as navigational charts and they make no pretence of showing the relative areas of land and water. Rather, mappae mundi were schematic and were meant to illustrate different principles. The simplest mappae mundi were diagrams meant to preserve and illustrate classical learning easily. The zonal maps should be viewed as a kind of teaching aid—easily reproduced and designed to reinforce the idea of the Earth’s sphericity and climate zones” (cited from Wikipedia).
What would a mappa mundi of our times look like? A modern equivalent of such a map would have to focus on those spaces of our planet that we have a less vivid imagination of than the physical shape of the world that in medieval times was a much less familiar view than it is today. The following gridded population cartogram generated over the whole surface of Earth could be such a contemporary depiction of the world. It divides the world into equal spaces of population realigning the map view to show the human planet in a similar way as mappae mundi showed the world centuries ago:

Equal population projection map of the Earth's land and water surface
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Global Spaces of Food Production

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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

Rediscovering the World

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Wor(l)d Map by Benjamin D Hennig Continue reading

One world, many faces: A brief look at map projections

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Map projections are a crucial issue for the worldmapper project because the maps (respectively cartograms) are basically some sort of reprojection of the world, although in a different way than the usual projections used in cartography. Rather than trying to solve the conflicts of distortion when drawing a three dimensional surface on to a two dimensional area (be it a screen or a paper map), the worldmapper cartograms distort our image of the world on purpose and show each country in proportion to a specific topic.

Worldmapper map using different projections

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Global Gender Gap in Secondary Education

100% Equality was the theme of a session at this year’s Nexus Europe Youth Summit in London last week. As a member of the panel I started off by giving a global overview of the state of gender (in)equality and how this is being measured by different institutions, such as the United Nations Development Programme, the World Economic Forum, or the European Institute for Gender Equality. While they draw very different pictures in their detailed indicators, there are also a lot of similarities, with the European Nordic countries almost always being in the top spots of the overall index, which does not mean that in any of these countries absolute gender equality has been achieved. Globally seen, health equality is furthest progressed, why empowerment and participation remain amongst the most pressing issues.
The following map is from my slides that I have shown and displays the gender gap in secondary education around the world projected on an equal-population projection using a gridded cartogram transformation:

Map of the global gender education gap
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Species of the Greater London National Park

A city becoming a national park? What sounds almost like a contradiction is a very real idea. As the website of the Greater London National Park Campaign explains: “Uniquely combining a biodiverse landscape with nature reserves, parks and gardens, [London] covers an area of over 1,500 km2 and is home to more than 8 million people. Recognised as one of the world’s most important urban habitats, green, blue and open spaces occupy over 60% of London. Over 1,300 Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation cover 19% of [London]. Londonwide the capital is home to more than 1,500 species of flowering plants. More than 300 species of bird have been recorded in the city. With over 300 languages spoken, 170 museums, four UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of Britain’s National Trails the Greater London National Park* is open for you to explore.”
Pioneered by Guerrilla Geographer Dan Raven-Ellison who convinced an ever growing number of people to support him in his endeavour to turn London into the first National Park City. I was amongst those people making a little contribution by mapping out species counts from the database of Greenspace Information for Greater London. The maps were also included in the environment section of the Londonmapper project which I am working on, and they depict the distribution of each species in a cartogram-style map distorting the shapes of the London boroughs according to how many of each species have been sighted in an area. The following maps are from that series (of which I hope to get a few more mapped in future – are there any red squirrels in London?), and especially the hedgehogs came to fame during the launch of the Londonmapper website last year:

Hedgehog
London Species Map: Hedgehogs
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