Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Global Human Footprint

The European Space Agency has released a new interactive map which shows how much of the world has been built upon by the human race. The world's population is now over 7.5 billion. All those people have got to live somewhere - and most of them live in urbanized areas.

ESA's World Settlement Footprint interactive map visualizes human settlements around the world. The map was created from an analysis of satellite imagery collected during 2014-15. The map reveals how much of the world has been urbanized, where urbanization is most dense and which parts of the Earth are still untouched by human settlement.

The Global Rural Urban Mapping Project estimates that around 3% of the world has now been urbanized. Of course the percentage of land which is urbanized varies from country to country. For example 5.9% of the UK is built upon. Even more of the Netherlands has been developed. It is estimated that 14% of the densely populated Netherlands is built upon. On the other side of the Atlantic, in the less densely populated United States, only 3.6% of the land has been developed.

Later this year the World Settlement Footprint map will include an option to view how urban settlements have developed and grown since 1985. The map will use six million satellite images, from 1985 to 2015, to visualize the growth of human settlements on a year-by-year basis around the globe.

Of course if we want to leave most of the world free from human development we will have to learn to live in more densely populated towns and cities. The Pudding has an impressive interactive map which visualizes the world's population in 3D. The Pudding's Human Terrain interactive map shows population density across the globe using 3D population pyramids. The taller a pyramid block on The Pudding map then the more people live there.

The Pudding has also used its own map to explore in more detail the pattern of population density around the world. In Population Mountains The Pudding examines how unevenly the world is populated and how population density can take different forms in different parts of the world.

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