ISWA President, David Newman explains why a new map from Columbia University and NASA is an eye opening way of viewing population density and contemplates what it means public services such the waste and recycling industry.
It really is a pleasure to be able to access the latest population data elaborated by the US Earth Observing System Data website run by Columbia University and NASA. Just register for free and wow, what a lot of interesting reading there is. From maps and data showing a huge array of environmental data, to detailed population maps.
Nothing new here of course, there is plenty on the web, but what is interesting is the interpretation of the data which constitute the population maps.
By dividing the planet into 28 million squares, the analysts coloured in yellow the areas with more than 8000 population; each cell represents 23,04 km2 therefore giving a population density of 889 per km2. The parts of the maps remaining in black are those areas which do not reach this density, i.e. are much less populated.
What is staggering (well, it was for me) is that half of the world’s population live on just 1% of the earth’s surface and half of those live in just five countries : China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. There are vast areas of unhabited lands, vast areas where population is very thinly distributed.
Enlarge the maps of Australia, Brazil, Russia, the USA, large areas of Asia and much of Africa and it becomes evident that the myth of an “overcrowded” world is exploded. Evidently most people live in very crowded places, but much of the world is uncrowded.
I wanted to share this with you because it helps us understand where the needs for public services are and will be over the next years, such as waste management; but also because reading the evidence is somewhat reassuring- maybe the world can survive with 9 billion inhabitants as so much of the planet is still uninhabited.
A little bit of good news? Well, make your own judgement but the website gives fascinating data in any case, useful for all of us.
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