Maps can sometimes surprise you or show you something unexpected. This can happen with topics you’re familiar with as well as new ideas. But at their core, maps that surprise wink at your assumptions before flipping them on their head.
These two animated maps do exactly that with the topic of global population. They visualize a seemingly mundane concept (where people live) in a way that makes you rethink what you know about the world.
In each of these maps, the video (by either latitude or longitude) divides the globe into 10 equal slices of population. The longitude map moves west to east, while the latitude map goes south to north.
As the videos play, the slices draw until they hit a 10 percent breakpoint for population. They tally up the land area for that slice in millions of square kilometers and highlight the three largest cities it covers. Immediately, you begin to see how unevenly people are distributed across the planet.
This makes sense. People cluster in cities and near resources rather than disperse across land. But seeing that just 20% of the world’s population lives in the Western Hemisphere can be jarring. Similarly, 80% of the world’s population can be found in the Northern Hemisphere. The global west and south are relatively less populated than places in the east and north.
This shouldn’t surprise us—India and China have the largest populations by far. Yet, many global affairs appear to be driven and dominated by the US and Europe. These maps show how that framing fails to account for the needs and concerns of most of the global population.
Addressing global challenges like climate change demands a global perspective. These maps remind us of the need to elevate voices from around the world.