Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Why the web changes everything
This map shows the distribution of all people age 15-49 with HIV. The highest HIV prevalence was in Swaziland: almost four in every ten people were HIV positive. All ten territories with the highest prevalence of HIV are in central and southeastern Africa.
These innovative cartograms "were produced in a unique collaboration between the universities of Michigan in the U.S. and Sheffield."
Usually, countries on maps are defined by size. But these cartograms redraw the globe and resize countries according to new categories.
This map displays worldwide military spending in 2002: The US looks morbidly obese, taking up 45% of the world's land mass. The world spent $789 billion in 2002, the US alone $353 billion. Compare it to the war deaths map:
"In 2002, there were an estimated 172,000 war deaths worldwide, across 80 territories. The Democratic Republic of Congo (dark red) bore the brunt - 26 per cent - of the total figure.
Nine territories accounted for 70 per cent of all deaths. Burundi had the highest death rate owing to war at 1.2 people per thousand of the population."
Political issues are complex. They are filled with stats, numbers, comparisons, half-truths and even more stats. These maps might help cut through the clutter:
Before you saw the map, did you really know how bad the AIDS crisis was in Africa?
How can US politicians recommend increased military spending when the US already spends 45% of the worlds military budget?
A picture says more than 1,000 words. We know that. But this is just the beginning. If we could connect these high-level maps to real-life stories, we'd have a winner: If we could understand the severity of the AIDS problem in Swaziland on a personal basis, any reasonable person would support a major initiative to eradicate AIDS.(Imagine: 40% of the overall population in Swaziland has AIDS. 40%.)
As depressing and sad as these maps are, they should give us hope for a better and more global approach to the future.
But, we have to be careful. There's a fine line between the indifference of wisdom and the folly of enthusiam. I'm with Anatole France and prefer the folly of enthusiasm.
And to end on a less serious note:
"The average Western European drinks over a third more alcohol than the average person in any other area on earth. In some places there is practically no alcohol consumption, which is why many Middle Eastern countries are not visible on this map.
Ugandans drink the most alcohol per adult, closely followed by Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Ireland.
The map shows the proportion of worldwide alcohol drunk in 2001. It does not take population density into account, so some countries, such as Australia, are unexpectedly shrivelled, while Britain is particularly bloated even though we not in the top ten."