Colourful Thematic Maps Hide the True State of Development

World map 2023 Cities

Thematic maps are often misleading, specially at global scale

Undoubtedly impressive, thematic maps – especially if shiny, vivid and global – are always trendy.

But often the elements they try to compare are defacto incomparable for various reasons, hence those maps are misleading.

In the maps below created by Peter Atwood, the colour intensity seems dictated more by the elements’ proximity than by their ‘weight’.

World map 2023 Airports


It’s challenging, if not impossible, to reach valid conclusions when comparing the infrastructural endowment of countries on a global scale since the impact of the local scale, which has different weights in the various continents, is overlooked.

On the one hand, historical reasons raise the concentration of the phenomena represented in the Old Continent, fragmented into small nation-states – not to mention the subnational micro-scales, very often culturally more significant than the national aggregates.

Every geographical scale has its power range, its rankings and its liquid economic/political aggregations. The global scale is just a scale, often the least representative to understand powers.

World map 2023 Railroads


Emptiness doesn’t mean poor

On the other hand, vast areas such as Canada, Amazonia, Sahara, Siberia, and Australia, identified only by their perimeter as they are substantially not anthropized (fortunately for us and the planet), are as large as the European continent.

Unfortunately, the emptiness they contain misleads many, suggesting a backward stage of development.

World map 2023 Seaports


What’s development?

However, what is ‘development’? The conservation of nature or of a fragmented and folkloristic culture that leads to a silly and exaggerated competition between relatively recent and often silly geopolitical entities?

Beyond a more dispersed distribution due to the micro scales of power it encompasses, the Old Continent carries the legacy of an era in which human settlements were predominantly rural.

Besides, ‘rurban‘ settlements (halfway between rural and urban) are making a comeback in order to calm the exasperation of real estate costs in large cities, taking advantage of the combination of advanced tertiary sector and recent technological innovations in the field of connectivity, automation and optimisation of production processes, including delivery services, or smart/remote work solutions.

World map 2023 Roads


Other areas of the world, instead, mostly in the Global South, are still pursuing rapacious and extremely concentrated urbanisation in megalopolises that glitter from afar and are insipid, if not depressing in their details, which debase the link between humanity and nature, transforming human beings into citizens/consumers who do not produce but reproduce a silly geocompetition in which everyone loses.

World map 2023 Cities