We live in an incredibly complicated and interconnected world. Networks stretching across land, sea, and air let us travel and share goods and ideas around the world.
But sometimes we forget about these connections and get caught up in our own little worlds. I created a series of maps that hide everything except for the places and networks that connect us, so we can see how connected our world truly is, and how humans have changed it over the past 150 years.
Each of these maps tells a story about how people have lived on planet Earth. Where did they choose to live? And to travel? How did cities grow and change?
Try to find where you live on each map. What connections can you find?
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This map shows where people live. You can see the biggest city in the world, Tokyo, shining as one of the brightest parts of the map. Meanwhile, deserts and jungles in Africa, South America and Australia almost completely disappear.
There are more than 60 million kilometers of roads in the world. On this map, you can see how people have build roads across some of the most inhospitable terrain imaginable. Even in places where no one lives, you can find roads stretching across deserts and mountains to connect people on the other side.
This map shows some of the differences between different parts of the world. Europe shines brightest with its advanced network of high speed trains which make it possible to travel almost anywhere without a car. In North America on the other hand, trains are mostly used to carry freight across enormous distances. In Africa, most of the railroads were built by European colonizers to carry goods to the coast to be shipped back to Europe. And in Australia the longest trains in the world with more than 500 cars carry coal and minerals across the outback.
For some of the most isolated parts of the planet, it’s only possible to travel by air. Cities in the Amazon rain forest, the middle of the Australian Outback, and the Canadian North aren’t connected to the rest of the world by roads or rails. Instead, people, food, and supplies have to travel by air.
Almost every city in the world is built on either a coastline or a river. For thousands of years the only way to connect different parts of the world was by ship. Even today, most of the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, and the things we buy get brought to us by ship.