Crowded Planet

The world’s population has reached a staggering 7 billion. That’s a billion extra people since 1999, the fastest growth in history. It’s been estimated that of all the humans ever born, over 6% are walking around today. To show some of the impacts of this vast human upheaval on the planet, anthropologist and science communicator Felix Pharand has created a series of stunning visualisations based on real data. They show air traffic routes; the underwater cables that carry the internet; road and rail networks; electricity transmission lines – all superimposed over cities at night. It’s a spider’s web of global human activity, all connected to the cities where the majority of people live and work. For the first time in history, more people live in cities than in the countryside. These images give a visual idea of how we have become the first species we know of to actually transform a planet. For example, we’ve tarmaced, concreted or paved over 3% of the world’s land surface. That’s 4.5 million square kilometres, an area greater than India. And it’s growing all the time. “We are seeing a regime change in the activity of industrial societies,” says Pharand.

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