Unemployment and GDP in Europe


July 23, 2016 This week’s map takes a look at Europe using two economic metrics: GDP growth and unemployment. One of the first things to note is that besides Estonia, the only countries in Europe that are growing at a rate of over 1 percent are either in the Balkans or right next door (Romania). Most of Western, Central and northern Europe is growing at under 1 percent and a few countries even experienced first quarter contraction: Ireland, Hungary and Poland, among others.

The second thing to note is that while the Balkans have decent growth rates, unemployment is very high, as it is throughout southern Europe, from Spain to Greece. Italy’s unemployment figure is somewhat misleading as there is a huge north-south divide. In southern Italy, unemployment is closer to the rate seen in Balkan countries than Italy’s average.

Islamic State Attacks Outside of Core Since June 2014


July 16, 2016 This is a map of attacks either directly carried out by the Islamic State or inspired by their message. The map does not take into account attacks in Syria and Iraq, as that is core Islamic State territory and strikes there are directly linked to IS’ goal of maintaining territorial control of its caliphate. The goal of this map is to show the global reach of IS ideology and activities.

IS has either directed or inspired attacks on every major continent except South America, and South America’s exceptional status is not for lack of trying. IS has targeted majority Muslim nations from Tunisia to Indonesia. It has targeted Western nations from the United States to Australia. There are roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Islamic State, however falsely, purports to speak for them all. Its ambitions are global.

GDP Per Capita Change in Europe


July 9, 2016 With worrying signals this week about the German economy and the Italian banking sector, Europe has been at the forefront of our minds. So we have chosen here to present a map of the percentage change in GDP per capita in Europe to show how growth has developed over the past 20 years.

GDP per capita is, like all measurements, an imperfect statistic, but it is a useful way of comparing the performance of various economies in terms of standard of living and overall economic productivity.

Areas with Strong Nationalist Tendencies


July 2, 2016 The most striking images are often those that take something we think we know well and turn it on its head. This map is one of those images. The borders of Europe have changed over time, but since national self-determination became the most important organizing principle for European states in the 19th century, there have been some relatively constant entities: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain.

We tend to think of these as coherent nation-states. But even these countries contain groups that don’t identify with their national identity as French, British, German, Italian or Spanish.

The Inaccuracy of Polling


June 24, 2016 This graphic contains two maps of the United Kingdom. On the left side are the results of a YouGov poll that identified different parts of the U.K. as more or less Euroskeptic. On the right side are the official results of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.

The YouGov polls, as well as numerous other polls, failed to predict accurately what was going to happen in the referendum. The polls prior to the vote were not as wrong as the polls for the last British general election, but there were many areas in the U.K. where the strength of the “leave” vote was underestimated.

The United Kingdom’s Perspective


June 18, 2016 British citizens will vote on June 23 in a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain part of the European Union. As Britain grapples with the question of Brexit, understanding the strategic considerations behind the U.K.’s relationships with its partners is critical. The U.K.’s geopolitical challenges shaped its decision to join the bloc and will also shape London’s relations with Brussels should British voters opt to leave the union.

A map of the region from Britain’s perspective reveals its primary traditional threats: from the northeast across the sea are the Nordic states, where the Vikings originated; in the south across the channel is France, Britain’s traditional rival; and further to the east, Germany, which became a major player on the Continent after unification in the late 19th century.

The Middle East at Night


June 11, 2016 This nighttime map of the Middle East, stretching from Egypt to Iran and from the Red Sea to the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, was taken by a NASA satellite in 2012. It is fairly up-to-date given that electricity use and population don’t expand very quickly.

The most striking part of this map is Egypt. It has the most intense lighting in the region in an area in the north stretching from Alexandria to the Suez Canal, and then following the Nile River south to the Aswan Dam. The dam delivers much of Egypt’s electricity but also limits population growth to its south. It has become the southern limit of populated Egypt.

This area of intense light represents the real Egypt. Its political boundaries are far to the west and south, but that area is minimally populated and far from developed. In looking at this map, Egypt is actually a narrow country following the Nile because it is intensely populated in that area. The lights also indicate the degree of infrastructure development. Whatever problems Egypt has, and it has many, it has managed to bring electricity to the populated regions.

Colonial Powers in Sub-Saharan Africa


June 4, 2016 European powers strongly shaped the geopolitics of contemporary sub-Saharan Africa. In the colonial era, they saw sub-Saharan Africa as a means to an end, initially encountering the continent as they looked for sea trading routes to India and East Asia. France, Great Britain, Portugal, Germany and Belgium had the largest presence.

From the 16th century through the 18th century, major European governments established ports to support long voyages to the East Indies. When we look at the location of former colonies, we can observe how each location served as a resting and refueling point in the long journey east.

Population Density of Canada


May 28, 2016 Canada is one of those countries where a vast land mass obscures the fact that the country has a relatively small population. While Canada is the second largest country in the world, its 35 million inhabitants make Canada only the 39th most populated country.

In this way, Canada is similar to countries like Egypt, Russia and Australia. Egypt is a country of over 80 million people and its size is formidable on a map, yet most of its inhabitants are located on a thin strip of land about the size of the state of Maryland on either bank of the Nile River. For Russia, the world’s largest country by land mass, its population centers are located in the west, close to Europe, while the vast and desolate Siberian region is sparsely populated and not connected to Russian infrastructure. Australia – the world’s sixth largest country by land mass and a continent in its own right – has even fewer people than Canada (around 23 million), all living in cities along the coast. The interior of the country is unforgiving and inhospitable.

China: Between Dynasties and Warlords


May 21, 2016 Chinese civilization is one of the world’s oldest. Communities began to form on the Yellow and Yangtze rivers thousands of years ago. By 2,000 B.C., dynasties had emerged and lasted in various forms until the Qing were deposed in 1912. The People’s Republic of China is the heir to this long history, and as is often the case, understanding China’s past is a crucial part of forecasting China’s future.

Although China’s history is long and complex, the story of China’s rise is essentially two stories that repeat themselves over and over again. China is incredibly diverse in terms of the cultures and languages that have developed within its modern-day borders. Despite this diversity, there have been periods when a ruler emerged who was strong enough to unite the disparate parts of the country. These dynasties may rule for hundreds of years, only for China’s internal divisions to reassert themselves and cause fragmentation and regionalization.


Russia’s Perspective


May 17, 2016 This map looks at the world from Russia’s point of view. Sometimes the most powerful graphics are not those with special effects or provocative statistics, but rather are those that change your perspective. This is one such map.

The days of the Soviet Union are over and are not about to return. The U.S. is the world’s most powerful country, and unlike during the days of the Cold War, it has no peer. Russia, however, is still a formidable regional power, one that has made headlines in recent years for its military actions in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria. Much of the coverage you’ll read about Russia centers on President Vladimir Putin – his skill as a leader and the extent to which many Russians love and admire their leader and their country.

US Rainfall and Population Centers


May 11, 2016 This is a map of the United States at night. As you can see, the eastern part of the United States is filled with lights, and the western part is much darker, except for the Pacific Coast. The line we’ve drawn marks the point where the lights dim. And it also marks the line where annual rainfall tapers off. There is more rain to the east of the line, less rain to the west. The line marking the edge of the heavily lit area is also the point where rain declines below what is needed for high density populations. The two lines converge in the same spot and define a vital dimension of American geopolitics: the difference between the East and the West.