Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Tue Dec 30th 2008 at 9:27am UTC

Spiky World

More than 95 percent of the world’s population lives in less than 10 percent of the earth’s land area, according to a new study and map by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and published in the World Bank’s World Development Report 2009. The research conceptualizes the world and its cities in terms of accessibility and connectivity measured as proximity and travel time to 8,500 major cities worldwide. Here’s the map.

And here’s a summary of the study in Science Daily:

[H]uman population is more concentrated than ever before. Europe’s urban sprawl gradually fades as we move eastwards into the steppes of central Asia, soon to re-emerge into the dense networks of people and places in India, China and Japan. The attraction of Australia’s coasts is dramatically revealed, while North America appears to adopt a grid system not just for its streets and road networks, but for distribution of the cities themselves.

Cities exercise enormous control over national economies – even the global economy. They provide jobs, access to the best cultural, educational and health facilities and they act as hubs for communication and transport. Of course, they also cluster massive demands for energy, generate large quantities of waste, and concentrate pollution as well as social hardship.

By using travel-time as a unit of measurement … the map represents accessibility through the … concept of “how long will it take to get there?” Accessibility links people with places, goods with markets and communities to vital services. Accessibility – whether it is to markets, schools, hospitals or water – is a precondition for the satisfaction of almost any economic need. Furthermore, accessibility is relevant at all levels, from local development to global trade.

More here.

5 Responses to “Spiky World”

  1. Justin Says:

    Interesting to see the big black hole in East China. I am also surprised that parts of the Western United States are as bright as they are (the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, for example).

  2. nickgogerty Says:

    dangerous if viewed as vectors for disease. We have changed our biological environment into a very rich niche. don’t mean to be a pessimist, just looking at the issue from another perspective.

  3. paolo manzelli Says:

    The MISSION of the Open Network For New Science & Art /Promoted by the telematics Association EGOCREANET ( ) is to conduct highly innovative, trans-disciplinary research .

    The ON-NS&A research group exploits the broad trans-disciplinary character in order to bring together scientists and artists with various training and backgrounds, to attack common goals at the intersection of their respective fields , mainly oriented to overcome the reductionist paradigm of mechanical science for developing a better understanding of life and social science.

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  4. runescape Says:

    Justin, I was surprised too. What are they considering a major city? Largest city in Wyoming has about 60K residents which I wouldn’t consider major among other cities on a global scale. Anyways, when you’re claiming that 95% live on 10% land, you have to remember than vast majority of the world’s land is not livable. From jungles in South America, deserts in Africa and Australia and frozen tundras in Canada and Russia. All of those places are not suitable for humans, so I wouldn’t call this 90-10 stat so shocking as you may believe.

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