Feb 1, 2015

A Map of People Not of Land Mass

This map shows what the world would look like if a country's size were proportional to its population. It radically rearranges our sense of geographic space. Vast countries such as Russia, Canada and Australia turn into slivers of territory. Europe, and not South Asia, appears to be the red Asian subcontinent. 

Compiled by Reddit user TeaDranks, the map is an adapted version of a Population Map made in 2005 by cartographer Paul Breding and published by ODTmaps.com. TeaDranks updated its numbers. What the map emphasizes is the primacy of Asia. The continent's immensity is understood in the West but not truly appreciated. That, of course, is echoed in the Western media, where crises in Europe and conflicts in the Middle East still hold far more attention.

The lack of coverage of India's elections last year - the world's greatest exercise in democracy - was lampooned by comedians. And many Americans probably weren't even aware of a similar landmark vote in Indonesia, home to the world's largest population of Muslims, or of Saturday's upcoming presidential vote in Nigeria, which will continue its longest stretch of democracy.

Some Asian cities, as delineated on the map, are larger than most European countries. As the continent boasts some of the world's most dynamic developing economies, this map is a useful illustration for why some believe the 21st century will be the Asian Century.

Asia is home to seven of the world's 10 most-populous nations, if you include Russia. Here are the top 10, their leaders and a few tidbits pulled together by Perspective editor Jim Verhulst. Population Estimates come from the CIA World Fact Book, which vary in some cases from the numbers the Reddit user relied on to compile the map above.

1. China: 1,333,692,576, the most populous nation on the planet, also became the world's largest economy in 2014, according to the International Monetary Fund. It is led by President Xi Jinping.

2. India: 1,236,344,631, is the world's largest democracy. Elections last year brought Prime Minister Narendra Modi to power. When President Barack Obama visited late last month, he appeared on the prime minister’s own monthly radio show. India shares a border with three other countries in the top 10.

3. United States: has a population of 318,892,103.You pretty much know the rest Call it "American Exceptionalism" if you want, but we do things our own way, particularly in sports. For example, we just crowned a Super Bowl winner, the world champion of football in a league that only features American teams. Baseball’s “World Series” has occasionally involved one international team - from Canada.

4. Indonesia: 253,609,643, is the world's largest Muslim majority nation. Its president Joko Widodo, was just elected last year and burst onto the scene something in the manner of Obama. He is the first Indonesian president who was neither a general nor from the country's political elite. Known universally as Jokowi, he was born in a Javan slum; his first political office was mayor of his small hometown. He is a populist and a technocrat.

5. Brazil: 202,656,788, is led by Dilma Rousseff, the first woman elected president. Two historical factoids. (1) Brazil speaks Portuguese because of a 500-year-old deal between Spain and Portugal - the pope-brokered Treaty of Tordesillas – that split the world in half between them, except for lands already in Christian hands. (Spoiler alert the world had other ideas. It didn't last); (2) The royal head of Portugal got sideways with Napoleon and fled to Brazil in 1807 and later made himself king. Brazil became independent of Portugal in1822 and elected its first civilian president l20years ago.

6. Pakistan: 196,174,380, is led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Pakistan has nuclear weapons as does cross-border rival India.

7. Nigeria: 177,155,754, is led by President Goodluck Jonathan. As recently as four years ago, the United States was importing 31 million barrels of Nigerian oil a month, but by late last year it had dropped to
5 percent of that amount. The nation is beset by the violent Boko Haram, which promotes radical version of Islam in which it is “haram” – forbidden – for Muslim to take part in any Western activity, whether it is voting or getting a secular education.

8. Bangladesh: 166,280,712, is led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Its apparel industry supplies billions of dollars of clothing to the West every year. Two years ago, a garment factory collapsed and more than 1,100 people died. Western retailers launched a campaign to improve safety standards in the thousands of factories, but inspections are slow and conditions remain suspect.

9. Russia: 142,470,272, is led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

10. Japan: 127,103,388, is led by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We know how common Japanese cars are on American roads. What about the reverse? A bit less so. The Wall Street Journal noted that 3,081 GM cars were sold in Japan in 2011. That total included 13 Buicks. 
(Adapted from Tampa Bay Times, February 8, 2015)