The Big Squeeze

This map shows 50 percent of the world’s population crammed into a tiny fraction of the land.

January 14, 2016

Illustrated by Max Galka for Metrocosm

The light and dark regions on the above map may not look equal, but they are—population-wise, at least. The remarkable illustration, created by data-viz whiz Max Galka, shows that half the world’s population is crammed into just one percent of the land.

To make the map, Galka used NASA’s gridded population data from 2000, which divides the globe up into millions of tiny cells each measuring about 3 miles by 3 miles. By looking at the number of people living in each of these squares, you can see where in the world people are without worrying about borderlines. The yellow regions on the map have a population density of at least 900 people per square mile; the black regions have a population density of less than 900 people per square mile.

The world population is expected to swell from 7 to 11 billion by the end of the century, but these maps show that in the most habitable spots it’s um, pretty tight already. Take a look at some of the zoomed-in regions below.

The United States

Galka found that the world's 50-50 population split between dark and light regions held true for the U.S., too. Illustrated by Max Galka for Metrocosm.

India, Bangladesh, and China

Illustrated by Max Galka for Metrocosm


Illustrated by Max Galka for Metrocosm

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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