Where 5 Percent of Humanity Lives

Talk about perspective. The red area of the map, which is centered on Bangladesh and three states in India, is home to 5 percent of the world’s population — the same percentage of humans highlighted in the blue area.

In other words, as many people live in that red blotch as in everything shaded blue, which includes much of the Northern Hemisphere, huge chunks of South America and Africa, and all of Australia and New Zealand. The area in white thus represent the remaining 90 percent of humanity. Talk about uneven population distribution.

For further perspective, consider that Bangladesh, which makes up most of that red area, numbers close to 159 million people, all living in an area slightly smaller than the U.S. state of Iowa; by contrast, the world’s largest country, Russia, has a population of 144 million people in an area that is nearly double the size of the U.S. (more than 10 percent of the world’s total landmass).

Although such high population density no doubt places a strain on the environment — especially since most fast-growing and populous states are typically poorer and less developed — the map’s creator, Max Galka, offers a more encouraging take. As he told io9.

If anything, I see South Asia’s dense population as a positive thing. It is very efficient economically, socially, and environmentally for people to live in dense population centers. And a movement out of rural areas into cities is a trend that is happening everywhere in the world, even in India and Bangladesh. So in that sense, they are ahead of the curve.

Indeed, if East Asia and Western Europe are any indication, dense populations combined with adequate public investment in infrastructure can be highly efficient in everything from energy use to commuting time. Though the lack of living space is an obvious drawback, that is arguably more than compensated for by lower energy costs, reduced pollution, etc.

Of course, that assumes that urban areas are effectively planned out and managed. As cities around the world begin to swell, especially in fast-developing countries like India, Bangladesh, China, etc., there will no doubt be a lot of debate and experimentation in search of the best way to organize society.

For a breakdown of the data, visit Galka’s website here.

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