Maps are cool – they can give us more info, brief and easily understood, than we would get from text or even from video. If you can read maps, that skill will help you a lot. For instance, one man, who’s working on the risks that face cities all around the world, shares with us some interesting and useful info about our modern world. Pay attention.

This video has over 90,000 views and it was published less than 24 hour ago.

What happens when people look at a map and they start looking at the data on top of that map? They are able to start making correlations that they otherwise would not have made, perhaps from reading.

I’m Robert Muggah and for the last decade or so, I’ve been working on the risks facing cities – but also ways that cities are getting around them.


What we have here is data showing every single refugee that has moved since the 1990s. 90% of them are living in the under-developed world. There is this sense in the West that somehow they are being flooded or inundated by refugees. The fact is when you look at a visualization like this you see that the vast majority of people are moving “next door” to cities in neighboring countries.

If you layer on top of this map terrorism events, as well as conflict-related violence, what you will see in the vast majority of refugees are fleeing terrorism and conflict and not bringing it.

What maps like this can do is help us challenge some of those myths that are out there, that are propagated and repeated in some of our media outlets.

Rising sea levels

Rising sea levels are going to affect virtually all cities on the coast and there are few cities that are going to be more badly affected than Miami. Miami is built on porous limestone, a swamp effectively, so at around a 2 degree Celsius rise globally, Miami is under water. Mar-a-Lago – the winter White House – may be one of the first part of Florida to go.

Many people still are reluctant to believe that climate change is real, but as you scroll out from Miami and you look up and down the coast, you will see that cities as far south as New Orleans all the way up to Norfolk, Virginia, are also going to be affected dramatically because this part of the east coast of the United States is one of the most severely exposed to rising sea levels in the world.


One of the visualizations that we have is showing fires from space over a three-year period. The blooms above and below the equator are really slash-and-burn agriculture, basically forests being cleared for livestock.

The other concentration of fires you see from space are really about gas flares, coal burning factories… For example, in North Dakota there is a cluster of gas flares from the fracking industry that generate the equivalent of more than 1 billion cars on the road a year. That gives you a sense of the human-led changes to our climate.

Light pollution

The light emission map is essentially capturing ambient light from space. Areas that are red are areas where we’re seeing higher levels of light emission over time. Blue is where we’re actually seeing lights disappearing.

What we see is a remarkable increase in light emissions in the most rapidly growing parts of the world including parts of China.

What’s interesting also is where there is not light. Large parts of Africa, as well as parts of even eastern Europe, you’ll see are darker.

Then you see area where there hasn’t been a lot of population growth. Especially Japan. Even in parts of Japan you see areas that are blue, suggesting, in fact, cities are getting smaller, people are leaving cities or at least the population is ageing and you’re not seeing the same levels of energy consumption.

Maps allow for a kind of communication that I think goes above and beyond what we’re able to convey orally. I’ve been struck by just how quickly complex messages can be conveyed, stored, and ultimately acted on through maps.

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