In a short amount of time, humans have changed the face of planet Earth.
Our impact has been so profound, in fact, that scientists have declared the dawn of the Anthropocene epoch, or the age of human influence.
Today’s ambitious graphic comes to us from Reldresal, and it looks at this human footprint from a number of different angles. Here are some of the ones we found most interesting.
While there are humans present in nearly every part of the world, the overall distribution of population is far from even. As the map above vividly demonstrates, humans cluster in specific places that have the right conditions to support a large population. Massive river deltas such as Ganges-Brahmaputra (Bangladesh) and the Nile (Egypt) are obvious bright spots on the map.
Not surprisingly, sparsely populated countries like Australia and Canada are nearly indistinguishable as most people cluster in more habitable places.
People and products in perpetual motion
The band of industrialized countries running across the northern hemisphere is highlighted by a bright cluster of shipping and air traffic routes.
When visualized, it’s easy to see how the global flow of people and goods plugs into specific hubs. At the same time, other continents such as South America and Africa have very little connectivity in comparison.
Under the sea
Since the first undersea cable dipped below the icy Atlantic waves in the mid-1800s, people have been instantaneously transmitting information across oceans. Fiber optic cables form the backbone of the internet, transmitting about 99% of all data.
Without the 400+ submarine cables in service today, our ability to transmit data would be severely restricted.
End of the road
Paved roads have made some of the most remote swaths of land accessible by vehicle, but there are a few places on Earth that remain poorly connected due to difficult terrain.
The most dramatic example – one of the most obvious “holes” on the road network map – is the Sahara desert. The desert is so inhospitable that building a reliable, fully-paved highway has proved impossible up until this point. For this reason, economic data on Africa is often divided between North and Sub-Saharan.
There is a similar situation in the Amazon, where the Trans-Amazonian highway is the one lonely route connecting the interior of the rainforest. Brazil has rapidly expanded the footprint of their road network in recent years in an effort to open up economic opportunities in the interior of the continent.
For better or worse, this map could look a lot different in future years.