Oh, hello Asiafrica!

Posted on Feb 14, 2014

Geo data is everywhere but there is one major obstacle that prevents constructing beautiful maps with it. Many databases contain all elements to provide geo data but lots of these databases are not intended to supply users with geographic information and attributes in a way that you can easily use them for mapping. There are thousands of ideas for possibly amazing maps that could be created if there was sufficient data or time to extract and prepare it.

If you want to produce geo data by yourself, a look at Wikipedia can be very helpful. There are lists of earthquakes, most western points of countries and so on that contain lat and lon values already. You can easily import these using the Add Delimited Text Layer function in QGIS. Moreover there are lists that contain geographical information that you can symbolize by a country’s or city’s name. The utilization of these lists for GIS is sometimes a little bit tricky. For example, the list of terrorist attacks would need some geocoding whereas data that is linked to a whole country can be visualized using the Join function.

The recent project about where the bad guys vote made me interested in creating another cartogram. Inspired by the demographic animation of Germany I decided to also work on a project that shows a development within a certain period.

The Wikipedia list of countries by past and the future population provides the population of nearly every country from 1950 to 2050 in a 5 years interval. Thus, it is possible to generate 21 cartograms to visualize the whole Wikipedia list in one animation. To import the list we can take the link of the demanded Wikipedia site, open Excel and paste it into the File Name text box just like we would open any other file stored on our computer. The whole site will be opened and look a little bit clumsy but it is now easy to extract the list data in a new worksheet and we can prepare the data to join it with a global dataset that includes country names. I decided to take data from Natural Earth.

After saving the joined data to a new Shapefile, we can start creating cartograms with Scape Toad for every year. It will take some time!
By the creation of 21 cartograms, we have a good number for our animation. After styling and exporting each cartogram via QGIS’ Print Composer the cartograms can be compiled to an animated GIF by using an image manipulation program like GIMP.


As you can see, the animation illustrates the decrease of population in Europe compared to Asia and then at around 2015 also in relation to Africa. It is obvious, that the huge increase in population within African countries will change the world drastically. Current debates about how to handle the raised number of refugees might also influence how the whole world can find ways to live peacefully together in the future and are thus even more crucial. Europe cannot hide behind walls and programs like Frontex. Let’s see the current developments as an opportunity to work out solutions that are respecting basic human rights and enable everyone to live a prosper life.

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