Infographic: This Fascinating City Within Hong Kong Was Lawless For Decades
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This Fascinating City Within Hong Kong Was Lawless For Decades

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Kowloon Walled City

This Fascinating City Within Hong Kong was Lawless For Decades

There are very few places on Earth that remain ungoverned, and even the tiniest islands and city-states tend to have rules in place for things like taxation and citizenship.

Government control is an established reality for most of the world, but what would happen if a neighborhood in your city suddenly became a lawless free-for-all? What type of industries would emerge, and how would people cooperate within that environment to ensure basic services continued to operate?

One example from recent history sheds light on just how such a situation could work: Kowloon Walled City.

Kowloon Walled City

Today’s infographic is a fantastic editorial illustration from South China Morning Post from 2013 that takes a detailed look at the inner workings of Kowloon Walled City (KWC).

Often described as one of the most remarkable social anomalies in recent history, this bizarre enclave was more dense than any other urban area on the face of the planet.

Kowloon Walled City Timeline

The story of the KWC site begins in the Song Dynasty (960-1297) when a small fort was constructed to house soldiers who helped safeguard the salt trade. In the latter half of the 19th century, the small fort was expanded into a full garrison town as the threat of a British invasion hung over China.

In 1898, the 99-year lease of Kowloon and the New Territories was established with one exception: the 2.7 hectare walled fortress. Because China never dropped its claim on the site and the British took a hands-off approach, the site became a sort of lawless enclave.

After WWII, squatters began to fill the site and more permanent structures followed. By 1950, the population had grown to 17,000, and by 1990 over 50,000 people lived within a property the size of two rugby fields.

kowloon walled city density people

From Squatter Camps to Functioning Neighborhood

There was a tendency to view KWC is an isolated bubble of vice within the city, but the sheer volume of business activity within the informal settlement shows that outside customers were more than happy to benefit from lower priced goods and services. This symbiosis has few parallels in modern history, and it makes KWC a fascinating situation to look back on.

KWC is best known as an enclave of criminal activity and illicit businesses such as brothels and gambling dens, but that only tells one side of the story. Despite the lack of space and formal links to utilities, the neighborhood was remarkably productive. In fact, KWC was often been described as Hong Kong’s shadow economy because the hundreds of tiny workshops and factories scattered throughout the site provided products for businesses across Hong Kong.

Kowloon Walled City Businesses

People moved to KWC for many reasons, including bankruptcy, poverty, or to avoid deportation. Others went there to take advantage of the lack of law enforcement and regulations.

One prominent example of skirting regulation was the high concentration of dental and medical practitioners operating within KWC. In addition to lower rents, doctors who immigrated to Hong Kong from China could avoid expensive licensing and retraining required by the colonial government. Industrial businesses were free to ignore fire, labor, and safety codes to produce goods at a lower cost, or to sell items that were considered taboo in the formal economy (e.g. restaurants serving dog meat).

Law and Order

Triads acted as a de facto city council by resolving civil conflicts, creating a volunteer fire brigade, and organizing garbage disposal. The tight-knit community within the settlement would also coordinate among themselves to conserve electricity and make repairs to shared infrastructure.

Despite the lack of formally recognized land ownership, people still bought and sold property within KWC. In one example, a construction company struck an exchange deal with the owner of a four-story building. The owner would retain a ground floor flat in a newly constructed thirteen-story building on the site.

The Bitter End

In 1993, after intense rounds of buy-out offers and forced relocations, Kowloon Walled City was demolished and converted into a park. Many of the businesses were forced to close forever as rents in the rest of Hong Kong were not affordable for most of the owners.

All this intensity of random human effort and activity, vice and sloth and industry, exempted from all the controls we take for granted, resulted in an environment as richly varied and as sensual as anything in the heart of the tropical rainforest. The only drawback is that it was obviously toxic.

– Greg Girard, author of City of Darkness

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Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation?

Many countries around the world are facing double or triple-digit inflation. See which countries have the highest inflation rates on this map.

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Mapped: Which Countries Have the Highest Inflation Rate?

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on natural resource megatrends in your email every week.

Inflation is surging nearly everywhere in 2022.

Geopolitical tensions are triggering high energy costs, while supply-side disruptions are also distorting consumer prices. The end result is that almost half of countries worldwide are seeing double-digit inflation rates or higher.

With new macroeconomic forces shaping the global economy, the above infographic shows countries with the highest inflation rates, using data from Trading Economics.

Double-Digit Inflation in 2022

As the table below shows, countless countries are navigating record-high levels of inflation. Some are even facing triple-digit inflation rates. Globally, Zimbabwe, Lebanon, and Venezuela have the highest rates in the world.

CountryInflation Rate, Year-Over-YearDate
🇿🇼 Zimbabwe269.0%Oct 2022
🇱🇧 Lebanon162.0%Sep 2022
🇻🇪 Venezuela156.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇾 Syria139.0%Aug 2022
🇸🇩 Sudan103.0%Oct 2022
🇦🇷 Argentina88.0%Oct 2022
🇹🇷 Turkey85.5%Oct 2022
🇱🇰 Sri Lanka66.0%Oct 2022
🇮🇷 Iran52.2%Aug 2022
🇸🇷 Suriname41.4%Sep 2022
🇬🇭 Ghana40.4%Oct 2022
🇨🇺 Cuba37.2%Sep 2022
🇱🇦 Laos36.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇩 Moldova34.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇹 Ethiopia31.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇼 Rwanda31.0%Oct 2022
🇭🇹 Haiti30.5%Jul 2022
🇸🇱 Sierra Leone29.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇰 Pakistan26.6%Oct 2022
🇺🇦 Ukraine26.6%Oct 2022
🇲🇼 Malawi25.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇹 Lithuania23.6%Oct 2022
🇪🇪 Estonia22.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇮 Burundi22.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇹 Sao Tome and Principe21.9%Sep 2022
🇱🇻 Latvia21.8%Oct 2022
🇭🇺 Hungary21.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇬 Nigeria21.1%Oct 2022
🇲🇰 Macedonia19.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇲 Myanmar19.4%Jun 2022
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan18.8%Oct 2022
🇵🇱 Poland17.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇬 Bulgaria17.6%Oct 2022
🇹🇲 Turkmenistan17.5%Dec 2021
🇧🇦 Bosnia and Herzegovina17.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇪 Montenegro16.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇴 Angola16.7%Oct 2022
🇧🇫 Burkina Faso16.5%Sep 2022
🇪🇬 Egypt16.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇲 Comoros15.9%Sep 2022
🇰🇬 Kyrgyzstan15.4%Oct 2022
🇷🇴 Romania15.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇾 Belarus15.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇿 Czech Republic15.1%Oct 2022
🇷🇸 Serbia15.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇰 Slovakia14.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇳 Mongolia14.5%Oct 2022
🇳🇱 Netherlands14.3%Oct 2022
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan13.7%Oct 2022
🇦🇫 Afghanistan13.6%Sep 2022
🇬🇲 Gambia13.3%Sep 2022
🇭🇷 Croatia13.2%Oct 2022
🇧🇼 Botswana13.1%Oct 2022
🇸🇳 Senegal13.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇱 Chile12.8%Oct 2022
🇽🇰 Kosovo12.7%Oct 2022
🇷🇺 Russia12.6%Oct 2022
🇬🇳 Guinea12.4%Jul 2022
🇧🇪 Belgium12.3%Oct 2022
🇨🇴 Colombia12.2%Oct 2022
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan12.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇬 Congo12.2%Oct 2022
🇳🇮 Nicaragua12.2%Oct 2022
🇰🇾 Cayman Islands12.1%Jun 2022
🇲🇺 Mauritius11.9%Oct 2022
🇲🇿 Mozambique11.8%Oct 2022
🇮🇹 Italy11.8%Oct 2022
🇲🇱 Mali11.3%Sep 2022
🇲🇷 Mauritania11.3%Sep 2022
🇬🇧 United Kingdom11.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇹 Austria11.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇪 Sweden10.9%Oct 2022
🇺🇬 Uganda10.7%Oct 2022
🇬🇪 Georgia10.6%Oct 2022
🇩🇪 Germany10.4%Oct 2022
🇭🇳 Honduras10.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇰 Denmark10.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇹 Portugal10.1%Oct 2022
🇯🇲 Jamaica9.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇮 Slovenia9.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇹 Guatemala9.7%Oct 2022
🇿🇲 Zambia9.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇪 Kenya9.6%Oct 2022
🇦🇲 Armenia9.5%Oct 2022
🇮🇸 Iceland9.4%Oct 2022
🇲🇬 Madagascar9.3%Aug 2022
🇮🇪 Ireland9.2%Oct 2022
🇱🇸 Lesotho9.2%Sep 2022
🇹🇳 Tunisia9.2%Oct 2022
🇬🇷 Greece9.1%Oct 2022
🇺🇾 Uruguay9.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇷 Costa Rica9.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇩 Bangladesh8.9%Oct 2022
🇨🇾 Cyprus8.8%Oct 2022
🇫🇴 Faroe Islands8.8%Sep 2022
🇩🇿 Algeria8.7%Sep 2022
🇳🇵 Nepal8.6%Sep 2022
🇸🇧 Solomon Islands8.5%Aug 2022
🇲🇽 Mexico8.4%Oct 2022
🇬🇼 Guinea Bissau8.4%Sep 2022
🇦🇱 Albania8.3%Oct 2022
🇧🇧 Barbados8.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇮 Finland8.3%Oct 2022
🇲🇦 Morocco8.3%Sep 2022
🇵🇪 Peru8.3%Oct 2022
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic8.2%Oct 2022
🇨🇻 Cape Verde8.2%Oct 2022
🇵🇾 Paraguay8.1%Oct 2022
🇹🇱 East Timor7.9%Sep 2022
🇹🇬 Togo7.9%Sep 2022
🇵🇭 Philippines7.7%Oct 2022
🇺🇸 U.S.7.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇲 Cameroon7.6%Sep 2022
🇳🇴 Norway7.5%Oct 2022
🇸🇬 Singapore7.5%Sep 2022
🇿🇦 South Africa7.5%Sep 2022
🇸🇻 El Salvador7.5%Oct 2022
🇲🇹 Malta7.4%Oct 2022
🇦🇺 Australia7.3%Sep 2022
🇪🇸 Spain7.3%Oct 2022
🇹🇩 Chad7.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇿 New Zealand7.2%Sep 2022
🇧🇿 Belize7.1%Sep 2022
🇳🇦 Namibia7.1%Oct 2022
🇦🇼 Aruba7.0%Sep 2022
🇨🇦 Canada6.9%Oct 2022
🇱🇺 Luxembourg6.9%Oct 2022
🇸🇴 Somalia6.9%Oct 2022
🇮🇳 India6.8%Oct 2022
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates6.8%Jun 2022
🇬🇾 Guyana6.5%Sep 2022
🇱🇷 Liberia6.5%Jul 2022
🇧🇷 Brazil6.5%Oct 2022
🇧🇸 Bahamas6.3%Aug 2022
🇨🇮 Ivory Coast6.3%Sep 2022
🇹🇹 Trinidad and Tobago6.3%Aug 2022
🇫🇷 France6.2%Oct 2022
🇩🇯 Djibouti6.1%Sep 2022
🇵🇷 Puerto Rico6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Bhutan6.1%Sep 2022
🇧🇹 Qatar6.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇭 Thailand6.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇿 Swaziland5.8%Aug 2022
🇮🇩 Indonesia5.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇷 South Korea5.7%Oct 2022
🇹🇯 Tajikistan5.7%Sep 2022
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea5.5%Jun 2022
🇰🇭 Cambodia5.4%Jul 2022
🇮🇶 Iraq5.3%Sep 2022
🇯🇴 Jordan5.2%Oct 2022
🇫🇯 Fiji5.1%Sep 2022
🇮🇱 Israel5.1%Oct 2022
🇳🇨 New Caledonia5.0%Sep 2022
🇹🇿 Tanzania4.9%Oct 2022
🇧🇲 Bermuda4.5%Jul 2022
🇪🇷 Eritrea4.5%Dec 2021
🇲🇾 Malaysia4.5%Sep 2022
🇭🇰 Hong Kong4.4%Sep 2022
🇵🇸 Palestine4.4%Oct 2022
🇧🇳 Brunei4.3%Sep 2022
🇱🇾 Libya4.3%Sep 2022
🇻🇳 Vietnam4.3%Oct 2022
🇪🇨 Ecuador4.0%Oct 2022
🇧🇭 Bahrain4.0%Sep 2022
🇯🇵 Japan3.7%Oct 2022
🇰🇼 Kuwait3.2%Sep 2022
🇳🇪 Niger3.2%Sep 2022
🇲🇻 Maldives3.1%Sep 2022
🇬🇦 Gabon3.0%Jul 2022
🇱🇮 Liechtenstein3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia3.0%Oct 2022
🇨🇭 Switzerland3.0%Oct 2022
🇸🇨 Seychelles2.9%Oct 2022
🇬🇶 Equatorial Guinea2.9%Dec 2021
🇧🇴 Bolivia2.9%Oct 2022
🇹🇼 Taiwan2.7%Oct 2022
🇨🇫 Central African Republic2.7%Dec 2021
🇻🇺 Vanuatu2.7%Mar 2022
🇴🇲 Oman2.4%Sep 2022
🇧🇯 Benin2.1%Oct 2022
🇨🇳 China2.1%Oct 2022
🇵🇦 Panama1.9%Sep 2022
🇲🇴 Macau1.1%Sep 2022
🇸🇸 South Sudan-2.5%Aug 2022

*Inflation rates based on the latest available data.

As price pressures mount, 33 central banks tracked by the Bank of International Settlements (out of a total of 38) have raised interest rates this year. These coordinated rate hikes are the largest in two decades, representing an end to an era of rock-bottom interest rates.

Going into 2023, central banks could continue this shift towards hawkish policies as inflation remains aggressively high.

The Role of Energy Prices

Driven by the war in Ukraine, energy inflation is pushing up the cost of living around the world.

Since October 2020, an index of global energy prices—made up of crude oil, natural gas, coal, and propane—has increased drastically.

Double-Digit Inflation

Compared to the 2021 average, natural gas prices in Europe are up sixfold. Real European household electricity prices are up 78% and gas prices have climbed even more, at 144% compared to 20-year averages.

Amid global competition for liquefied natural gas supplies, price pressures are likely to stay high, even though they have fallen recently. Other harmful consequences of the energy shock include price volatility, economic strain, and energy shortages.

“The world is in the midst of the first truly global energy crisis, with impacts that will be felt for years to come”.

-Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA

Double-Digit Inflation: Will it Last?

If history is an example, taming rising prices could take at least a few years yet.

Take the sky-high inflation of the 1980s. Italy, which managed to combat inflation faster than most countries, brought down inflation from 22% in 1980 to 4% in 1986.

If global inflation rates, which hover around 9.8% in 2022, were to follow this course, it would take at least until 2025 for levels to reach the 2% target.

It’s worth noting that inflation was also highly volatile over this decade. Consider how inflation fell across much of the rich world by 1981 but shot up again in 1987 amid higher energy prices. Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell spoke to the volatility of inflation at their November meeting, indicating that high inflation has a chance of following a period of low inflation.

While the Federal Reserve projects U.S. inflation to fall closer to its 2% target by 2024, the road ahead could still get a lot bumpier between now and then.

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Misc

Visualized: The Many Shapes of Bacteria

We introduce the visual diversity of bacteria and illustrate how they are categorized by appearance—from a single cell to an entire colony.

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Invisible Diversity: The Many Shapes of Bacteria

Bacteria are amazing.

They were the first form of life to appear on Earth almost 3.8 billion years ago.

They make up the second most abundant lifeform, only outweighed by plants.

And most interesting of all: they exist in practically every environment on our planet, including areas where no other lifeforms can survive. As a result, bacteria exhibit a wide variety of appearances, behaviors, and applications similar to the lifeforms we see in our everyday lives.

The incredible diversity of bacteria goes underappreciated simply because they are invisible to the naked eye. Here, we illustrate how researchers classify these creatures on the basis of appearance, giving you a glimpse into this microscopic world.

A Life of Culture

Though bacteria may look similar to other microorganisms like fungi or plankton, they are entirely unique on a microscopic and genetic level.

Bacteria make up one of the three main domains of life. All life shares its earliest ancestor with this group of microbes, alongside two other domains: the Archaea and the Eukarya.

Archaea are very similar to bacteria, but have different contents making up their cell walls.

Eukarya largely consists of complex, multicellular life, like fungi, plants, and animals. Bacteria are similar to its single-celled members because all bacteria are also unicellular. However, while all Eukarya have nuclear membranes that store genetic material, bacteria do not.

Bacteria have their genetic material free-floating within their cellular bodies. This impacts how their genes are encoded, how proteins are synthesized, and how they reproduce. For example, bacteria do not reproduce sexually. Instead, they reproduce on their own.

Bacteria undergo a process called binary fission, where any one cell divides into two identical cells, and so on. Fission occurs quickly. In minutes, populations can double rapidly, eventually forming a community of genetically identical microbes called a colony.

Colonies can be visible to the human eye and can take on a variety of different shapes, textures, sizes, colors, and behaviors. You might be familiar with some of these:

Superstars of a Tiny World

The following are some interesting bacterial species, some of which you may be familiar with:

Epulopiscium spp

This species is unusually large, ranging from 200-700 micrometers in length. They are also incredible picky, living only within the guts of sturgeon, a type of large fish.

Deinococcus radiodurans

D. radiodurans is a coccus-shaped species that can withstand 1,500 times the dose of radiation that a human can.

Escherichia coli

Despite being known famously for poisoning food and agriculture spaces from time to time, not all E.coli species are dangerous.

Desulforudis audaxviator

Down in the depths of a South African gold mine, this species thrives without oxygen, sunlight, or friends—it is the only living species in its ecosystem. It survives eating minerals in the surrounding rock.

Helicobacter pylori

Known for causing stomach ulcers, this spiral-shaped species has also been associated with many cancers that impact the lymphoid tissue.

Planococcus halocryophillus

Most living things cease to survive in cold temperatures, but P. halocryophillus thrives in permafrost in the High Arctic where temperatures can drop below -25°C/-12°F.

‘Bact’ to the Future

Despite their microscopic size, the contributions bacteria make to our daily lives are enormous. Researchers everyday are using them to study new environments, create new drug therapies, and even build new materials.

Scientists can profile the diversity of species living in a habitat by extracting DNA from an environmental sample. Known as metagenomics, this field of genetics commonly studies bacterial populations.

In oxygen-free habitats, bacteria continuously find alternative sources of energy. Some have even evolved to eat plastic or metal that have been discarded in the ocean.

The healthcare industry uses bacteria to help create antibiotics, vaccines, and other metabolic products. They also play a major role in a new line of self-building materials, which include “self-healing” concrete and “living bricks”.

Those are just a few of the many examples in which bacteria impact our daily lives. Although they are invisible, without them, our world would undoubtedly look like a much different place.

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