Humankind’s impact on the world is obvious, but our spatial patterns are sometimes difficult to recognize from the ground.
Publicly accessible, high-quality satellite imagery has been a game changer in terms of understanding the scope of forces such as urbanization and land use patterns.
Google Timelapse Maps
Google Earth’s timelapsed satellite maps capture the drastic changes the planet’s surface has undergone over the past 34 years. Each timelapse comprises 35 cloud-free pictures, which have been made interactive by the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.
Three different satellites acquired 15 million images over the past three decades. The majority of the images come from Landsat, a joint USGS/NASA Earth observation program. For the years 2015 to 2018, Google combined imagery from Landsat 8 and Sentinel-2A. Sentinel is part of the European Commission and European Space Agency’s Copernicus Earth observation program.
Deforestation, urban growth, and natural resource extraction are just some of the human patterns and impacts that can be visualized.
Editor’s note: to view the following timelapses, press the play button on any map. You can also view individual years in the time periods as well. On slower internet connections you may need to have patience, as the series of images can take some time to load or display.
Cities and Infrastructure
Urban Growth: Pearl River Delta, China
Up to 1979, China’s Pearl River Delta had seen little urbanization. However in 1980, the People’s Republic of China established a special economic zone, Shenzhen, to attract foreign investment. In the following years, buildings and paved surfaces rapidly replaced the rural settings around the river delta. This is the Lunjiao area just south of Guangzhou.
Urban Growth: Cairo, Egypt
The present-day location of Cairo has been a city for more than 1,000 years, and its constrained urban footprint is now bursting at the seams thanks to Egypt’s population growth. A new city is being built in the nearby stretch of desert land (agricultural land is scarce) that will one day replace ancient Cairo as Egypt’s capital. If the government’s ambitious plans are realized, this desert boomtown could have a population of over 6 million people.
The Egyptian state needed this kind of project a long time ago. Cairo [is] a capital that is full of traffic jams, very crowded. The infrastructure cannot absorb more people.
– Khaled el-Husseiny Soliman
Urban Growth: Phoenix, Arizona
According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Phoenix is the fastest-growing city in the United States. Over the past two decades, the suburb of Chandler evolved from agricultural uses to sprawling residential developments. This pattern was repeated in a number of cities in the Southern U.S., most notably Las Vegas.
Construction: The Brandenburg Airport, Germany
Berlin’s long overdue Brandenburg Airport began construction in 2006, with the airport initially expected to open in 2011. However, the airport has been subject to numerous delays and the airport now has a new opening date. Berlin Brandenburg Airport is now expected to open on Oct. 31, 2020.
Megaproject: Yangshan Port
The Port of Shanghai became one of the most important transportation hubs in the world after the completion of its offshore expansion – the Yangshan Port.
Building this massive port was a gargantuan engineering feat. First, land reclamation was used to connect two islands 20 miles southeast of Shanghai. Next, the port was connected to the mainland via the Donghai Bridge, which opened in 2005 as the world’s longest sea crossing. The six-lane bridge took 6,000 workers two and half years to construct.
In 2016, the Port of Shanghai was the largest shipping port in the world, handling 37.1 million twenty-foot container equivalents.
Mining: Chuquicamata, Chile
Chuquicamata is the largest open pit copper mine by volume in the world, located 800 miles north of the Chilean capital, Santiago. In 2019, Chile’s national mining company Codelco initiated underground mining at Chuquicamata.
Deforestation: Ñuflo de Chávez, Bolivia
Ñuflo de Chávez is one of the 15 provinces of the Bolivian Santa Cruz Department. Satellite images of southern Ñuflo de Chávez illustrate deforestation from agrarian expansion in the jungles of the Amazon. From the air, the deforestation takes on a unique grid pattern with circular clearings. Developed as part of an organized resettlement scheme, each circle is anchored by community amenities and housing, and surrounded by fields of soybeans cultivated for export.
According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, 8.4 million soccer fields of land have been deforested in the Amazon over the past decade.
Shale Gas Boom: Odessa, Texas
The small town of Odessa sits in the middle of one of the most productive shale gas regions in the world, the Permian Basin. The region is expected to generate an average of 3.9 million barrels per day, roughly a third of total U.S. oil production. While the gas may come from underground, the pursuit of this source of energy has drastically altered the landscape, marking the terrain with roads, wells, and housing for workers.
Drying of the Aral Sea: Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
It took almost 30 years to make a sea disappear. When the Soviet Union diverted the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers to irrigate cotton and rice fields in the 1960s, it turned the Aral Sea into a desert. Once the world’s fourth largest lake, the region is struggling to restore water levels and aquatic habitats.
Glacier Retreat: Columbia Glacier, Alaska, USA
The Columbia Glacier is a tidewater glacier that flows through the valleys of the Chugach Mountains and into Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Increased temperatures initiated a retreat in the length of the glacier over three decades ago. Once in motion, a glacier’s retreat accelerates due to glacial mechanics. It is one of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world.
Changing Rivers: Iquitos, Peru
Not all change is from humans. There are natural physical processes that continue to shape the Earth’s surface. For example, rivers that experience heavy water flows can be altered through erosion, changing the bends.
Better Perspectives, Better Decisions?
Often, the greatest impacts that occur are out of sight and mind. However, with the increasing availability of satellite technology and improved distribution of images through platforms such as Google Timelapse, the impact of human activity is impossible to ignore.
The bulk of visible changes come from human economic activity, because it is more easily observable on a smaller time scale. However, it’s also worth remembering that there are still many natural processes that take generations, if not thousands of years to affect change.
It is one thing to hear the facts and figures of humankind’s impact on the environment, but to see the change is a whole other story.
Mapping The Biggest Companies By Market Cap in 60 Countries
Tech, finance or energy giant? We mapped the biggest companies by market cap and industry.
The Biggest Companies By Market Cap in 60 Countries
Tech giants are increasingly making up more of the Fortune 500, but the world’s biggest companies by market cap aren’t so cut and dry.
Despite accounting for the largest market caps worldwide—with trillion-dollar companies like Apple and contenders including Tencent and Samsung—tech wealth is largely concentrated in just a handful of countries.
So what are the biggest companies in each country? We mapped the largest company by market cap across 60 countries in August 2021 using market data from CompaniesMarketCap, TradingView, and MarketScreener.
What are the Largest Companies in the World?
The world has 60+ stock exchanges, and each one has a top company. We looked at the largest local company, since many of the world’s largest firms trade on multiple exchanges, and converted market cap to USD.
|Country||Company||Industry||Market Cap (August 2021)|
|Saudi Arabia||Saudi Aramco||Energy||$1.9T|
|Belgium||Anheuser-Busch Inbev||Consumer Staples||$122.7B|
|Indonesia||Bank Cental Asia||Financials||$54.8B|
|Philippines||SM Investments||Consumer Cyclical||$22.9B|
|Kuwait||Kuwait Finance House||Financials||$21.9B|
|Czech Republic||ÄŒEZ Group||Energy||$15.8B|
|Poland||PKO Bank Polski||Financials||$12.6B|
|Bahrain||Ahli United Bank||Financials||$8.6B|
|Egypt||Commercial International Bank||Financials||$5.9B|
Many are former monopolies or massive conglomerates that have grown in the public space, such as South Africa’s Naspers and India’s Reliance Industries.
Others are local subsidiaries of foreign corporations, including Mexico’s Walmex, Chile’s Enel and Turkey’s QNB Finansbank.
But even more noticeable is the economic discrepancy. Apple and Saudi Aramco are worth trillions of dollars, while the smallest companies we tracked—including Panama’s Copa Group and Oman’s Bank Muscat—are worth less than $5 billion.
Finance and Tech Dominate The Biggest Companies By Market Cap
Across the board, the largest companies were able to accumulate wealth and value.
Some are newer to the top thanks to recent success. Canada’s Shopify has become one of the world’s largest e-commerce providers, and the UK’s AstraZeneca developed one of the world’s COVID-19 vaccines.
But the reality is most companies here are old guards that grew on existing resources, or in the case of banks, accumulated wealth.
|Industry||Biggest Companies by Country|
Banks were the most commonly found at the top of each country’s stock market. Closely behind were oil and gas giants, mining companies, and former state-owned corporations that drove most of a country’s wealth generation.
But as more economies develop and catch up to Western economies (where tech is dominant), newer innovative companies will likely put up a fight for each country’s top company crown.
All World Languages in One Visualization
See the world’s major languages broken down by country in this stunning visualization.
All World Languages, By Native Speakers
View a high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.
Languages provide a window into culture and history. They’re also a unique way to map the world – not through landmasses or geopolitical borders, but through mother tongues.
The Tower of Babel
Today’s infographic from Alberto Lucas Lopez condenses the 7,102 known living languages today into a stunning visualization, with individual colors representing each world region.
Only 23 languages are spoken by at least 50 million native speakers. What’s more, over half the planet speaks at least one of these 23 languages.
Chinese dominates as a macrolanguage, but it’s important to note that it consists of numerous languages. Mandarin, Yue (including Cantonese), Min, Wu, and Hakka cover over 200 individual dialects, which vary further by geographic location.
|Country||Native Chinese speakers (millions)|
|🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||6.5|
|🇲🇴 Macau SAR||0.5|
Chinese is one of the most challenging languages for English speakers to pick up, in part due its completely unfamiliar scripts. You’d have to know at least 3,000 characters to be able to read a newspaper, a far cry from memorizing the A-Z alphabet.
Spanglish Takes Over
After Chinese, the languages of Spanish and English sit in second and third place in terms of global popularity. The rapid proliferation of these languages can be traced back to the history of Spanish conquistadors in the Americas, and British colonies around the world.
Animation: Map of Colonization (1492 – 2008):
Today, Spanish has 399 million native speakers, but these are mostly concentrated in Latin America. English has 335 million native speakers under its belt, with a widespread reach all over the globe.
Two Worlds, One Family
While the visualization makes all the world languages seem disparate, this linguistic family tree shows how they grew from a common root. It also explains how languages can evolve and branch out over time.
Created by Minna Sundberg. Full version.
This linguistic tree also includes many languages that are not on the large visualization of 23 mother tongues. Some of them might be considered endangered or at risk today, such as Catalan or Welsh. However, with globalization, a few interesting linguistic trends are arising.
1. Language revival
Certain enclaves of marginalized languages are being preserved out of pride for the traditional and cultural histories attached.
While Catalan was once banned, its rebirth is a key marker of identity in Barcelona. More than 150 universities teach Catalan worldwide. In the case of Welsh, a mammoth university project plans to make sure it does not die out. Researchers are compiling ten million Welsh words to preserve the past, present, and future of the language.
2. Language forecast
At this point in time, English is the lingua franca – adopted as a common language among speakers with different mother tongues. However, this status might soon be fuzzier as demographic trends continue.
The rise of China is an obvious one to consider. As China continues to increase its economic might and influence, its languages will proliferate as well.
At the same time, 26 African countries are projected to double their current size, many of which speak French as a first language. One study by investment bank Natixis suggests that Africa’s growth may well bring French to the forefront – making it the most-spoken language by 2050.
Could French provide a certain je ne sais quoi that no other world language can quite replace?
This post was first published in 2018. We have since updated it, adding in new content for 2021.
Green2 weeks ago
The World’s 25 Largest Lakes, Side by Side
Science3 weeks ago
Comparing the Size of The World’s Rockets, Past and Present
Misc4 weeks ago
Every Single Cognitive Bias in One Infographic
Misc1 week ago
All World Languages in One Visualization
Economy7 days ago
The 20 Fastest Growing Jobs in the Next Decade
Technology4 weeks ago
Which Companies Belong to the Elite Trillion-Dollar Club?
Misc2 weeks ago
Razor Thin: A New Perspective on Earth’s Atmosphere
Misc3 weeks ago
Visualizing the Highest-Paid Athletes in 2021