The centre’s maps are based on a model that calculated how long it would take to travel to the nearest city of 50,000 or more people by land or water. The model combines information on terrain and access to road, rail and river networks. It also considers how factors such as altitude, steepness of terrain and delays – such as border crossings — slow travel.
As plotted onto a map, the results showed that less than 10% of the world’s land is more than 48 hours of ground-based travel from the nearest city. Even in the Amazon, for example, extensive river networks and an increasing number of roads mean that only 20% of the land is more than two days from a city.
The maps show China’s flourishing export trade, using some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The maps were created to show how the distribution of people affects their access to resources such as education and medical care, and how humanity is increasingly pushing wildlife out of even the wildest corners of the planet. With this as a baseline, Alan Belward, who leads the project, hopes to follow how emerging economies will change the face of the world.
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