Snapshots of our complex world using maps

Here it is, Map Monday, and I thought for this week I’d steer clear of the pandemic sweeping our lives and our world. The multifaceted crisis this pandemic has unleased is challenging our healthcare systems, our economies, our education systems, and the social interactions that bind us together. But, when these trials are eventually resolved, we will still have all our previously existing characteristics, quirks, and challenges. Let’s look at a few of them today … through maps.

Population distribution. We’ve looked at a few different approaches to illustrating the astounding variation in population density through maps in past posts; here are two others, just for fun. Don’t worry, nobody is considering jamming us all together, at least not at this point in time. And definitely not in the immediate aftermath of lessons learned from pandemic spread.

Lactose intolerance. Aside from the increasing pressure on people to drink less milk because of the methane dairy cows contribute to climate change, most of us have always known some people who simply can’t digest milk or milk products very well. They are lactose intolerant. In fact, most frequently that is a trait inherited through your ancestry. Those people whose ancestors through the millennia were cattle, goat, or reindeer herders, and for whom milk was a prime contributor to their diet, evolved to be lactose tolerant. Nearly everyone whose ancestors got their protein – and calcium I assume – from other sources did not need to evolve to be lactose tolerant. Hence, the distribution of lactose intolerance is very widespread. Milk lovers like me are in the minority worldwide.

This first map shows the percentage of people in each country who are lactose intolerant. Take a look, but bear in mind that many of our countries are far more heterogeneous than they used to be, which makes this map a bit misleading.

Image credit: Wikipedia

This second map shows a somewhat clearer picture of the mix of ethnic – or ancestral – backgrounds in each country. It uses the term “white” to refer to the descendants of the herders and early farmers who started drinking their animals’ milk long, long ago,  primarily found in Northern Europe and Russia, hence these descendants are most likely to be lactose-tolerant. The main reason I included these maps at all were because, first of all lactose intolerance is a fairly neutral topic and we could use of those these days. And also because it seemed like a good example to remind us that maps can be quite misleading when they’re done on a country by country basis. Take a look at both maps and see if you can tell from the second map why the country percentages in the first map are as they are.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Water resources, water usage.

This first map shows what parts of the world have sufficient fresh water resources for their needs (and wants) and which parts do not. Notice that a country may have some areas with sufficient water supply and other areas with severe water shortages. If this map were just showing the overall measure of water supply per country, within-country challenges would not be obvious.

Fresh water is a non-renewable resource. Image credit:

This second map shows how much water is consumed per capita (per person) in each country. You have to keep in mind that this includes showers, washing machines, car washes, swimming pools, agriculture (this one is huge, apparently even keeping beef cattle watered takes huge amounts), construction, watering golf courses and green lawns, you name it. Notice the difference between how much water countries consume (map 2) versus how much renewable fresh water they have available (map 1). Some of them should be pretty worried.

Water footprint per country.  Dark red countries have the worst footprints – between 2.1 and 2.5 million liters of water per capita each year. Image credit:



This entry was posted in History and Politics, Map Monday, Odds and Ends and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Snapshots of our complex world using maps

  1. mitchteemley says:

    Some fascinating “Who knews?” there!

  2. K E Garland says:

    I like it when you share these. The lactose intolerance one and the water distressed map are interesting.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, Kathy. I’m glad you found those two topics interesting, so did I. I was already enjoying exploring info through maps and now that I have so much more time in our self-isolation mode I gave even more time to google for world maps! 😊

  3. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Wow, some neat stats here.

  4. dfolstad58 says:

    The map post is cool, very interesting maps. You are right saying NYC as the best city in the world would result in a discussion. I am pretty stoked about my little city of Penticton and love the lifestyle. My daughter has visited NYC and liked it, but it’s not my cup of tea. ♥

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Lol. You’re right, Penticton is about as good as it gets. I feel the same way about Fredericton, where I am. But I did grow up near NYC and have visited several times over the decades since. I’d say that as the big world cities go, it’s pretty darn special (especially for running the NYC marathon!). I was thinking in terms of “world cities” as opposed to where I would like to live my life.

      • dfolstad58 says:

        I see what you mean. How big does it have to be to be a world city?

        • Jane Fritz says:

          Good question. I think world cities are the ones that are centres of international financial and/or economic clout as well as being very large and usually centres of culture and importance in their home countries. Cities like London, NYC, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore, Berlin, etc.

  5. It’s funny how this pandemic has actually got me looking at charts, maps, etc. I’m usually one who will only glance at them in a news article, preferring to somehow sift through the essence of whatever it means from the narrative itself. In other words, I’ve always been lazy! But now, I’m all about devouring these charts and maps! Map Monday, I love it, keep ’em coming, Jane. 🙂 – Marty

    • Jane Fritz says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying these, Marty. It’s amazing how much stuff is out there once you start looking, although not all of it makes sense. It is a great activity to engage in while self-isolating! Who ever heard of the expressions “self-isolating” and social distancing” before ?! Thank goodness for the Internet and Google. And blogging!

  6. LA says:

    I love these map things…though the comparison of Manhattan density freaks me out a little….😆

    • Jane Fritz says:

      It is definitely freak-out worthy. And that’s even though NYC is arguably one of the best “world cities” in the entire world!

      • pendantry says:

        It is? I was there once, and called ‘information’ for help to phone the friend in Maryland I was going to visit… I was gobsmacked by the verbal abuse I got from the person who answered my call!

        • Jane Fritz says:

          NYC telephone operator? That’s really a shame. Not good. We were there once and when two people in our group missed getting on the subway with the rest of us (which none of us had noticed) an NYC cop noticed, got on the next express train with them, and brought them to our group at our destination stop. I guess it depends on individual experiences. But I really meant among what I think of as “world cities”, like London, Paris, Hong Long, etc. I have found that New Yorkers usually have more time for strangers than people in many other big cities. I may just have been lucky.

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