This week’s Map Monday was inspired by a comment from a fellow blogger, who mentioned that some of the world maps I shared put her in mind of the Pale Blue Dot. Thanks, AM, I hadn’t thought of that expression for some time.
The expression Pale Blue Dot comes from this photograph of planet Earth, taken by the Voyager 1 space probe on Valentine’s Day, 1990. It was taken at a distance of about 6 billion kms (3.7 billion miles)! I’ve added the yellow arrow so you can find the (tiny) pale blue dot – our planet – more easily. Even from this unimaginable distance, the blueness of Earth is visible!
An earlier perspective of our planet from space, from a far closer distance, is this well-known picture of an earthrise, taken from lunar orbit on Christmas Eve 1968 by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders. This picture was one of the first to provide us humans with the reality that we’re just one small body in the heavens, but a small body of beauty and wonder. And clearly blue.
The blue, of course, comes from our oceans, which cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. And that 70% comprises 97% of our planet’s water supply, meaning only 3% of the water on earth is the fresh water we need, much of which is found frozen in glaciers and ice sheets. That fresh water is a precious resource that is needed for sustaining our lives, as well as that of crops, trees, and wildlife. Not to mention industry, one of the biggest users. Lots of competing needs.
With this background in mind, let’s take a look at the state of water around the world. Some of the links to the map sources provide additional fascinating information. As usual, you can click on the maps to zoom in for more detail.
These first 2 maps show the stresses on availability of fresh water by country. Notice that they were published at different times, and, as we all know, things have only gotten more stressful since their publications.
This next map gives a somewhat historic look at quantities of renewable fresh water around the world.
Notice the difference story you get from the maps that show data by country as opposed to the maps that show water data by geographic location. Averaging the data for a country that is 50% rainforest and 50% desert, for example, would give a very misleading result for the country as a whole. Both approaches have their uses.
This interesting map called the Future of Water shows where it is predicted that available water will decrease and also where it is expected to increase.
And finally for the fresh water story, as a reminder of just how much water our personal, agricultural, and industrial activities use, take a look at these Water Footprint charts.
We know that oceans are threatened by pollution of all kinds: plastics, fuel spills from oil drilling, and fuel, garbage and human waste dumping from the ships that ply the seas. We also know that we will experience significant rises in sea level from the melting of ice in the polar regions and from melting glaciers in mountains around the world. And that the melting is now acknowledged to be happening at a far more rapid rate than had been previously predicted. This map shows how the health of our oceans have already been impacted by this activity, making it a challenging environment for sustaining life.
This next map shows how ocean temperatures have already changed, and it’s a scary picture. The changes are expected to accelerate.
Mortality Impacts from Climate Change in 2100.
I thought I’d throw this intriguing map in for final food for thought. The projected scenario is 80 years away, so no panic – yet. But it has several messages that are worth taking heed of, and perhaps even making you become a bit more proactive in changing some of your habits. The projected deaths come from obvious causes such as hunger from inability to grow crops any more as the earth becomes too hot and dry in many places. It also has some intriguing areas where it is projecting that there will be fewer deaths. This is explained by there being less extreme cold in the far northern reaches where people may be less likely to freeze to death in some instances. That being said, far more people live where it is currently hot and dry and threatening to become unlivable than where it is perishingly cold. And I fear that there will be more polar bears and other polar animals dying from changes to their environment than additional northerners escaping death from freezing.
Most importantly, this map speaks to the frightening reality of impending climate change migration, as an increasing number of people become unable to survive in their homelands and must migrate further north or perish. Keep in mind that eighty years can go by pretty quickly!