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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Continental Shifts

During our most recent EarthView presentation, as Dr. Domingo was speaking about Africa, a question came to mind for Dr. Hayes-Bohanan (who is writing this post). Noting that we always emphasize that it is a continent (when nearby islands are included) of 55 countries, the question came to mind: Where would the population of Africa rank if it were a country?

The search for information about population by continent led to a simple presentation by geohive of population changes by continent over the 1950-2050 century. As explained in our Population Primer article last year, this is the "bottleneck" century, of critical importance to the long-term balance between the population of humans and the health of ecosystems.

The shifts growth in population and the relative proportion among continents is described by this series of pie charts. The use of circles is perhaps not the best way to compare overall population, since the numbers are represented by area but the eye tends to compare diameters.

The pie charts what proportion of the population is on each continent at 25-year intervals. In reality, these are not continents in the physical sense, but major regions that make for convenient comparisons. One must look carefully to identify some of the important changes during this century. Most dramatic, is the decline of Europe's population, which has just half of the share of total population that it did only six decades ago.

The key to the charts includes Oceania, but with about one-half of one percent of the world's population throughout this century, it is not visible. How does this compare to the proportion of EarthView (and of the earth itself) occupied by these countries, which include Australia and all of the islands of the Pacific?

More About Continents

Oceania is not a continent, nor are many places in the world, though people ask geographers to assign islands to continents all the time. Geographer Matt Rosenberg addresses some of the most frequent questions that start with the words Which Continent? To understand his answer to the question about Greenland, look at EarthView or any map that shows North America and Greenland with their continental shelf.


Visit the article on geohive to see the numbers behind the charts above. Which regions have maintained their share most consistently, and which have grown the most in relation to other continents?

Experiment with other kinds of graphs -- such as bar and line graphs -- to see which are most effective at communicating the changes experienced during this period.

Finally, address the original question: If Africa were a country, what real country would be closest to it in the population rankings? 

You can answer the previous question for each continent except Asia. Why is Asia the exception?

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