Earth Divided in Ten Zones of Equal Population

Americans live the the broadest, emptiest slice of the planet. 

As of this writing, Earth is a few million people short of the 7.5-billion mark. Considering that we add about 200,000 people to the planet every day, you may be reading this as the World Population Clock passes that symbolic milestone. Or, more likely, with that figure already firmly in the rear-view mirror. 

World Population is old-school Big Data: in that category of figures too big to comprehend, like the size of the universe or of U.S. federal debt. But there are a few ways to translate population data into an easily graspable visual. Some of which have figured on this blog before. 

  • The cartogram: countries are inflated or deflated to show the difference in population size. See #96.
  • Rearranged countries: the country with the biggest population moves into the biggest country, the second-most populous country takes over the second-biggest country, and so forth. See #490.
  • Latitudinal and longitudinal: world population plotted out along the north-south and east-west axes. See #563.
  • This map is a variant of the longitudinal map. It divides the east-west distribution of humanity into ten slices of equal population. Each one is home to 750 million people – a bit less or a lot more, depending on when you are reading this.

    The result is remarkable, not just because it manages to give a population schematic the look and feel of a time zone map, but also because it merges the north, with its mature economies and ageing populations, to the south, where population growth tends to cancel out a large part of overall GDP growth, leaving per-capita GDP stagnant and the locals poor. That also turns it into a road map of sorts for the migratory pressures that are currently animating public debate around the world.

  • The U.S. almost has North America to itself, incorporates most of the Caribbean (although the Windward and Leeward islands fall outside the Green Zone) and the western half of South America.
  • Despite incorporating the UK, France and Spain, the main language in the Blue Zone is Portuguese, thanks to the inclusion of almost all of Brazil (210 million Portuguese-speakers). 
  • The Red Zone contains the central part of Europe, with Germany (83 million), Italy (61 million) and Poland (39 million) as population heavyweights. But the centre of gravity is in Africa, with (most of) Nigeria (188 million), the DR Congo (82 million) and South Africa  (55 million) in the Zone. 
  • The Yellow Zone is the narrowest yet, indicating a higher population density. Despite containing Moscow, the continent's largest city (with a metro area of 18 million), this Zone is less European than the Red one. European Russia is less densely populated than the more western parts of the continent, and is only half included in the Red Zone. The most populated country in the Red Zone might surprise you. It's Ethiopia (105 million), ahead of Egypt (93 million) and Turkey (80 million). Tanzania (57 million), Kenya (49 million) and Uganda (42 million) together constitute an Anglophone bloc in East Africa of nigh on 150 million people.
  • The next Blue Zone is dominated by Pakistan (202 million) and Iran (83 million), but that generous western slice of India will certainly have helped a lot too – more than the Empty Quarter of Arabia, or the underpopulated expanses of the 'stans in Central Asia. 
  • The next Red Zone is so narrow because it takes in the most densely settled parts of India, at 1.3 billion the world's second-most populated country.
  • Bangladesh, a tiny part of the next Zone, is one of the most densely populated countries in the word. At 190 million, it has more inhabitants than Russia and Ukraine combined. Thailand's 70 million and Birma/Myanmar's 55 million are not to be sneezed at either. 
  • The next Zone, again much narrower, contains Java, the most densely populated island in the world (1). Java is about two-thirds the size of Great Britain, but is home to 145 million people, or 57% of all Indonesians. 
  • The last but one Zone is the narrowest of them all. It runs from empty Siberia to empty Western Australia, but passes through the most densely populated slice of China. 
  • The final Zone takes in both Koreas, Japan and the Philippines, half of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, most of Australia and all of New Zealand, plus a the island nations of the western Pacific. Very roomy, compared to the four Zones to the west: even put together, they are a narrower band than the Tokyo one – but they do contain the bulk of humanity: three billion people. 
  • Map found here at Image of Santa Cruz del Islote found here at Fotozanetti, the website for photographers Luca and Pia Zanetti. 

    Strange Maps #832

    Got a strange map? Let me know at

    (1) To be precise: the most densely populated large island in the world. Java has a density of 1,026 inhabitants per km2. The most densely populated island in the world is Santa Cruz del Islote, a tiny islet in Colombia's San Bernardo archipelago. It has an area of only 0.12 km2 but a population of around 1,250. Which gives a density of well over 10,300 inhabitants per km2 (or about 27,000/sq mi).

    Yug, age 7, and Alia, age 10, both entered Let Grow's "Independence Challenge" essay contest.

    Photos: Courtesy of Let Grow
    Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
    • The coronavirus pandemic may have a silver lining: It shows how insanely resourceful kids really are.
    • Let Grow, a non-profit promoting independence as a critical part of childhood, ran an "Independence Challenge" essay contest for kids. Here are a few of the amazing essays that came in.
    • Download Let Grow's free Independence Kit with ideas for kids.
    Keep reading Show less

    Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

    Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

    Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
    Culture & Religion

    Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

    Keep reading Show less

    Withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants can last over a year, new study finds

    We must rethink the "chemical imbalance" theory of mental health.

    Bottles of antidepressant pills named (L-R) Wellbutrin, Paxil, Fluoxetine and Lexapro are shown March 23, 2004 photographed in Miami, Florida.

    Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
    Surprising Science
    • A new review found that withdrawal symptoms from antidepressants and antipsychotics can last for over a year.
    • Side effects from SSRIs, SNRIs, and antipsychotics last longer than benzodiazepines like Valium or Prozac.
    • The global antidepressant market is expected to reach $28.6 billion this year.
    Keep reading Show less

    Is there a limit to optimism when it comes to climate change?

    Or is doubt a self-fulfilling prophecy?

    David McNew/Getty Images
    Politics & Current Affairs

    'We're doomed': a common refrain in casual conversation about climate change.

    Keep reading Show less
    Scroll down to load more…