Dots on a map, animated to show the progression of world population over time—it was an elegantly simple concept when it was conceived over 40 years ago and continues to amaze viewers today. Now in its fourth edition, the short video animation, World Population, has a new look and a new home—WorldPopulationHistory.org.
With a click of the mouse, viewers can stream the five-minute animation, recreated in HD, in six languages (English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Hindi, and Mandarin). From 1 CE to 2050, the animation features historical icons from the Han Dynasty to the Information Age and beyond.
Earlier versions of World Population have been displayed in top science museums and zoos from New York to Melbourne, tens of thousands of classrooms, and even corporate boardrooms. The video has been lauded by leading environmentalists, including Lester Brown and Paul Hawken, and is a favorite of Gilbert Grosvenor, former President of the National Geographic Society.
Now, we’ve taken this impactful animation a step further with a new, interactive website that lets visitors explore the peopling of our planet from multiple perspectives—historical, environmental, social, and political. It is about the 2,000-year journey of human civilization and the possible paths ahead to the middle of this century. The central feature of the site is the world population map linked to a historical timeline representing five areas of human existence (People and Society, Science and Technology, Food and Agriculture, Health, and the Environment). There are multiple ways visitors can interact with the rich content on the site:
- Click more than 1,400 of the map’s population dots to discover the history and demography of places as varied as Chichen Itza during the Mayan Empire, Glasgow at the height of the Industrial Revolution, or Kinshasa today.
- Add overlays to the population map to witness the changing human landscape and carbon emissions since the 18th century, as well as changing fertility and life expectancy.
- Explore over 370 historical milestones that shaped population trends, including inventions, explorations, key events, and social movements.
- Test your Population IQ with an online quiz.
- Join the conversation with an online discussion of the site’s themes.
Anyone with an interest in geography, world history, demography, or ecology will find much to explore at WorldPopulationHistory.org. There is also content specifically for high school teachers and their students.
Putting World Population on the Map
The site went live the week of World Population Day (July 11) with social media events (Twitter Chat and Reddit “Ask Me Anything”), radio interviews across the country, and a feature in Scientific American’s online edition. The hook? Five inventions that changed population history. Highlighting a handful of items from the interactive timeline—from the first oil rigs in 4th-century China to the invention of nitrogen fertilizer in 20th-century Europe—provided a way to link science and technology with global demographic trends.
With the start of the new school year, more media exposure is planned, including a Google Hangout for teachers and promotions through leading teacher associations. The site has relevance to so many high school disciplines, including several popular Advanced Placement (AP) courses—Human Geography, World History, and Environmental Science.
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