If you’re wondering how “close” two places are, a geographic map doesn’t help much anymore. If the airports are good–or if there’s a bullet train nearby–hundreds of miles might as well be down the street. Point being, “distance” is now really a function less of geography, than of the transport networks we’ve invented.
Which is why researchers at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, and the World Bank, created this gorgeous map. They first created a model, which calculated how long it would take to travel from a given point, to the nearest city of 50,000 people or more; the model includes rail, road, and river networks.
Then they plotted these results on a color coded map: The brighter an area, the closer it is to a big city; the darker it is, the further out it is. (The blue lines above represent oceanic shipping lanes.)
As the New Scientist reports:
Plotted onto a map, the results throw up surprises. First, less than 10% of the world’s land is more than 48 hours of ground-based travel from the nearest city. What’s more, many areas considered remote and inaccessible are not as far from civilization as you might think. In the Amazon, for example, extensive river networks and an increasing number of roads mean that only 20% of the land is more than two days from a city–around the same proportion as Canada’s Quebec province.