John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
There are 1.8 million people in Gaza. What would that look like in your city?
When Israel invaded the Gaza Strip last week, its tanks and troops went marching into a minuscule territory crammed with roughly 1.8 million people. For the sake of context, what would that glut of humanity look like if transplanted to the urban landscape of America?
That's the question explored in this series of visualizations by Chris Walker, a data artist who made that crazy map of migration patterns among U.S. states. "There's one important thing to understand about Gaza: its tiny size and high population make it a densely populated area," says Walker, who's head of data visualization for the news site Mic. "That means a rocket fired into a Gazan neighborhood is likely to cause scores of civilian casualties." (The latest death toll was nearly 700 Palestinians, 35 Israelis.)
Calling that dismal truth "distant and abstract," Walker's taken U.S. Census-based population densities for major cities and mapped out the geographic area that Gaza's population would occupy. He explains more about the endeavor via email:
"[T]he orange shaded area in the shape of Gaza represents how much space 1.8 million people take up in each city shown. The exact position of the shaded area is arbitrary though. I placed the Gaza area roughly over the center of each metropolitan region. So while the shaded area may happen to fall over a suburb or body of water, it's simply intended to show the space that would be occupied by 1.8 million people with the density of the specified city."
Above is Washington, D.C. Below, find several other cities—beginning with New York: