National Geographic ’7 Billion’ App Review

Over the past week, I read all the content of National Geographic's '7 Billion' iPad app. I found it of excellent quality and pretty interesting. Interesting enough for me to spend some time sharing my thoughts about it with you. 'Geography' is at the core of the topic and content of the app. The iPad app is free "for a limited time", so I encourage you to download it right away (provided you have an iPad of course).

But first, here's the official description: "National Geographic magazine presents 7 Billion: How your world will change – to coincide with the arrival of the 7 billionth human being to our world. This app explores the challenges of a growing human population in a world of limited resources with informative videos, interactive maps, in-depth articles, and stunning photography. 

Featured content includes….
  • How big is 7 Billion? An insightful video of the demographic trends that got us here today and how it will impact us tomorrow.
  • Birth of a New Brazil: How big families are out, to the credit of strong-willed women—and the steamy soaps that inspired them.
  • The Face of Seven Billion Interactive: Tap on the “typical face” to find out who the most typical human is
  • Rift in Paradise: As the global population increases Africa’s Albertine Rift gives us a glimpse of what is at stake in the decades ahead.
  • Bangladesh: See how resourceful residents of this country refuse to give in to rising seas
  • Food Ark: Explore how preserving heirlooms seeds and breeds are crucial if we hope to feed our hungry world.
  • And to be incorporated into the app in December 2011, Cities are the Solution: They may be the best way to lift people from poverty and preserve the environment."

And now my notes:

  • The app contains several beautiful photos with captions, quite a few slightly interactive maps, about three short videos, and about a hundred pages of articles to read
  • The articles are generally very well written, documented and quite pertinent, well worth the time
  • The design is the app is beautiful, and so are the maps, but in both cases, design takes precedence on usability. Ideally, maps must be beautifully designed -and- usable
  • The surprise of the first section, is that despite population having increased exponentially in in the past decades, most scenarios indicate we'll stabilize and start to decrease in the middle of this century. In fact, population is even already on a decreasing course in a lot of parts of the world, notable exceptions are India and Africa, so the problem is not population, it's resources, mainly food and energy (both are linked of course (population <=> resources & food <=> energy), everything is related, and as we know in geography, near things are more related than distant things)
  • The second section, focusing on Brazil, shows that you don't even need laws to reduce family sizes, you need "modernity"
  • The section on Africa is insightful, and shows that we're not safe from additional Rwanda-type wars, since population is not evenly distributed and so are resources. When people starve, they don't care about "national natural reserves" and are willing to pillage anything they can to survive (this reminds me of Collapse, by Jared Diamond)
  • The section on Bangladesh is reassuring. When we don't have access to much, we do with what we have and imagination helps, but be ready to move frequently and systematically adapt to new situations. To be bold, I'm not sure we're that flexible in the "modern" world
  • There's a section on oceans acidification, dubbed "climate change's lesser-known evil twin". Oceans are degrading at a dramatic rate, mostly because we don't do anything and continue with our unsustainable practices, and we're going to start paying the price real soon 
  • There's also a section on food production, but I don't remember reading anything surprising in there
  • The last part of the app, titled "Cities are the Solution" is not yet available (next month), I will certainly read it once it becomes available

In short, it's a great informative app that I can only recommend. It's well documented, beautiful and pertinent. Anyone else has comments?

On the same topic and in addition to what we already shared, O'Reilly has an entry on visualizations of 7 billion humans.