Making sense of the world: if you find that trying to understand the world by digesting facts and figures makes your head hurt, then The State of the World Atlas is for you. Now in its ninth edition, it is unique in presenting current events and global trends in a factual, graphic and easily comprehensible manner. Stephen Williams reports.

Author:Williams, Stephen
Position:Book review

THE STATE OF THE WORLD ATLAS was compiled and edited by Dan Smith, the secretary-general of International Alert, the international peace-building organisation. Being both meticulously researched and ingeniously designed, it graphically presents almost every key indicator and vital statistic of modern life.

Here you will find countries and their populations; human diversity and issues surrounding wealth and poverty. So too, the Atlas presents the tough realities of conflict and suffering; human rights and their abuses; the health of the world's population and the wellbeing of the planet itself.

It is not absolutely comprehensive--for examples somewhat surprisingly given the amount of attention the subject has received, it neglects to present the situation regarding youth unemployment. But as Dan Smith told New African, he spent many sleepless nights worrying about what this Atlas contained, and in many ways he was constrained by the lack of reliable statistics.

country's GNI larger than revenue of any transnational country's GNI smaller Walmart employs 2.1 million people and than Walmart ($421.8 sells to 100 million customers a week. billion) but bigger Its 2010 sales revenue exceeded the than: Nestle combined GNI of the world's 62 smallest economies. 80% of its suppliers are in China. A legal case, started in 2000, sued Walmart for discrimination against 1.5 million current and former women employees. In 2011, the US Supreme Court dismissed the case on the grounds that the women could not pursue it as a single group. country's GNI smaller Nestle operates in 86 countries and has than: Nestle ($105.3 30% of the global market for baby food. billion) but bigger The way it sells substitutes for breast Than: Kraft Foods milk remains controversial. An international boycott started by consumer activists in 1977 is still active in over 100 countries. country's GNI smaller Kraft sells in 170 countries. 40 of its than Kraft Foods but brands are more than a century old. It bigger than: started in 1903. Its first-year losses McDonald's amounted to $3,000 and one horse, in 1915 the company invented pasteurized processed cheese. country's GNI smaller McDonald's employs 1.7 million people and than McDonald's ($24 operates in 119 countries. It serves 68 1 billion) million customers a day--more than the population of France or the UK. no data Nevertheless, the Atlas has more than 50 maps and illustrations. The themes are grouped into...

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