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Mapping for a Sustainable World

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Menno-Jan Kraak, Robert E. Roth, Britta Ricker, Ayako Kagawa, Guillaume Le Sourd

15 January 2020


uKESA Librarian 3



In 2015, the United Nations identified 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in an effort to address, collectively, the most pressing problems facing our world. The SDGs relate to broad social, economic, and environmental challenges, and provide a framework for shared action. Each of the 17 SDGs has a set of targets and indicators to assist countries towards meeting the goal. To achieve the SDGs, governments and people need to understand each challenge and monitor progress towards alleviating it. Well-designed maps and diagrams support this process because they effectively reveal spatio-temporal patterns, such as global population growth, socioeconomic disparities, and climate change. Maps reduce complexity and reveal spatial patterns that might otherwise go unnoticed.


As such, they help us to better understand the relationship between humans and their environment as well as enable us to monitor SDG indicators and communicate their uneven global footprints. These visualizations support decision-making by local and national authorities as well as promote public awareness of global issues to encourage these authorities to act. The design of maps and diagrams is an intentional process, and the same subject can be mapped or charted in a number of different, equally appropriate ways. However, some design decisions are suboptimal for particular mapping contexts, resulting in flawed or even misleading maps and diagrams. Problems also regularly originate from improper data handling, distracting symbols and text, confusing map elements, and the (mis)use of software defaults.


Drawing from cartography, this book (available for direct free download from the website) offers guidelines for mapping geographic datasets related to the SDGs by introducing basic principles of map design and use, discussing established best practices and conventions, and explaining how different mapping techniques support understanding of the SDGs. As such, the following sections offer recommendations to avoid common pitfalls in cartographic design rather than enforce hard-and-fast rules required in all mapping contexts. The book is of interest to those who want to make and use “SDG maps” that help create a sustainable world.


Abstract based on the source.


Website References

Built environment

Climate Change/Resilience

Data analysis

Data quality


Environmental management



Human settlements

Land use mapping





Water and sanitation

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