Along with maps showing dire ecological data—threatened mammals and land degradation, for example—the atlas charts how some 422 cities are threatening some of the 36 areas where biodiversity, once rich, is now under threat. These locations have been designated “hotspots” by the global scientific community and, under targets agreed to by 196 countries, 17 percent of this and all land should be protected by 2020. Only about half the hotspots are on track to hit that goal, according to Weller’s analysis.
Also included in the atlas are “conflict maps,” showing places like the ever-expanding cities of Da Nang, Vietnam, and Dongguan, China, which are on a collision course with their surrounding natural landscapes.
“That conflict is bloody, it’s disastrous, it’s happening all over the world,” says Weller. “We mapped that interface between urban growth and the world’s most valuable diversity.”
“Atlas for the End of the World” might sound apocalyptic, but it’s not pointing to an inevitable End of Days. Rather, the project’s title refers to the end of the planet as it was when Ortelius mapped it—a place in which nature seemed to be an inexhaustible and unknown resource. And Weller’s initiative does share the common goal of all atlases across history: to open up the world by revealing it.