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A New Atlas App Puts The Planet In Your Hands

Instead of merely showing borders, this new atlas lets you play around with data big and small about the planet today—and its future.

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Atlases used to be dusty old things your family stored on a living-room bookshelf. Not any more. Now they look like this.

With data on 200,000 locations around the world, this new app from Collins takes things up a few notches from that giant, instantly out-of-date tome that once took up space on your bookshelf, allowing you to swipe through continents, oceans, rivers, forests, and deserts in deep 3-D detail. You can dive in to get information on capitals, towns and villages, and switch between physical, political, and satellite globes, depending on your preference. Meanwhile, there are globes covering the environment, energy, population, and communications, with others on World Heritage Sites and climate change coming to the app soon.

As well as bringing the material world to life in colorful, interactive detail, the app also includes a trove of facts on our interaction with it. For example, you can view countries by rates of immigration, child birth, and cell phone use. You can look up areas of Africa according to their development: whether they have been urbanized, or left pristine. And you can see how much forest we’ve cut down, how much CO2 we’ve put in the atmosphere, and other ecological horrors.

For all the general gnashing of teeth about the state of our planet, it’s always been hard to quantify. That information is often buried in news articles or reports; it has been hard to truly grasp a holistic picture of the current state of the environment and the human population. But given the impact we humans are making on the planet, it’s as important a cartographic fact as where rivers and mountain ranges lie.

What’s required for this age is not your grandmother’s almanac, but something better: fun, easy to use, constantly updated, always there when you need it, and with the most important information about the environment at your fingertips.