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A Visual Guide to Global Trends

Our Connected World

The Future Depends on Our Choices Now

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National Geographic Maps

After decades of momentous change, we are more prosperous, connected, and capable than ever. And we've never faced greater challenges. So what comes next? The best we can do is make careful guesses—and prepare for surprises.

In our intimately connected world, dealing with one challenge means confronting many. For example, recent trends toward the use of alternative energy sources and more environmental protections may help prevent the worst impacts of climate change. If these efforts are sustained and carried out wisely, they could also help to save some of the most threatened ecosystems and species and improve the lot of billions of people. Crucially, that will mean finding ways to elevate more people to affluence while avoiding past patterns of unsustainable consumption.

The world will be a very different place in 50 years, and children born today will face opportunities and pitfalls that we can only imagine. But some challenges are universal, and some wisdom is timeless. The voices presented here are another call to action—and a reminder that if the future is uncertain, it is also ours to shape.

Our Relationship With Nature Trends

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Map: Northwest Europe Energy and Carbon

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In 2006, we tested the geographic knowledge of 18- to 24-year-olds across the U.S. to see how much they know about our world. Find out how they did, and see how you compare.


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