Google Earth Exercise: Chapter 6

Refugee Flows

The origin of refugees varies widely depending on socio-economic conditions and the geography of conflict. Here we examine data from 2010.

The task: Using Google Earth, examine the choropleth maps of emigration by refugee claimants and undernourished populations.

Step 1: Disable all layers in Google Earth, except for “Borders and Labels.” Load the chapter6.kmz file that contains the following layers derived from 2010 World Bank data:

  • Percent of Population Leaving as Refugees in 2010
  • Proportion of Population with greater than 5 per cent undernourished citizens

NOTE: clicking on any country while the above layers are enabled will indicate the exact statistic for that layer.

Step 2: Enable the “Proportion Undernourished” layer. Note that some countries lack data.

Question 1: Scanning the globe with the above layer enabled, compare the distribution of the world’s malnourished population to Figure 6.4 on page 212 in your textbook. The Brandt Report was produced in 1980, while our data are from 2010. Describe the differences and similarities between the choropleth map and Figure 6.4 and suggest reasons for the differences observed. Refer to Chapter 6 for context.

Step 3: Enable the “Percent of Population Leaving as Refugees in 2010” layer.

Question 2: Is there a correlation between large-scale refugee flows and food security? Indicate two countries experiencing major refugee emigration that also have food security issues. What are some exceptions? Drawing on Chapter 6 for context, what do you think is a primary reason for emigration from these countries?

Step 4: Locate the Kingdom of Bhutan. In the layers sidebar in the Global Awareness section, enable the UNDP: Millennium Development Goals layer, click on the MDG icon to read the complete article.

Question 3: Based on the population reported by the UN, how many refugees left Bhutan in 2010? Where did most of them emigrate to (provide country and region)? What territory did they have to cross to get to their destination? Refer to Chapter 6, the layers, and search in Google Earth.

When you have answered the three questions above, scroll to the bottom of the page to check your answers.


Question 1: A notable exception to the correlation between the global south as described in 1980 and the distribution of malnourishment in 2010 is Mexico—which no longer experiences widespread nutritional deficiencies. Conversely, Tajikistan, which is described as being part of the global north, experiences very high levels of malnourishment, on par with parts of Africa. This may be related to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Question 2: The countries of sub-Saharan Africa have particularly close link between emigration by refugees and food security. Examples include the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Sudan, Congo, and Angola. Afghanistan and Iraq experienced major outflows or refugees due to military conflicts as did countries of the former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro) and Somalia.

Question 3: In 2010, 10.3 per cent of the population left the country as refugees representing about 70,000 people. As indicated in the text, approximately 100,000 refugees (cumulatively) have migrated to Nepal. A search in Google Earth indicates a number of refugee camps specifically for the Bhutanese in Nepal, primarily in the south-eastern regions of the country—namely Mechi and Koshi. Refugees would have had to traverse a section of India on their way to Nepal.