Module 1 Project (Intro to GIS)

Places of High Inequality, High Energy Reserves, and High Conflict Any Relationships?

Module 2 Project (Applied GIS)

Geographic Science Spatial Correlations Energy Resources, Development and Conflict Worldwide and Regional Distributional Patterns


Introduction to GIS

  1. The Process
  2. About Our Data
    1. GINI Coefficient
    2. Proven Oil Reserves
    3. Proven Natural Gas Reserves
    4. Magnitude of Conflict
    5. Magnitude Index
  3. Explanations of our Maps: What we Found
  4. Our Files
  5. Sources of the Mapped Data on this Page
  6. Contact Information

The Data Acquisition/Management and GIS Process: Mapping Some Global Patterns

The Context for the Process

We began our research project in Geographic Information Science by brainstorming a list of some important development parameters we might want to map out, according to the following criteria:

The Selected Measurements We Mapped:

Preparing the Data and Making the Maps:

We gathered our information from a variety of sources and the task began. We found data linked to reports on the World Wide Web. We used reputable web sites from well-known organizations within each specialty area - socio-economics, conflict, and energy (See: Sources). Then we began to slowly and carefully format the data into a master table using excel. We could do some cut and pasting of data, and other data required manual entry. We learned that these tasks required due diligence to make sure that all data from different sources matched up, so it could be properly joined in the GIS software (ArcView) that we are using. This required many hours of sorting data, and comparing it with the base layer of data that was geographically mapped. We exported the final table of compiled data as a dBase file, making sure that all countries on our three different sets of data matched in name, so they could be properly joined. This task was enormous, as none of our data used a standardized set of names. It required checking and rechecking. Then we imported the data back in. First we saved it in excel, and then we saved it as a db 3 file. However, this did not solve our problem, as several times the data would not be read by ArcView. Certain parts would be read, and others would not. We found this very frustrating, however, we discovered ways around this obstacle to getting the data ready for spatial presentation. A few times we would reenter the data in a text file and then re-import the data back to excel, and then db3. Eventually all of our data was imported and joined properly in the file, final.apr. We than began to copy themes and re-classify them. Soon enough we had five base-map themes (using color scales) and the same five themes using line patterns with transparent backgrounds. This allowed us to mix and match any theme with any other theme, and still allowed us to visually be able to discern the two layers. This helped us see correlations between the data that we were examining. Our results follow. Turning text data into visually mapped data helps to bring it alive, stimulate discussion, and present our world in new and interesting ways. GIS, we found, is a powerful way to engage key issues of the development profession and can certainly play a role in building a better world - one that we may one day map with far less conflict and far more equability. If we use GIS capacity in this way, we will have used it well.

About Out Data

GINI Coefficient

The GINI Coefficient is a key development indicator of a country's level of socio-economic inequality. It is calculated by a standard formula based on the percentage of economic Gross National Product (GNP) for either consumption or production for each of five quintiles of economic well being for a population. It is a measurement of the wealth held by the highest to the lowest income groups. The closer the quintile measures are to each other, the more equity is built into a society's economic structure: the more skewed the concentration of wealth distribution is towards the wealthiest 20% of a country and away from the poorest 20%, the higher the GINI calculation will be. Some GINI's are presented as a decimal from 0 (high equality, no difference among quintiles) to a highly unequal maximum on 1. The World Development Indicators for our world range however from a low of 19 to a high of 63. GINI numbers have been rising dramatically over the post cold war period.

Proven Oil Reserves

This unit of measurement was in billions of barrels.

Proven Natural Gas Reserves

This unit of measurement was in trillions of cubic feet.

Magnitude of Conflict

A comprehensive accounting of all forms of major armed conflicts in the world from the period 1970 to 1999. Conflicts include Civil Interstate (C), Ethnic-interstate (E), International event interstate (I). The conflicts are further categorized as Violence (V), the use of violence without instrumental goals, War (W) between exclusive groups, and Independence struggles (N) to remove a foreign domination. The rationale and methodology for assessing the societal and systemic impact of conflict, (the Magnitude) is measured on a scale of 1-10 and reflects many factors. It includes state capabilities, interactive intensity (the means and goals of the conflict), the area and scope of death and destruction, the population displacement, and episode duration. These numbers are part of the Correlates of War Project. (See: Sources)

Magnitude Index

The Magnitude Index is a formula that we devised (Kumar, Brooks, 2002) to show another layer of information, and in order to gather what we feel is a more accurate picture of the data that we are trying to display using GIS technologies. This index reflects important information for countries that experienced multiple conflicts during the study period (1970-1999). We took the Magnitude of Conflict information (see above), and added individual numbers for additional conflicts together for a sum total of each conflict's magnitude by country. This would help us alleviate for misrepresented data for countries that had numerous conflicts, with low intensity, thus giving the impression that they were relatively more stable areas.

What the Maps are Saying:

Explanations Informing Our World View

The Base Maps:

Where the Inequality Is:

High equality characterizes the energy poor socialist, capitalist region of Central Europe. Relative equality for North America, West Europe, Australia, and much of Asia dominates large areas of the globe. However, intense inequality remains for much of South and Central America, and parts of Africa. Much data is unavailable for Africa and almost no data is available for the Middle East energy rich region. This could mask a region of high inequaltiy sweeping down from the Mid-East right through the center of the African continent. Further research is required to fill in the missing data.

Where the Energy Is:

OIL: Very intense oil concentration in Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and the Mid East in general. Also relatively large amounts of petroleum energy in Venezuela and the former Soviet Union region as well.

NATURAL GAS: Similar in distribution to the oil sourced energy map (above). However, this map adds Russia to the list of energy rich countries in a way which suggests that the entire region underlying/surrounding the Caspian Sea may be energy rich all the way from Arabia, through Central Asia, across the northern globe to Alaska.

Where the Trouble Is:

CONFLICT BY MAGNITUDE: There is a circle of intense conflict around a peaceful center of Saudi Arabia, sitting like the eye of a hurricane. Additionally, there are pockets of cold war period and post-cold war conflict through South East Asia. The Western Hemisphere has been fairly peaceful, as has the entire North section of the globe. Trouble ranges widely across Africa. The interesting pattern of highest conflict in the Middle-East could be called, based on reviewing this map, the "Saudi Ring of Conflict"(Kumar, Brooks, 2002). One hypothesis for this pattern is suggested -- the agreement between the Unites States Government and the House of Saud in 1948. This negotiation sealed a security arrangement by the U.S. for the ruling autocrats in exchange for U.S. energy companies operating rights within the world's largest energy pool. Perhaps this superpower concentration of security power in Saudi Arabia, in what is a wealthy area (yet perhaps an area characterized by high inequality) acts like an artificial valve on a pressure cooker, with regionally-sourced violence manifesting where it can, and looking like "peace" where it cannot. Perhaps this has much to inform our post 9/11 world. Perhaps, this pressure, under increasingly global forces, is finding outlets further and further from the source. Further research is necessary to investigate this potentially fruitful hypothesis.

THE KUMAR-BROOKS CONFLICT INDEX: The map of conflict with this index adds Russia, China and India to the "Saudi Ring of Intense Conflict"

The Big Picture:

Multiple Theme Layered Maps: A Summary Overview

There is a correlation of regions without published GINI coefficients and with high-energy reserves, perhaps masking a relationship of oil wealth and inequality. There is a high correlation in the pattern of the distribution of conflict and proven energy reserves. Areas of low to medium inequality are by and large peaceful regions. When adding the Kumar-Brooks index to the analysis of conflict, the relationship between inequality and conflict becomes clearer. Many of the correlations with the GINI index are not clear-cut. This indicates a possible need to refine the query - adding a measurement of intensity of poverty to the gross measure of inequality. Perhaps a study of political systems could be helpful as well. There is no doubt an interesting story behind these maps, a story whose themes, characters, plots, and locations, could stimulate many, many fruitful hours of dialog… and a lifetime of social science research.

The "Saudi Ring" of Violence and Oil is worth exploring further.

Our Files

Below are links to our files. We ask that you take permission from either of us before using these files. Note: To open the data in arcview go to "Our Files." Right Click on each file and then select "Save target as." You can then save each file in a new folder, perhaps on your desktop. Then open the FInal Project (final.apr) in arcview after you have downloaded each file. That is the most recent one.

  1. Final Project
  2. attrib.dbf
  3. export1.dbf
  4. Final Data for Export to GIS.dbf
  5. gini.dbf
  6. History of Conflict.dbf
  7. Magnitude Times Number of Conflicts.dbf
  8. oilginiconflict.dbf
  9. oilginiconflict1.dbf
  10. revised final data for export to gis.dbf
  11. table1.dbf

Applied GIS Project

Geographic Science Spatial Correlations Energy Resources, Development and Conflict Worldwide and Regional Distributional Patterns

Kabir Kumar and Mary Elizabeth Brooks


We have expanded our study of key global spatial correlations shown in our previous GIS research posted above. We feel that analyzing our global data at a regional level can offer some interesting possibilities for seeing relationships between energy, conflict, and development. Our hypothesis is: there are clear linkages, likely correlative relationships among the three variables, and perhaps, even causal relationships between them. To this end, we performed the following modifications and additions to our previous work.

  1. Added two new sets of data from the World Bank into our raw data table.
  2. Added a global map showing oil consumption (by country) over oil reserves (click here for map)
  3. Designated 10 regions for the world by country and mapped this as spatial data on a sinusoidal projection of our designated regions.
  4. Created a regional map shape file using the dissolve function of geoprocessing to remove country boundaries.
  5. Made individual regional maps as visual aides for analysis of our regional statistical data.
  6. Made a table using Arc View's summary statistics capacity showing the statistics by region for eight important variables. The use of summary statistics has enabled us to see some distributional patterns for our key variables more clearly and simply. We also calculated the relative ranking for each region for each variable and have presented that in table form as well.
  7. Analyzed each region's total population, relative degree of average conflict, total population, oil and natural gas reserves, total energy consumption, relative economic well-being, and degree of economic inequality.

Flow Chart of Steps in Data Management for the Regional Analysis

Regional Analysis Summaries (click here for regional map in a sinusoidal projection)

CENTRAL ASIA (click here for map)

Representing 11 countries, one of the least populated regions of the world. It is among the poorest regional economies, without even enough wealth to go around to make for inequality. Yet the region is second highest in the world for both oil and natural gas reserves and among the lowest in energy consumption. After the Middle East, Central Asia has more oil than the next closest region (South America) by an order of magnitude. In vernacular terms: Wow! and Why? -- So much poverty amidst such wealth of energy reserves. This area is also the hottest political spot (after Israel-Palestine) in the post Cold War global geopolitical restructuring. It is the region with the third greatest amount of conflict over the last 20 years. Any correlation between superpower interest in this region and these vast energy reserves? Any linkage between the high poverty in the region and the roots of violent protest movements trained in the region?

EAST ASIA (click here for map)

Representing 7 countries, the second most populated region of the world (1.5 billion). The region is characterized by average equality and ranks in the middle of the world's economies. There is very little energy reserve, yet this region is the third largest consumer of energy after North America and Europe. However, the region has been one of the most conflict-free over the last 20 years. In vernacular terms: lots of people, not a lot of oil, but uses a lot of energy (note: this economy runs largely on coal). There is an equitable distribution of an average economy and not much conflict.

EUROPE (click here for map)

Representing 37 countries, with an average relative regional population (~600 million). Europe has very little energy reserves yet consumes the most after North America. The region has average equality and the world's third strongest economy. It imports energy. Despite the Balkans, a fairly peaceful place over the last two decades. There is no strategic issue in Europe from the supply side of energy. However, there would be a natural alliance with North America (the other large low reserve relative to consumption region) for energy demand-side strategic geopolitics. This turns out to be the case. This might even explain the endurance of NATO, more than a decade after the breakdown of the East-West global structure.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (click here for map)

Representing 21 countries with a fairly low proportion of the world's total population (~350 million), roughly the equivalent of North America in total numbers. While consuming little, the region has the largest oil reserves in the world, with more than twice that of the next closest region (Central Asia) and nearly 13 times the reserves of North America. The region has the third lowest economic ranking. In the vernacular: Wow! - So much oil and such poorly ranked economies. What's going on? Many of these countries don't report on Gini so, perhaps this vast wealth is ending up in concentrated hands.

NORTH AMERICA (click here for map)

The three countries of the region are quickly running out of oil, while there is still a lot of natural gas. The region is in the early stages of industrial and transportation energy technological conversions to fuel cells run on natural gas. The strongest economy with the highest energy demand and a low reserve; this region must import from Central Asia and the Middle East to run its high energy demand economy. This is central to understanding contemporary geopolitical strategic alliances in the West with the non-democratic governments in these oil-producing countries and the social/religious movements for change in these regions. The most peaceful region in the world on its home turf, the most militarily involved on the global turf over the last twenty years. In addition, this region is characterized by a rapid increase in the polarization of the distribution of wealth.

NORTH ASIA (click here for map)

This is one country, geographically large -- Russia as outlined by our regional analysis. Because it is only one country, our analysis based on averages skews the results for this region of ~156 million. Russia has significant oil reserves and this region has the world's highest reserves of natural gas. It has average consumption of energy. There has been and continues to be conflict in the region and, interestingly enough, the same high degree of inequality as in North America.

OCEANIA AND POLES (click here for map)

With a population of 23 million, Oceania is a nice place to live and the poles are not. Neither region is significant in contemporary energy geopolitics and neither region is one of conflict. SOUTH AMERICA With 26 countries in a population of ~ 434 million, the third largest oil reserves in the world (about 3 times more than North America) and significant natural gas, as well. Regionally the economies rank near the world's middle. This has been a fairly conflictive region over the last two decades.

SOUTH AND SOUTH EAST ASIA (click here for map)

With 15 countries, the world's most populous region with nearly 2 billion, this region has few energy reserves and the fourth largest regional consumption of energy. Characterized by expanding economies of high inequality, this region has the second largest amount of poverty after Sub-Saharan Africa. The region has experienced only moderate conflict in the last two decades. Should be very important on the geopolitical stage in the energy demand side. Coal reserves need to be researched.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA (click here for map)

With 39 countries and ~ 607 million people, the region does not have much energy overall and does not consume much. Therefore, Africa is not significant in the global geopolitical picture of energy. It has had massive and chronic crises of development, and conflict --these are public heath issues of water and mosquito borne diseases and AIDS, and a lot of non-energy related conflict in the post cold-war period. The world, the UN, the superpowers, have been reluctant to intervene


While the world is complex and geopolitical forces are multiple, the summary statistics for energy, conflict, and economies, when reviewed through a spatial distribution lens tell a compelling story. Based on the analysis above, from the picture that Arc View has helped to reveal the top geopolitical stories and themes in today's newspapers have a consistent and internal logic based on strategic energy interests. The stories make sense when we look at where the strong economies are, where the oil is, where it isn't, and where its used. However, this may not have a sustainable logic. If the patterns revealed in this analysis hold true, the world should pay attention and use some wisdom in planning its future - or, instead of a world much better for all, it could be worse.



The Department of Energy -


The World Bank Development Research Group - World Development Indicators 2001 - Data derived from: Primary in-country household survey data, government statistical agencies, World Bank country departments, and the Luxembourg Income Study database.


Major Episodes of Political Violence 1946-1999 Compiled by Monty G. Marshall Director, Center for Systemic Peace, October 1, 2000 -

Sources for the New Data


Commercial Energy Consumption for the year 1997 in million tons of oil equivalent. Source: World Development Report 2000/2001, World Bank, 2000.


Rankings of Economies based on GNI (Gross National Income, formerly known as Gross National Product) for the year 1999, calculated according to the World Bank Atlas method. World Bank Atlas, Economic Indicators, 2001.

Contact Info - The MapMakers

Mary Brooks -, Kabir Kumar -