Earth light pollution

Data courtesy Marc Imhoff of NASA GSFC and Christopher Elvidge of NOAA NGDC. Image by Craig Mayhew and Robert Simmon, NASA GSFC.

This image, entitled Earth’s City Lights, is from NASA’s Visible Earth catalog. It was produced by a study documenting sources of global “light pollution”. A more detailed description can be found here, and links to other images can be found here. We are captivated by this image for several reasons:

First, if you trace out the world’s major political boundaries, you see that the most intense light emanates from wealthy, open societies.

Second, there’s a certain irony in characterizing this light as pollution, as it clearly correlates to higher material standards of living. While this alleged pollution can be used to illustrate the inescapability of economic tradeoffs, the concept itself reveals the anxiety that change and progress often produce in human beings.

Third, living standards may be higher in the brightly lit regions, but the most compelling opportunities for development and progress are likely to be found in the darker spaces. A similar belief underlies our investment philosophy:

While the existence of ‘brightly lit’ markets is vital to modern societies, the most compelling opportunities can be found where few others are looking.