|Mercator Projection Map|
It is interesting that the map is centred on Europe: Germany, to be specific. That's because some of the first navigational world maps were drawn by Germans. Fair 'nuff.
The maps we grew up with are called "Mercator Projection" maps, based on a mapping style designed by a Flemish geographer in 1569. It was a nautical map based on a cylindrical projection and hence had lines of "constant course". I think that sort of map was easier to follow when sailing the high seas. Because this type of map hinges on parallels and meridians (latitude and longitude) being straight and perpendicular to each other, an unavoidable east-west stretching of the map occurs as you move away from the equator. This sort of map is useful for finding a locations on the earth, but not helpful if you're looking for an accurate representation of relative sizes of countries or continents.
In other words,
the world as you and I visualize it, is a lie.
Now check out the map below. Look at Africa and North America. Hmmmm. Boy Africa looks MUCH bigger. Compare the size of Europe in each of the maps. Gosh, it sure looks bigger in the first map.
BTW the Mercator map displays Greenland as being larger than Africa, while in reality, Africa is 14 times bigger ! Alaska is depicted as being bigger than Brazil, in spite of the fact that Brazil is really five times larger.
OK. You get the point.
The above map is called a "Peter's Projection" (Gall-Peters) map. Though it appears distorted, it shows the correct sizes of countries and continents. What strikes you first when you look at this map ?
Why are all the "important" countries much smaller-looking than we are accustomed to ? Why are those "other" countries so damn big ?
I'm not sure how to break this to you:
but this is what the world really looks like !
There is a socio-economic bias to the maps that we grew up with. On the maps we've known, poorer countries are small and "down there" and rich countries are BIG and UP there.
In the image below, the Peter's Projection (green) is shown overlapping our erroneous world view.
Since the Peter's map has existed for several decades, why aren't we seeing it in our classrooms ?
It's a question worth asking.
But you and I already know the answer -- don't we ?
Here from the TV show, "The West Wing" is an amusing and revealing expose of the failings of the Mercantor Projection map along with an explanation of why we should no longer be using it in our schools. Watch it and get back to me if you agree things should change in our classrooms. Heck, get back to me even if you don't agree.