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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Maybe a mapmaker could get the Nobel Peace Prize 

Excerpts from In-Betweener.org:

on the occasion of the 50 years UNESCO celebrations in Paris
the World Summit on Information Systems in Tunis
and some Decade of Sustainabiltiy Education Worldwide

November 16, 2005

"Time for Renewal" - Time to fight Map-"Analphabetism"

High Time to re-visit our World-Views, World-Maps, World-Models & Earth Literacy
- and how we map, model, and communicate....

[O]ne of the major, maybe the major task endowed to UNESCO for the next ten years (and beyond) is to make the United Nations UNESCO Decade for Sustainability Education 2005-2014 (DESD for Decade of Education for Sustainable Development) the crucial success we need it to be. They also initiated the World Summit of Information Sciences (WSIS) - which is today entering its final WSIS phase "Tunis 2005" dealing with the crucial themes: communication, awareness and development and should also look into which maps they have on the wall and on their sites. In this autumn we are also celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Campaign, and should the United Nations 60th Anniversary motto "Time for Renewal" serious, maybe even try "get out of the box" [more] and look into how Einstein leaned [more] and what is expressed in the Russel-Einstein Manifest "we need to think in a new way" which was revisited last month for its 50th Anniversary. Seeing that thought comes before action, we want to question how Earth, and specially "flat Earth", is communicated in media, science, the public and our schools....

The logo "maps" of the UNESCO Decade for Sustainability Education (DESD) Fig. 1 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Fig 2,3 have been widely distributed. If you consult the areas or regions, (in billion square-kilometers) , we can find for example Australia with 8, South-America 19, North-America 24, Europe 10, Africa 30... The Oceans, Pacific 180, Atlantic 106, Indian 75,... alone total 361 billion square-kilometer. But these relations are not represented in the Figures above. Somehow the old projections are still in use, even when obviously they do not match with reality and so hurt the sense of scales, proportions and consequences we want to develop in schools, the public and policy institutions.

Let us revisit proverb: "what the eyes don't see, (and the hand can not touch) the heart does not crave for". It is highly misleading that future generations have little grip and groping on what matters: scales, forms, situations, contexts, overview and so they muddle through in the dark with misleading visualisations like they learn in early childhood....

Although some professional cartographic organisations have recommended that no rectangular maps ought to be used, old derivatives of the Mercator Projections are dominating classrooms and the public worldwide, even when other projections are available. It is worth mentioning that Mercator himself, as his maps were navigation maps, made for regional special purpose applications, has strongly disagreed and objected to the use of his projection for world-maps [more] but the world and science community seems to ignore his will....

Some of you might object now. You have seen these beautiful wall-maps based on satellite imagery, so they must be accurate - right? - all this equal area thing must be nonsense – right? Think again, and take a look at the top image row below: compare the dimensions of the Arctic and the horizontal distortions of the northern continents in particular. Then let us join and marvel at the gargantuan size of Greenland, larger than South America, About the size of Africa and about nine times the size of India. Oh, and Antarctica looks like an entire extra planet to feed us with resources. Looks real, doesn't it? To get real, compare Buckminster Fuller's puzzling Dimaxion Map. It looks funny but it is as close as it gets to a globe's 2-d equal area size representation. Antarctica is just about as big as Australia....

President Carter was able to identify an appropriate map for his Nobel Peace Prize speech, the New Pentagon Map initiators found one to serve their purpose , but even thirty years after the Arno Peters Map, twenty years of proposals of the Cartographic Association to use fair, compromising maps and avoid rectangular maps(!), we still have in the mainstream public, with international Organisations, and foremost in Schools(!), we still have the old maps. Maybe they are cheaper? Simply due to copyright reasons? Maybe people got used to them and are happy to avoid seeing what really is "out there"?...

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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