• english
  • spanish

I was reading my usual blogs, when I stumbled upon this post and this map:The true size of Africa

When I was in school, we studied geography with a map similar to this one:
Mercator projection   This is one of the first projection maps of the Earth, done by Gerardus Mercator in 1569!!! You would think that by now the way in which our planet is represented with all its continents and countries should have changed. However… these are the maps of very well known search engines:Search Engines World Map
(image taken from the old site of IDV User Experience)
I know it’s only a “representation” but a simple image can shape the way we perceive our world and our position in it. An image that has persisted for such a long time, surely has something to do with who created it and that still works to perpetuate a way of seeing the world.
I remember when I was in school I used to buy maps from a store that was only half a block from my house,  and then I would do my homework tracing countries. mountains, or whatever was required from my teacher, and I wondered why Argentina was so small and lost deep down south. I was taught that actually Argentina was a big country, ranked by area in the 8th position in the world.
I suppose that in the meantime, children in the northern hemisphere were taught how huge, wonderful their civilized countries were sitting on top of the map, and specially on top of those “other” countries.
Evidently the way the developed countries saw themselves, permeated all other cultures and we were fed a big lie. I mean, they STILL are feeding us the big lie.
Of course that since 1569, many geographers have found a more accurate way to represent the Earth, however, the old representation persists.
I wonder why…
This a modern and more accurate representation of the continents and their countries:

Waterman Projection (Atlantic view) 
Waterman Projection (Pacific View)

This modern butterfly projection was done by Steve Waterman in 1996 and you can clearly see how big are the continents of Africa and South America.
I agree that maybe this projection is not practical in the classroom, but there are other representations that are more faithful in term of areas, like this one: 
Hobo Dyer projection 1 Or why not this one:
Hobo Dyer 2 
I also wondered why the north has to be on top. I guess it is the same reason why the Mercator projection has persisted for so long…
Just for fun, I made this approximate comparison between Greenland and the African continent, using first the “old” Mercator projection, and then the more accurate Waterman projection: Area comparison Amazing… As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…

My conclusion is that they way the world is portrayed to us shapes how we create our image of who we are and what we are. Like in the comparison above, if Greenland is shown as this huge land almost as big as Africa, that determines that Africans will end up believing that their continent is not so big or important. Africa is depicted almost as an island, and accessory to the “main” and big world.
I don’t know if there are real geographical reasons to keep perpetuating a view of the world that was predominant in Europe in the times of Gerardus Mercator, but  I don’t think so. 440 years have passed since that map was issued, but we keep broadcasting a picture through a modern medium like the internet that speaks of colonialism, oppression and pure ignorance.