Clever GIF Shows How the World Map You Know Isn’t Correct

As most of us know, the world map we grew up with isn't exactly the most accurate vision of the world. Currently, the Mercator projection—which was created by Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator in 1569—is the standard map projection. Though we've known for quite some time that this projection significantly distorts the size of landmasses, for nearly 450 years nothing better has become the standard.

More than just a cartography error, many critics have said that the Mercator projection is a visual representation of Eurocentricity and historic colonialism, as Africa and South America appear much smaller than they actually are. But there are signs that things are starting to shift. In August 2018, a group of cartographers released the Equal Earth Projection, which is a compromise between the Mercator and other projections that keep true area size.

If you still aren't sure what all the fuss is about, climate data scientist Neil Kaye released a GIF that demonstrates the issue. The animation quite effectively shows just how enlarged certain landmasses appear in the Mercator projection, particularly as you move away from the equator. For instance, while Greenland appears to be larger than Africa, the reality is that it's 14 times smaller. In actuality, Greenland is roughly the size of Algeria.

Some schools have also been making the shift away from using the Mercator projection in the classroom. In Boston, 600 public schools received new maps that use the more accurate Galls-Peters world map. The Galls-Peters projection is also widely used in British state schools, showing that the tide is shifting when it comes to how we view the world.

The new Equal Earth Map is an attempt to create a more accurate, legible alternative to the traditional Mercator projection.

Equal Earth Map

h/t: [IFL Science!]

Related Articles:

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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