source: Peter Equal Area Wall Map
When I first saw this map, depicting the true sizes of the continents and countries I was astonished about the manipulative nature of the traditional map:
But even more astonishing fact is that that most popular map (named after its designer Mercator) was actually created in 1569 primarily for use by navigators. When the Mercator projection was created, the custom among map-makers was to place the map-maker’s country—in this case, Germany—at the center of the map. The Equator is placed 2/3 of the way down the map rather than halfway down. This arrangement depicts Europe as being larger than South America. In reality, South America is almost twice the size of Europe. Alaska is appears to be three times larger than Mexico, although Mexico actually is larger than Alaska. On a Mercator map, Greenland looks larger than China, even though China actually is four times larger than Greenland. Centuries after centuries people (at least in the Western world) have been convinced that North America is bigger than the South, Russia is really huge and Africa is actually not that impressive.
Another thing that has always been puzzling me is how the gigantic population of China can live on that relative small area – according to the traditional Mercator`s map. The puzzle can be solved by looking at the “true size” Peters map.
The Mercator projection map is still the most popular today. Mercator maps often appear in businesses, in libraries and in classrooms where geography is taught. This popularity is surprising, given the fact that the Mercator projection was first constructed in 1569, primarily for use by navigators.
The Peters projection map was first introduced in Europe in 1974 by Dr. Arno Peters, a German historian and cartographer. Dr. Peters created his projection to aid in developing a realistic perception of the world. His equal-area projection corrects the Northern Hemisphere size bias of the Mercator map. All areas, both land and water, are of relatively proportional size: one square inch anywhere on the map represents 158,000 square miles on the Earth’s surface.
Unfortunately, many Northern Hemisphere residents whose educational experience has been limited to the Mercator projection and similar presentations often are displeased with the “different” appearance of the Peters projection land masses. They feel more comfortable with the familiar Mercator projection—even though the latter’s depiction of the world is unrealistic.
Inaccurate projections such as the Mercator map can send conscious or unconscious messages about the relative importance of countries and their peoples. Conversely, an equal-area map such as the Peters projection provides a far more realistic view of this planet. Moreover, this realistic presentation can send an important message: much of our understanding of the world has been based on the work of map-makers in the age of European domination.
At my former workplace in one Russian Oil Trading company there was a 3×4 m big map of Eurasia with the focus on Russia. Showing Russia THAT big and Europe embarrassing small. Can you imagine how the poor Austrian office visitors felt seeing that pure visual domination? It was definitely not done on purpose, but the effect was just a hammer-like.
Some other fresh views on the wold you can find here.