Have you a distorted world view?

WordPress started recently supplying statistical data on the geographic origin of viewers of my blog. In so doing, they provide the data in list and map format. The map bothers me greatly because it uses the Mercator projection map (circa 1959) to turn the surface of a sphere into a flat image and, in the process, stretches polar regions of the globe horrendously (in order to appear to retain their shape):

Mercator Projection preserves as much accuracy of shapes as possible (except in polar regions).

Mercator Projection preserves as much accuracy of shapes as possible (except in polar regions).

Much more recently, the Gall-Peters Projection map produced an image that looks much more obviously distorted; but one which preserves the accuracy of all land surface areas. That is to say the distortion is greatest in near-equatorial areas and the land areas in polar regions appear greatly diminished:
Gall-Peters Projection preserves accuracy of land areas (but not shapes).

Gall-Peters Projection preserves accuracy of land areas (but not shapes).

However, when you compare the two, and/or think about it for a moment, the latter is a much better 2-dimensional representation of reality; one we would all do well to take on board because… Africa is BIG – and lots of people are dying of starvation there because there are already far more people living there than the land can actually support. Over-population is not the same as population density and – in some parts of the World – it is already a painful reality.


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Climate Science, Environment, Intergenerational Injustice, Optimum Population and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Have you a distorted world view?

  1. I got so inflamed by Channel 4 using the distorted map in the 1990s that I complained to their version of Points of View. I was invited to the studio in London to confront Jon Snow in a spoof news item; and said something like its all wrong. He said, “What, the news?”, and then I proclaimed that Greenland was not the size of Africa; and how making the southern hemisphere half the size of the north is just wrong. Despite my brilliant acting, it never went out but, within a month the map backdrop was dropped and the image that is now familiar was adopted.


  2. Peter Goodman says:

    I suppose that the Mercator Projection has a characteristic other than preserving shape that Europeans love. Europe appears disproportionately large, as well as disproportionately important, in this sort of map. Europe is not really large enough to be considered to be a continent–it’s an appendage of Asia. Sorry, but someone had to say…even if Jacques Barzun already has. In talking to AGW deniers who cite cold weather in the U.S. as evidence GW is not occurring, I have pointed out that: the land area of the lower 48 contiguous states of the U.S. comprises just 5.2% of the earth’s total land area; and the land area of the lower 48 contiguous states of the U.S. comprises just 1.5% of the total earth’s surface area. This is just one reason that a cold spell or a warm spell in the U.S. means little. Those numbers really put into perspective how small the U.S. is compared to the world. Now if I can just convince people here that we are not the center of the universe and that we should stop acting as if we are. With respect to starvation in Africa, I think many people will say that it’s a “food distribution problem.” Even if true, it’s a very persistent one. But it’s astounding how we raise our livestock for food these days, and that we do so is largely out of necessity. Farming is an industry now, with the animals often raised in crowded animal factories. The feed they eat is loaded with antibiotics, growth hormones, and parts of animals that have already been slaughtered. From the Union Of Concerned Scientists:

    However, most animals are still allowed to eat meat from their own species. Pig carcasses can be rendered and fed back to pigs, chicken carcasses can be rendered and fed back to chickens, and turkey carcasses can be rendered and fed back to turkeys. Even cattle can still be fed cow blood and some other cow parts. Under current law, pigs, chickens, and turkeys that have been fed rendered cattle can be rendered and fed back to cattle—a loophole that may allow mad cow agents to infect healthy cattle. Animal feed legally can contain rendered road kill, dead horses, and euthanized cats and dogs. Rendered feathers, hair, skin, hooves, blood, and intestines can also be found in feed, often under catch-all categories like “animal protein products.”

    Some day, these animals will come back to eat us.


    • Rick Altman says:

      ‘Many people will say that it’s a “food distribution problem”.’ Many people might say Hitler was just a deeply-misunderstood man, but they would be wrong. Africa is already over-populated in relation to its own ecological carrying capacity: Unless or until it gets its population growth under control (i.e. it completes the demographic transition from both high birth and high death rates to both low birth and low death rates), it will be stuck in a poverty trap. Furthermore, one of the many injustices of the anthropogenic climate disruption problem (to which Africa is only just beginning to contribute) is that it will make it even harder for Africa to escape this trap (due to desertification etc).


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