WHEREAS, the earth is round

I wanted to get a world map play mat, after seeing examples of using maps to disrupt assumptions of whiteness with kids, talk about immigration and indigeneity, etc (e.g., Dr. Rosales Meza here). Remembering an old scene from The West Wing about how mainstream maps make Africa and other equatorial landmasses unfairly small, I went looking for info on the most justice-minded map projection.

Wikipedia has a good discussion of the argument given by the cartographers in the West Wing scene and the much larger context of the politics of area vs shape trade-offs in flat map construction and the great map projection debates of the twentieth century.

To my total delight, I learned that in 1989, a group of North American cartography associations endorsed a resolution against ALL map projections on the grounds that all flat maps warp our perception of our spherical home planet.

WHEREAS, the earth is round with a coordinate system composed entirely of circles, and

WHEREAS, flat world maps are more useful than globe maps, but flattening the globe surface necessarily greatly changes the appearance of Earth’s features and coordinate systems, and

WHEREAS, world maps have a powerful and lasting effect on people’s impressions of the shapes and sizes of lands and seas, their arrangement, and the nature of the coordinate system, and

WHEREAS, frequently seeing a greatly distorted map tends to make it “look right”,

THEREFORE, we strongly urge book and map publishers, the media and government agencies to cease using rectangular world maps for general purposes or artistic displays. Such maps promote serious, erroneous conceptions by severely distorting large sections of the world, by showing the round Earth as having straight edges and sharp corners, by representing most distances and direct routes incorrectly, and by portraying the circular coordinate system as a squared grid. The most widely displayed rectangular world map is the Mercator (in fact a navigational diagram devised for nautical charts), but other rectangular world maps proposed as replacements for the Mercator also display a greatly distorted image of the spherical Earth.

Way to cut the gordian knot, cartographers. I’m so glad to know you are out there caring whether I have an accurate impression of the shapes and sizes of lands and seas. For real. We got kiddo a pillow globe.