It’s a difficult task to unwrap the orange peel of our spherical Earth into a flat 2D map with accuracy, but some projections are more realistic than others.
A Flemish carographer, Gerardus Mercator produced the well-known projection of the world back in 1569, which became the most common map to be used over the next five centuries.
However, since then, with the huge advances in mapping and science, more accurate methods have shown how Mercator’s projection was hugely distorted, showing Europe, North America and Greenland to be considerably larger than they are in reality, whilst shrinking the huge continent of Africa.
It’s hardly a coincidence that the maps created by the West showed those areas to be larger.
The Gall-Peters projection is recognised as a more proportionately accurate portrayal of the Earth.
Colonial distortions have created a false impression of the world over the last 500 years, and the UK and many other countries have been using the more accurate Gall-Peters projection for quite a while.
With the US not wanting to let go of the delusion that they’re bigger than everywhere else just yet, they have only just started to use the Gall-Peters projection this month.
About 600 school classrooms in Boston, Massachusetts will receive a large laminated map of the correct proportions of our world.
Colin Rose, assistant superintendent in charge of the Boston Public Schools’ Office of Opportunity and Achievement Gaps, told The Boston Globe the move was part of an attempt to “decolonise the curriculum”.
So this is about maps, but it isn’t about maps.
It’s about a paradigm shift … we’ve had a very fixed view that is very Eurocentric. How do we talk about other viewpoints? This is a great jump-off point.
The Gall-Peters projection corrects the error on Mercator’s that presents Greenland as being larger than Africa when in fact Africa has a geographic area 14 times greater than Greenland’s.
Alaska also shrinks in the Gall-Peters map so that it no longer appears incorrectly to be the same size as mainland North America.
Casey Cullen, a history teacher in Boston, said:
Geography is the mother of history. The story starts from where we start.
If we’re going to try to tell the tale of people from other nations and where they come from, we need to be as accurate as possible.
Accuracy is key!