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How big is Africa, really?
While Africa remains the least developed continent, it’s quite startling to see a map showing how big it actually is. Africa is 30,3 million km² and so is larger than the combination of China (9,6 million km²), the US (9,4 million km²), Western Europe (4,9 million km²), India (3,2 million km²) and Argentina (2,8 million km²) plus the Scandinavian countries and the British Isles with room to spare.
And while we are all used to seeing maps of the world, Africa's size in relation to the World Map has been understated for many years and is actually longer and wider than the shape we are accustomed to. One reason for this is that these maps were first drawn in the age of the British Empire, when the emphasis was on accentuating the centre of Empire to the detriment of "the Provinces" or Colonies.
The map is NOT the territory – it is a special form of model that attempts to convey what Gregory Bateson called 'news of difference'.. A map might show, for example, the difference between land and the sea. It might show the differences between countries, and the roads and 'not roads'. In order to display these features, you must always remember that the scale will not be correct (the roads aren't actually the size they are on the maps and there is a lot of data removed from the map to make it comprehensible).
The Peters Map Controversy
“In the 1970's, Arno Peters, German map maker, historian and journalist, developed an equal area map projection in order to counter the commonly used "Eurocentric" Mercator map projection. He stated, "In our epoch, relatively young nations of the world have cast off the colonial dependencies and now fight for equal rights. It seems important to me that developed nations are no longer at the center of the world, but are plotted according to their true size." He points out that on the Mercator map Europe’s 3.8 million square miles are made to appear larger than South America’s 6.9 million square miles. Peters initially wrote a controversial world history text and found that "the quest for the causes of arrogance and xenophobia has led me repeatedly back to the global map as being primarily responsible for forming people’s impression of the world." It is important to note that the Mercator projection is rarely used today except for the purpose it was originally designed for - navigation. Of course, many Mercator maps can still be found in use by graphic designers, in older classroom materials, and as inexpensive wall maps.
Cartographers have criticized the Peters map in part due to its distortion of the shapes of continents - one cartographer went so far as to describe the effect as being "the resulting land masses are somewhat reminiscent of wet, ragged, long winter underwear hung out to dry on the Arctic Circle." While each continent is reflected accurately in terms of area proportion, the overall effect of the maps is not a realistic portrayal of the earth. Cartographers argue that numerous projections developed since the Mercator projection (such as the Robinson and the Goode) succeed in achieving a more realistic image without a Europe centered focus. In fact, equal area projections had existed since 1772, but the press, the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches heralded the Peters map as a way for the "Third World" to break away from colonial constructs.
Thus, timing was everything; many nations of the world had just achieved independence from colonial powers within the previous decade. Peters, as an accomplished journalist, knew the art of generating publicity. There ensued an on-going debate over the use of this map between cartographers on the one hand, and people who believed the map would change people’s perceptions about the Third World on the other.“
See a copy of Peters World Map
Compiled by Steve Banhegyi
Submitted by storytelling on 10 June 2009 - 11:55am. categories [ ]