It’s the world, Jim, but not as we know it

Fans of the West Wing will be
with the Peters Projection Map, the geographically accurate view of our world that “freaked out” fictional
White House Press Secretary CJ Craig. And to those who have never before seen the map, which is more commonly used
outside the US, it is pretty

But the traditional Mercator Map most North Americans are used to badly distorts the relative size and shape of
countries, and the further from the equator you look, the more distorted the depictions. Greenland, for example,
probably appears on your home maps to be more or less half the size as Africa. In reality, Africa is
14 times larger.

What difference does it make? Well, first of all, if you’re travelling the world, it’s nice to know what that world
actually looks like. Second, how we are visually taught to see a country or region has a deep effect on how we precieve
that region. Organisations raising money for work in Africa, for example, prefer the Peters map because the sheer,
overwhelming size of Africa on the globe — it dwarfs any other continent — helps donors to understand how vast
the need is. Because it appears (accurately) to be larger, donors feel it is more important.

Fans of the world (or just of the West Wing) can order a Peters Map online from
New Internationalist. And if you really want to change your
world view, you can always hang it upside down.