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We now know the Earth is round. Therefore, the challenge of any world map is to represent a round Earth on a flat surface. There are thousands of map projections, and each has certain strengths and corresponding weaknesses but the one you’re now picturing in your head most likely isn’t the area accurate representation. A more accurate representation of land mass is the Peters Projection Map seen here:

 

PETER’S PROJECTION WORLD MAP

peters-projection

I find it absolutely astonishing that this information was not presented to me during education and studying Geography, the differences are overwhelming. Here’s a direct representation of the previously assumed factual map with the real flattened version:

peters-projection-map-comparison

 

THE TRUE SIZE OF AFRICA

The map shows how Africa (30,3 million km²) 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), three Scandinavian countries and the British Isles (map gives no surface for these last two areas). Map Source

The Peters Projection world map is one of the most stimulating, and controversial, images of the world. When this map was first introduced by historian and cartographer Dr. Arno Peters at a Press Conference in Germany in 1974 it generated a firestorm of debate. The first English-version of the map was published in 1983, and it continues to have passionate fans as well as staunch detractors.

 

Africa-true-size-peters-projection-map

This map was featured in “The West Wing,” but map dishonesty is anything but fictional. Check out this clip to get an accurate look at the size of Africa and explanation as to why it’s been like this:

Favoured by National Geographic if one 2D representation of the world is to be used in the media and integrated into education then perhaps this, the winkel tripel projection is the most accurate because it displays both curvature and a truer land mass:

  • Alaadine ElAbd

    great ..thanks

  • Jeremia Fox

    I can see where the controversy comes into play. I can also see why people would choose to use the Peters map. But it is my opinion that BOTH maps are correct, and merely represent two representations of the exact same thing. The Peters map has obvious distortions, based on the fact that the land areas have been stretched, distorted and transformed in order to place an oval/egg shaped globe on a flat surface. It’s the same distortions that are represented in the traditional map, they just force the land masses to match the longitudinal and latitudinal lines. (I remember my fourth grade social studies teacher, Ms. Boggs, telling us that the map we were studying was distorted, because you have to flatten out the globe in order to view the entire planet, so I do not feel as though I have been lied to. Especially since we have globes to fall back on).

    • Thanks for reading Jeremia. The most astounding thing for me is that everyone I’ve shown the map to does not believe that the peters projection is an accurate representation of land mass at first glance because it’s simply never been presented to them. As a result many including myself felt misled due by the media consistently using the mercator projection even when the topic revolves around land mass where it doesn’t give an accurate representation.

      Whether or not this route was preferable because it mis-represents third world countries significantly and subsequently they become valued less by western cultures is an interesting thought though. The winkel tripel projection as used by National Geographic is in my opinion a much better universal representation that does not overly distort the substantial difference in land mass like the mercator projection.

      • Shaun

        The Peters projection is not an accurate representation of land mass simply because no 2d projection can be. If people are feeling “lied” to, then they should have probably paid more attention in social studies and/or math classes.

  • Hi, thanks for writing this!

  • mutatron

    This is why we have globes. This is not news, most people learn about map projections and the globe in elementary school, so it’s hardly the case that “we” have been misled for 500 years. And the Peters projection was not a big deal in 1974, I know because I was 18 years old at that time. There are several different projections of the globe onto a flat surface, Peters is one of them and it’s far from perfect or accurate. The only map that’s accurate is one that’s on a globe.

    • livelearnevolve

      Thanks for your points Mutatron. The 3D globe is no doubt the only accurate representation but we’re referring to the overuse of the mercator projection in education and in the media. In the UK the peters projection has not been integrated into our compulsory education or media and many peers are in disbelief that the mercator projection (which is just referred to as ‘the map of the world’) is not an accurate land mass representation. Take a look at Africa and Greenland on google maps for example, they use mercator at a zoomed out level and as a result you’ll find many debates online about google’s ‘misuse’ of accurate mapping. It may not be news to you but I’m finding more people unaware of the differences than aware and perhaps if we used the winkel tripel projection consistently there wouldn’t be this confusion.
      Thanks for reading

      • Bill Wilkie

        A slight misuse of the word accurate here when using the term globe. Our planet is not a perfect sphere unlike the globes available for educational purposes. If anything a 3D globe is regarded as the “most accurate” option.

  • Spencer Hayes

    Interesting fact: If you go to China the maps will have the eastern hemisphere on the left side, putting China kind of in the middle.

    • Clark Cox

      Maps *everywhere* tend to have their country of origin near the center. It just makes sense in a “you are here” way.

  • Gregory

    There certainly are aspects of the Mercator that are based on the dominant culture; however, it is ludicrous to say that the distortions are intentional to show Africa as smaller than it is, unless, of course, you believe that Greenland, Antarctica, and Siberia are secretly running the whole world. The deception aspect is being played up by Marxists and other would-be social reformers because the Mercator is commonly used. Nevertheless, as others have pointed out, we actually had globes in elementary school. The social constructivists would have you believe that there is something insidious about placing the area of the intended audience toward the center of the map, but would you really want to look at a map and look for You Are Here buried on the bottom and off to the side?

    • Richard Payne

      WTF have Marxists got to do with anything?

    • DR

      Well, exactly! Would you? No. So you’re saying *you* shouldn’t have to (and everyone else should). You are making (and clearly believe) precisely that ‘social constructivist’ point, yourself. Plus, the fact that *you* had globes does not mean everyone *still* has globes, and therefore understands (or remembers) the relationship between globe and M-proj.

      I’m guessing that you aren’t much of a fan of climate science either, but the relocation of Earth’s temperate zones is about to make the actual amount of land available at higher latitudes (north and south) quite a big issue.

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  • What does actual land mass mean to everyday people? I think the size of an area of the map SHOULD represent its importance, perhaps historically for example, Scotland could be twice the size of Africa, can anyone make that happen?? I’d buy that map!!

    • DR

      Well, you’re kind of lucky, since that is what maps do right now. Which would be fine if we *didn’t* use them as indicators of area. As we do, there should be a difference between pictures of what we care about, and pictures of the world? You can find hundreds of maps online with nations sized for their relative importance according to different variables. But we don’t tend to confuse these with the physical sizes of the places?

      In the Scottish case, the familiar example is the BBC weather map, which shows Scotland as small-and-far-away, rather than at the same scale as the south of the UK. That’s often ‘justified’ as a population map (but it isn’t, because it doesn’t actually show relative population either). Any map is just one ‘way of looking at the world’ – and is it actually better to have just one way, and to pick that one because it *doesn’t* show what we think it shows us?

  • Mikefulton

    I’m willing to believe the traditional Mercator projection is somewhat inaccurate, but there’s something that needs explaining before I buy the idea that the Peters Projection is any better.

    If you look at pictures taken from space, Africa and South America do not look stretched out like they do in the Peters Projection. They actually look much closer to the traditional Mercator projection.

    Why?

    • DR

      That’s to do with viewing angle, which is why Mercator also ‘feels’ more correct – because it relates to how we look at a globe (as opposed to what a globe shows). Human vision ‘reads’ shapes consistently off a variety of shapes, in such a way as to maintain visual focus on what we’re interested in. Try looking at images from space where the parts you’re familiar with are round-the-curve, not the focus of the image, and see if those parts still ‘feel’ correct-looking to you? There are a lot of reasons for the M-projection ending up standard (and the point is that it inaccurately conveys the specific aspect of area, which the P-proj conveys particularly accurately, not that one is always better than the other) but now that we have so many options, why insist that one is ‘right’, instead of taking advantage of all of them?

      • You are very patient. Thank you.

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  • Ali Jordan-Brown

    Why was the Winkel Tripel map removed?

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  • reallife

    Sadly your all wrong. They were right for thousands of yers with the Azimuthal equidistant Map of the world. Please dont judge without reaserch (as you all think you know everything to a fault)

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  • patsfan1280

    The “Peters” map was not actually invented by Peters, but was originally drawn by James Gall in the 1800’s and is usually referred to as the Gall-Peters Projection. Also, the Mercator map that they are referring to, which they claim has misled us for 500 years, was developed in 1569 as a navigation tool, not as a device to advance Western dominance over the world. In fact, in 1989 a group of professional geographic organizations called on people to stop using that map because it was so distorted. I’m not a map expert, but read up on this info after seeing the West Wing episode on Netflix earlier in the year…I was surprised that I didn’t realize how “off” the maps I had seen in school were, and I was interested in the discussion that the reasons for the distortions was to maximize the importance of the Western world. There are many sites to find more information about this and I’m disappointed that a site like livelearnevolve chose to portray the issue this way.

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  • Daniel Bumpus

    Does this mean Sarah Palin might have actually been RIGHT when she said she could see Russia from her window!? lol 😉

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  • Mercator projections aren’t as common anymore. In my classroom, we always used something like Mollweide or a Robinson projection.

  • PEASEHEAD

    Any world map that shows Europe or North America to be nearly as large as the entire continent of Africa is, when, in fact, Africa is so vast that it could contain most of all of the major centers of human civilization is sending a strong propaganda message to impressionable young minds no matter what naysayers or apologists for western colonialism and/or neocolonialism may think. The fact that this distortion is plastered all over the world as fact, usually without any notations on its inaccuracies, and without any discussion of, or explanation for its bias towards European population centers is telling.

  • Anne Walker

    Every textbook I used teaching 6th grade for 30 years named the different projections and how and why they were different. It also gave reasons for choosing to use a certain projection. Tough concepts for 6 th graders to comprehend, but they were taught about them.
    Fake news.

  • Not that hard to realize why. The maps were drawn in a time where making Africa huge would be a problem for the colonial powers. Doesn’t take a genius lol. Even the angle used to show the world map is meant to show a different point of view. We are floating in space who decides what is up and down and left and right. No matter how long a lie is used… it will never become the truth.

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