on the occasion of the 50 years UNESCO celebrations in Paris
the World Summit on Information Systems (WSIS) in Tunis
and the UNESCO Decade of Sustainabiltiy Education Worldwide
November 16, 2005

"Time for Renewal" - Time to fight Map-"Analphabetism"

High Time to re-visit our World-Views, World-Maps, World-Models & Earth Literacy
- and how we map, model, and communicate -

see also up-date May 2006

PLEASE NOTE: we add on in a journal fomat here:

Foreword and Objectives

Earth Literacy has to do with shared places, perspectives, spheres in the world and how we know and communicate simple and complex issues and their interaction without overclaims and oversimplification, but with the strong will and feeling of being "in charge" and responsibiltiy of samler and greater wholes. This text is about the dilemma of the hen and the egg, do we first have elders teach the young generation, or have the elders, politicians, scientists, industrialists, and humanists, preserveow and give examples to learn from how to preserve "across scales" ayond and see beyond sectors, turfs, and cultures.

"Time for renewal" is the motto for the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations (UN) presently being celebrated everywhere. Today, the day of UNESCO's 60th Anniversary, we would like to focus on one issue: "World Maps" - ways of how we understand, present the world, the existing conditions and on-going programmes and how we teach and communicate situations, contexts, and futures. Please see here a citation from Kofi Annan about an ultimate "purpose".

This day was selected because one of the major, maybe the major task endowed to UNESCO for the next ten years (and beyond) is to make the United Nations UNESCO Decade for Sustainability Education 2005-2014 (DESD for Decade of Education for Sustainable Development) the crucial success we need it to be. They also initiated the World Summit of Information Systems (WSIS) - which is today entering its final WSIS phase "Tunis 2005" dealing with the crucial themes: communication, awareness and development and should also look into which maps they have on the wall and on their sites. In this autumn we are also celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Campaign, and should the United Nations 60th Anniversary motto "Time for Renewal" serious, maybe even try "get out of the box" [more] and look into how Einstein leaned [more] and what is expressed in the Russel-Einstein Manifest "we need to think in a new way" which was revisited last month for its 50th Anniversary. Seeing that thought comes before action, we want to question how Earth, and specially "flat Earth", is communicated in media, science, the public and our schools.

The logo "maps" of the UNESCO Decade for Sustainability Education (DESD) Fig. 1 and the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Fig. 2, 3 have been widely distributed. If you consult the areas or regions, (in billion square-kilometers) , we can find for example Australia with 8, South-America 19, North-America 24, Europe 10, Africa 30... The Oceans, Pacific 180, Atlantic 106, Indian 75,... alone total 361 billion square-kilometer. But these relations are not represented in the Figures above. Somehow the old projections are still in use, even when obviously they do not match with reality and so hurt the sense of scales, proportions and consequences we want to develop in schools, the public and policy institutions.

Let us revisit proverb: "what the eyes don't see, (and the hand can not touch) the heart does not crave for". It is highly misleading that future generations have little grip and groping on what matters: scales, forms, situations, contexts, overview and so they muddle through in the dark with misleading visualisations like they learn in early childhood.

This paper sets out to include the concrete [more] as the first priority to go in teaching. In the sense of J.A. Comenius (see Literature below published for UNESCO's 60th Anniversary) have children touch and "grip/grasp" real, authentic objects/subjects, only later by adding maps, models and metaphors expand the realms of understanding and communication and be aware of the dangers of oversimplifications - [more], and helpful without overclaims [more].

The Sustainability Education Decade (2005-2014)
as a chance to revisit Humanities and the Environment and our pictures thereof

At the opening of the UNESCO Decade for Sustainability Education (DESD) we realised that not only the UN Decade web-site, but nearly all activities of UNESCO and nearly all UN organisations, use the above "pictures of the world" as a logo or icon as above - we can not call them "world maps" !

We had to learn that very often inappropriate and misleadings maps and visualisations are used nearly everywhere, not just by the UN Programs for Environment UNEP and Development UNDP, including the United Nations University (UNU) and the MDG (Fig4), or by the International University Presidents (Fig 6), in industry, in the public and in schools.

More "fair" and modern "equal-area" representations are used if they are considered "helpful" or "appropriate" in order to "convince" people. Like the "NEW PENTAGON MAP"[more] Fig 14 is used to separate the developed and "under-developed", the Good or Bad, Black/White, or the "Core" and the "Gap" states, by using equal area "true proportions" to "fit their bill". Or another example President Carter Fig 13, who presented an "equal area map" on occasion of his Nobel Peace Prize reception.

With few exceptions, the rest of the world still has an old, seriously outdated map in mind to be used for seeing and looking at the world as it is, for mentally observing, charting, tracing and understanding his place on the planet and the rest.

With the consequence, that we and our "earth-illiterate" and "map-analphabetic" leaders are coined by these old maps and worldviews. So how can they be different and questioning when they got a very distorted "frame of reference" and slant on life [more] and have problems therefore to share what they are seeing, perceiving, prioritising, planning, moving and deciding so that others - from "other" places" can compare and relate to.

Being asked to think different, to make a difference and, think "out the box" [more], I believe it is high time for the Decade of Sustainability Education and the Millennium Development Goals to use appropriate maps as well, not only some strategists trained in war-rooms and marketing tactics.

The objective has to be to carry certain thematic message, but to use them with "COMMONS" like neutral base-maps, which are needed to present facts and relations, proportions, and consequences in an unbiased, not demagogically misused format.

First, we need to emphasise that maps have a certain frame, scale and legend. Second, base-maps are agreed-upon representations which are trusted, having a neutral and authoritative status. What we find today is a lot of artistic designs, sketches and logos. But these logos do not have the "trust" and "fidelity" needed to represent unbiased content as a basis for jointly agreed upon and desirable action (which is the accord of the highest professional standards!). Third, we need to be aware that a body of 3 dimensions can not be "flattened". We should take much care and invest much attention on teaching children how to read and question and compare maps. Teach them to check content and use many maps in parallel, each representing and contributing important aspects for sound decision-making in complex problem-solving processes [more], instead of teaching them to "cheat" and "trick" and fill the white gaps in order to make a map (Schlaufuchs [more]).

Examples of maps we encounter every day,
and how youth and children apply such images

Fig. 4-9: The above "maps" are from "official and public" sources, most found on the internet this week, but also collected from the official UN, UNESCO, DESD, Globalis (UNU), Presidents of Universities (UNESCO), WHO's Weekly Epidemic Report 2000 Fig. 5. But also from Youth Internet pages like kids to save rainforests" (Fig. 8), or NGO's presenting the problem of small firearms. The use of not "ideal" projections is not restricted to some "official" international organisations, see for example Fig 9 taken from the Development Gateway, an organisation who should be interested into presenting their work and projects in more "fair" projections.

All sources, links and proper references including how to get these maps in appropriate size with all details are appended at the end of this article in the references section.

Although some professional cartographic organisations have recommended that no rectangular maps ought to be used, old derivatives of the Mercator Projections are dominating classrooms and the public worldwide, even when other projections are available. It is worth mentioning that Mercator himself, as his maps were navigation maps, made for regional special purpose applications, has strongly disagreed and objected to the use of his projection for world-maps [more] but the world and science community seems to ignore his will.

As we see, there are also "other" projections in use, so have a look and see that children "re-member and portrait early size and forms and their place in the worlds.

Fig. 10: IPS, a news agency; Fig 11: "One World in School", an educational journal on Global Learning in Germany, and Fig.12 a World Map from "Children map their world" done by Kids in Canada, at Carleton University, Canada. They co-operate with the ICA. The whole collection is highly recommended. Kids paint the world as they learn it in their "proper" proportions and relations, understanding where Africa is, how big the task of "Saving Africa" might be, given its sheer size, depending on what they have as examples, missleading proportions can lead to strange or even dangerous worldviews and inappropriate consequences of actions decided upon.

Fig. 13:  President Carter's Nobel Price Map For his Nobel Peace Prize speech, President Carter used this map for relating his journeys to South America and Africa depicting places he could not find on other maps. The difference? These maps are "area true" representations - or close to that.. (Pls. see more later when we visit projections below).

Fig. 14: The NEW PENTAGON MAP. Fig 15: COLD WAR map from NATO versus Warsaw Pact Nations
Figure 14 shows "The New Pentagon Map", separating "Gap" and "Core" countries on this planet. We wonder what will be happening with the "seam" and "failing" states, and if countries, like seas or mountains can be good or bad, or if cultures and nations are a little more "deep" and complex tha
n this map wants to convince people to believe by explaining the world "as simple as it is". Figure 15 makes us remember similar dichotomies or "cameral" thinking of the old Cold-War, East West Confrontation some of us grew up with... but which is now history for some of us. For further reference pls visit: The Cold War I: Communism versus Capitalism and Cold War Alliances (ENCARTA).

Should we recommend the use of such "modern" and fair "equal-area" projection: Please note that the map Fig 14 "cuts out" the Oceans (more with Figure 16-18) and shows "battlefields" and confrontation between regions. The Question is: should be believe in such separations and oversimplifications - like many people in the US finding finally some meaning to "what is going on in the world"? Can we allow maps to expand and justify our dualistic "one eyed" view of life? [more]

We see that maps are used for illustration, so we need to question the base map and the thematic content in parallel. Is the map only a selected window, an "exploded view ? a window - with another zoom? Are the colours helpful? And shouldn't we check if the sizes, scales, forms and proportions (for the given purpose) are in harmony - even when we have an "equal-area" projection? And shouldn't we learn to question who uses a map for which purpose? and why are not other maps using such base-maps?

Difficult questions. Maybe visit below a synopsis of the craft of map-making and which prevalent projections are around.

But what should the children learn early in school?

Should we ban world-maps and propose to exclusively make use of the globus?, only because the old generation of teachers and decision makers can not decide, ignore or have nothing better to offer?, close their eyes to compromising and new projections?

Let us take a look into the craft and trade of world-map-making, and explore projections other than the usual Mercator projection or derivates used in the next figures: the National Geographic Society has been recommending since 1922 the Van der Grinten later the Robinson and later the Winkel Tripel Projection: All are compromising projections which means that they try to harmonise "truths": like distances, directions, area, size shapes.
If you compare the above maps with Equal-Area Projections, like Mollweide,

Goede, Eckert IV, and the Peters or Gall Projection, with the maps used by Pentagon Generals or the former President Carter (Fg 13,14) you find that they preferred the rectangle simply because it better fits into their journals and atlases. They used equal-area projection as they felt the "compromises" proposed by cartographic societies above did not fit the purpose.

I need to make this section very brief here, but PLEASE visit the follwing sites http://www.diversophy.com which gives alos reference to the NYSTROM Desk Atlas from which we collected the figures above. A good starter is also the Wkipedia collection of world map projections (please see references below).

So remember: maps have a frame of reference; they "represent" (no more, no less) and we need to check the "fit", match or fidelity.

So, let's go back once more to Figure 13. The team of President Carter did not select the controversial Peters Projection (people argued Africa's shape was too stretched to fit the common grid used for atlases) but instead identified a "compromise" with less shape distortion around the equator: Something like a "staunched" Peters Map called "Hobo-Dyer" Map. The Hobo-Dyer Map is close to the Peters / Gall Projection which were independently created, one as a projection, the other as a mathematical transformation.

When we take the Hobo-Dyer Equal Area Map and the Peters Map, the result is still "equal area" - (because "squeezing" or transformation still keeps the proportions).

Fig 16: The Peters Projection

Fig. 17: The above Arno Peters map "staunched" so we can compare the shapes and sizes with the Hobo-Dyer Map Fig 18 as used for example by President Carter. (pls. see also Fig 13 above). We can not go into the minute differences in shape at this scale here - but as you see equal area maps are also usable in "atlas" format and can still be fair to shares and regions.

Unfortunately at this time we were unable to find out which projection was used by Jim*** from the TIMES cartographics department.

Fig 19 a, b: The NEW PENTAGON MAP Projection looks quite similar to the equal-area Eckart IV map projection. There are thousands of map projections - There was no chance to find out which projection is used - but we will try a.s.a.p. as we learned that the Times Cartographic Unit is involved in the design or production. If we place this map (which looks like an "Eckert IV") we are getting close to the "Penatgon's New Map" rectangular atlas version (below). That version then looks very much like having been adapted as a window from the map above it.

Major landforms are presented close to the "staunched" Peters Map and the Hobo-Dyer Map (Fig17) but somehow the Pacific, the whole Oceania is missing.

Let's remember that Afrika is 30 and the Oceans are 360 billion sqkm - so Elisabeth Mann-Borgese "The Mother of the Oceans" was right - she explained in the year 2000 "the Seas have not their propper place on most of our world-maps" - They seem to have no voice and are left out ... like many other things not considered "important" even when being as "Commons" the basis for survival and prosperity.

Fig. 19c: The UNICEF State of the World's Children 2006 is very recent report showing the world in quite different form if compared to the UN, UNESCO, UNU, MDG, DESD, WSIS, ... world-maps presented in Fig. 1-9.
The Question is if this display, even though "equal area", is satisfying as it only presents about a little more than 1/2 of the Earth Surface. Such a "Halbwelt", just as Fig. 13, 14, or 19, portrays the land aspect vs the sea aspect. (see also the Pacific view Fig 22b) where "water" is about all there is on one side of the globe- This is close the pictures of the the Southern Aspect in contrast to the accustomed Northern Aspekt UN emblems, see Fig. 28.

The above falls under the category proprietary "artistic" (carto)graphic design, which is fine as long as people are not led to believe that the presentation is a presentation of the world "as -is". Remember?: Out of sight - out of mind" ! Let us remember that major land and sea forms should be kept intact and that we should make sure that we have a balanced, "fair" view of the world on a map without highlighting certain areas and focussing on one are while pretending that this "window" is the whole (Earth)

Status so far regarding the question:
What maps should we choose and use - for the next 60 years?

Troubling fact is that the international community is using outdated projections leaving decision-makers, the public, scientists, and last not least school children and citizens worldwide with world-representations that are not adequate of our times, goals and principles.

This is not only bad for Sustainability Education or the actions needed connected to the MDG Millennum Goals!, but everybody's feeling connected to what is right and appropriate, as this has to do with the images we have about locations, positions, directions, and perspectives -and the consequences connected to them.

As we have seen by now, the "pictures" of the world used by the United Nation's ambitious MDG Campaign (Fig 2, 3) and the Decade for Sustainability Education (Fig. 1), like many of the "maps" used for various projects you find at UNESCO and other sites Fig. 19 are still held in the old (overcome) style, and have nothing to do with the size of the areas they present. But don't they "stick in our minds"? Is it because this is what we were told and taught in school? That we have conveniently got used to?. These questions remain.

Should we keep it that way? Should we merely use true maps when someone sees it fit for their specific interest group's purpose? (See also the need SIG's and GIG's (special versus global interest groups [more]). Should we use ever more fancy artistic graphic design to make us believe we know something about the Earth when we do not?

Some of you might object now. You have seen these beautiful wall-maps based on satellite imagery, so they must be accurate - right? - all this equal area thing must be nonsense - right? Think again, and take a look at the top image row below: compare the dimensions of the Arctic and the horizontal distortions of the northern continents in particular. Then let us join and marvel at the gargantuan size of Greenland, larger than South America, About the size of Africa and about nine times the size of India. Oh, and Antarctica looks like an entire extra planet to feed us with resources. Looks real, doesn't it? To get real, compare Buckminster Fuller's puzzling Dimaxion Map. It looks funny but it is as close as it gets to a globe's 2-d equal area size representation. Antarctica is just about as big as Australia.

Fig 22a, Earth Vistas pictures and SCREENSAVERS of Planet EARTH

Fig 22b: The Planet Earth as sea-based "half-world". more? maybe enjoy:


The (Butterfly) Waterman Projection has received much attention after the publication of the first Draft of this paper. It looks new and different and was found here. We decided to use it as a signet or sign of hope or to make a difference.


All the satelite world-"pictures-maps" make clear that the outline for assembling images or content is decisive. See for example a picture of the "other side" the sea not land ! picture of the Earth.

Fig 20-24: Another learning issue in school should be that pictures like maps are not necessarily the reality or the terrain. Above impressive "earth-from-space-collage" has the individual images, distorted to maximum to fit into the projection. (this is only one example - you can find "official" international organisations using the same projections on their web sites, so earth vista not being the "professionals are not to be blamed.

The danger lies in that people are led to believe that these are shapes on our planet, and as people hardly ever consult a globus, such images are liable to stick and last. Which makes no sense at all. The very least in common that deciders should share is a common, realistic worldview. Just imagine different future decision-makers discuss the resources of Greenland or the Antarctic based on completely different maps they came across some day in their lives.

Trying to enfold the globe, we can play and build with the help of different formats, like Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion map (Fig. 23), or the BUTTERFLY MAP or better Waterman Projection Fig. 24. Alternative formats can make us think and if they can be seen as a way of matching and "wrapping" around the globus, they can make much sense and have much fidelity in flattening the earth meaningfully, and at the same time allow to comprehend and come to grips with large scale intangible "objects" through the help of models [more].

We should go one day deeper why the oceans are not represented "just" or "fairly" or adequately on some of our maps and we should go deeper into worlds of representation: maps and models - giving Peoples, Cultures, Lands, and Seas a "fair deal".

Different centres, frames, and viewpoints in co-existence

It is perfectly okay to present world maps with another centre. The McArthur Map of a young school boy in Australia should be highly welcome to teach Children that we can see the same world from different angles.

Fig. 25-27: Maybe let us use also Pacific-centered maps independent from deciding which ones are topys-tur vy. This seems to be good for a change and is a good example of the possible co-existence of maps.

Except for disturbing examples like Fig. 27. This is a maps from a local newspaper in Berlin last week . It was designed by the Science Magazine and illustrates questions about technology and energy. Problematic about this map showing countries with nuclear energy facilities and use of atomic energy in their energy mix Presented in the way it leaves the impression that nearly all countries using nuclear energy (brown), except a few marginal.ones.

In reality, the map shows only a small blown up window onto the planet, and nuclear energy-mix might be only marginal in most countries, but it leaves the impression that Germans should change their mind and join the team of "developers" when in fact Germany decided to shift to "renewable" energies and leave the atomic energy crowd. "Informing" the public in such ways is questionable - and besides: what kind of "worldview" is left with young people not taught to read maps?


We propose to use many fair maps in parallel as an example of plurality. So a world map and a close-up map, a southern and northern aspect map, an atlantic and a pacific map besides each other might help to leave one's own singular perspective and learn to include other aspects.

I see dangers lurking where young people are growing up with a wrong picture of the world, and reproducing such maps. I also feel eerie about a presentation of critical issues on odd projection maps. For example, the Malaria Map or Shrinking Rainforests Map leave weird impressions. As we see, also some very active Civil Society groups with a focus on Peace or Dialog use such maps. They appear not to be aware of alternatives that would be more fair and appropriate.

President Carter was able to identify an appropriate map for his Nobel Peace Prize speech, the New Pentagon Map initiators found one to serve their purpose , but even thirty years after the Arno Peters Map, twenty years of proposals of the Cartographic Association to use fair, compromising maps and avoid rectangular maps(!), we still have in the mainstream public, with international Organisations, and foremost in Schools(!), we still have the old maps. Maybe they are cheaper? Simply due to copyright reasons? Maybe people got used to them and are happy to avoid seeing what really is "out there"?

A little excursion into the History of the UN Flag and Seals show that the UN made a wise decision between 1945-8 to select a polar projection. In this case a northern one to avoid obvious distortions on the southern hemisphere caused by circumvening land masses of Antarctica.

First, we may tend to believe that the UN Logo is the ideal "compromise", but how about an additional Southern or maybe Far Eastern aspect?? Please see:

Fig. 28 a,b,c,d. The "Evolution" of the UN Symbol, Logo, Seal and Emblem - note that this is not a UN map of the world !!
German United Nations Journal VEREINTE NATIONEN, 5/05, by Harry D. Schurdel, pp. 207-210, Nomos, Baden-Baden,
Please note: Fig a is an Azimut Projection, Fig b is an equal area projection, Fig c was the first inofficial UN Emblem from 1945/6 and only became official emblem on Dec 7th 1946 by adding another "ring" with the invisible part of the Antarctic polar zone. We see immediately that this "proposal" is on the "evolutionary level" of the first in-official 1945/46 version. It needs to be expanded by an indistinguishable "dark ring" representing Canada, Greenland, Skandinavia, and Siberia, the "invisible Arctic "ring", as added in the final version of the UN flag (Fig 1d and 3 ) in the form of an empty, white ring for the Antarctic. This must be considered a smart move and genius strike! Please note: Fig 2 definitely doesn't exist and is only presented here to clarify the issues and help compare. We strongly recommend to consult the article of Harry D. Schurdel which provides references in great detail to the official Seal and Emblem documents and provides the links to the web-sources in the references:

There are many possible, thousands of projections - and there is much merit in using a pseudocyclindric projections for showing the picture of the world. I strongly propose to visit the Wikipaedia and the site of Carlos A. Furuti providing a good overview with some depth www.progonos.com/furuti/ His figures explain the policyclindrical concept very nicely. Fig 29, 30 and show a variety of possible pseudo-cyclindircal and other projections as below

Fig: 29, 30 The policyclindircal Concept and how the Earth is "flattened", for more see www.progonos.com/furuti/

Fig. 31- 33: Eckert VI, Robinson, Quartic authalic maps. Examples taken from Carlos A.Furuti's website: http://www.progonos.com/furuti/

When we study Fig 34, what ICA - ICSU-CODATA Cartographers do in creating a coherent digital database 1:1 000 000 and what hind of maps they use, then we realise that the knowledge and awareness is there to provide a fair picture of the world and it is used by professionals. Here some recommendations from "professional organisations":

Fig. 34-35: The Global Mapping Project (1: 1 000 000) and the ICA Logo, both are equal area projections as recommended not only by the recommendations of David R. Wright for world-maps in text-books and US Cartographic Associations: they stated: "(here the text: Seven North American geographic organizations in 1989 adopted the following resolution that rejected all rectangular world maps, which include both the Mercator and the Gall-Peters projections: Seven North American geographic organizations in 1989 adopted the following resolution that rejected all rectangular world maps, which include both the Mercator and the Gall-Peters projections: "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 peoples' 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."

It should be noted that there are other opinions within geography and cartography about the Peters World Map (its alternative name in some of the literature). First, some map societies, notably the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) declined to endorse the 1989 resolution. Second, there are a small number of cartographers, including Brian Harley, who have written positively about it. Within geography more generally, some commentators see the cartographic controversy over the Peters world map as a sign of immaturity in the cartographic profession regarding the fact that all maps are political".

This as "state of the art" or state of the dispute of which MAP to be used. The matter definitely needs mediation and harmonisation a clear statement of the size of the World Map used. Definitely the relation of the sides is of importance as any map "stretched" to extra hight of the Peters format leaves the areas "stretched" as well. We see in the Figures 16-20 that the frame is relevant but also that we can not just present land- or seeforms without frames. So recommending to have no to rectangle squared grid is a way - but is it feasible and meaningful? - as people are used to their formats.

Observations and Recommendations

Maps are not merely pictures to look at, but something to read, explore, negotiate and dig deeper. They should also allow us to draw maps through generalisation http://benking.de/systems/codata/ISGI_general-benking.htm the need for reliable data-bases like 1: 1 000 000 is one of the requirements for more solif and reliable world-maps, or a reflection on the intergration of sign systems and a more integrated view on multi-media http://benking.de/systems/codata/CODATA-MIST2005.htm

It is important to recognise and realise that a map is a "supersign" (Denis Wood) - a sign which has another quality than signs like symbols or icons. A map can contain and combine other signs and has an agreed upon legend, frame of reference and content. As a base-map, all this should be a public common good that guarantees fidelity and truth. If we understand maps as what they are meant to be – highest quality scientific 2-dimensional models of our planet, we can better evaluate available maps today. The maps listed above are simple or fancy designs, like art-work with no reference and repeatability and often not useful or helpful to communicate and relate issues and situations, find directions, or bring scales, levels, proportions and consequences into one "picture". We can and need to do better, in order to nurture appropriate views, insights and understanding in our fragile spaceship Planet Earth.

For more on maps and generalisation, supersigns, signs and superstructures, see some selected references by the author. Nevertheless, artwork, symbols, emblems, signets and logos are needed and should be created with all artistic freedom, provided they do not communicate a picture of the world out of proportion and provide young people with "weird" ideas of how the Earth looks like. That Scientists and Politicians live with and base their decisions on distorted "world-maps" is another serious matter demanding urgent action by the bodies in charge.

Last not least: Maps are products of their times and are done for certain purposes or to fill gaps in our ways of knowing and finding our way or appropriate ways to see and share matters. The Mercator was and is a great achievement. Also Peters' proposal, more than 30 years ago, for using "equal area" maps as wall-maps and in atlasses with uniform scale, can only be acknowledged as a major breakthrough in cartography. Especially, facing the status quo, Mercator being the map in practically all school books, institutions and classrooms on the planet, and facing the opposition.

Today we have alternative projections and can learn from them. We can decide which is better appropriate for what purpose, and which set or combination of maps represent the best learning materials for our school-children - so that they can learn about the art and craft needed to be fair, true and pragmatic, how to look through faulty maps and how to use appropriate maps.

What I recommend:

1. Use many world-maps and find fair compromise versions.

2. Teach in schools that maps are supersigns see ***** Dennis Wood **** , which contain images, and symbols, sign- schemas and legends, metaphors and analogies, which include a frame of reference and can contain and link and allow exploration and negotiation of their content or "story".

3. Revisit old antagonized and hardened "fronts" between schools or "isms" which "explain " other schools of thought away in order to be "right" and make the others wrong. Just like opposing blocks during the Cold War, opposing scientific schools each assume for themselves the exclusive status to know the truth andhave the credibility to neutrally explain how things are. One such questionable example can be found here. Explains these are the extremes and odds and here is the right thing "in the middle". It confuses projections and might have left many pupils alone in their quest.

4. Make sure that international research and programmes use maps which are appropriate for their purpose.

5. Avoid oversimplifications like teaching children that mapmakers were tricksters who just fill the empty spaces to make a world-map (see the "Schlaufuchs" worldmap and its "explanation to kids). ******************

6. Make people more aware that maps are man-made "realities" which form the world view and awareness, make us feel where we are and help us connect to other levels, regions, sections, times, cultures.

7. Understand the dilemma - or better tri- or polylemma - that if the people in powere, in science, in industry and business have an outdated map in their minds, this map will be also in the schoolbooks, so their is little chance to change if not all "stakeholders" in a concerted action make an effort to review the maps and models they use.

8. Make better use of maps and models to communicate complex matters or issues in other sectors or aon other levels which are not easily accessed, touched, or come to grips with. see General Model Model Theory first intorduced to UNESCO in 1972 (Herbert Stachowiak).

9. Learn from UNESCO's experience in harmonization, like with the Braille Alphabet for the blind, to come to maps which can be acceptable and useful to all people on the planet, wherever they are.

PLEASE SEE ALSO THE RECOMMENDATIONS I received after doing this document: called: Towards better world maps in textbooks by David. R. Wright published in International Schulbuchforschung 27/3, 2005. They primarily address the world of text books and are DRAFT recommendations very well done to build up from there the discussion of future maps for not just schools. The dilemma and need to adress also the public, policy, scientific, and business at the same time to make the needed change is addressed under 7 below. The discussion of equal-area maps in a rectangle format is not really yet started. See for example formats like in Fig. 17.

An EXTRA LINK on top of this article: EARTH LITERACY and RECOMMENDATIONS was added later to help build a constructive basis for furthter proposals, discussions, and implementations.

Thanks and Credits
- -
Thanks to Dennis Wood, Andreas Kaiser, Carlos A. Furuti and Juergen Heyn, and many others who responded to my questions and helped me form my "own" picture on the state of affairs in "world- map-making" within in a few weeks of intense dialogue and exchange. They also helped me with valuable insights into the battles on the "right" map, and why good and fair maps , after 30 years of disputes, have still not reached the classrooms, the public, most of the sciences establishment, and some "other" situation rooms.
we will add more soon....

I would like to recommend the book "Seeing through Maps - The Power of Images to Shape our World Views" from www.odt.org, as it not only gives an explanation or provides a course into the matter, but also explains the necessary educational challenges of our times. Furthermore, I recommend , the website of Carlos A. Furuti (LINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), the website of Juergen Heyn (who worked with Arno Peters) (LINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and the diversophy site which provides some nice courses, tutorials and checklists to be used in the classroom and elsewhere.

Important for any world-map should be the focus on the grid and the frames of references used. Without such a frame we should not call it a map ! but a signet, logo or fancy design, but even then it should make us believe to present the world "as is".

Thanks and Credits

Thanks to Dennis Wood, Andreas Kaiser, Carlos A. Furuti and ***heliheyn.de Hans?? Heyn **** who responded to my questions and helped in a few weeks to form my "own" picture on the state of affairs in "world- map-making", and getting some ideas behind the battels of the right map, and why such good and fair maps have not yet after 30 years of disputes have not reached the classrooms, the public, most of the sciences establishment, and some "other" situation rooms.

... we will add here more soon....

The book "New Ways to See the World" from www.odt.org is highly recommended as it not only gives explaination or provides a course into the matter, but explains the necessary educational challenges to be addressed.


After the article some questions came up around the term EARTH LITERACY and Earth Literate Leaders and that there are very good RECOMMENDATIONS already around, like for text books and world maps for schools,a nd there might be many more. We schould see them discussed and implemented ! the links on the right and left lead to this backgrounds and recommendations and are highly recommeded to be studied, maybe after ! seeing some pictures below of how many different maps and forms we can find everywhere around us.
Further Recommendations

form various sources to address the issues, problems, dilemmas

address in the article below

PLEASE EXCUSE: The wide and controversial respose has caught the author on the "wrong leg". Some people question and assault, feeling the author want to convey like in the COLD WAR one of the "isms" - when instead there was a felt a need for literacy, truth and fideltity, maps which are useful and provide a fair and unbiased representation. As the compromises are not always visible maybe we need mor than one map of the world - but we need also the alphabetisation to be able to read maps and compare different projections.

We will continue working here on flat and deep cosmologies, provide links and references and invite to think with us how we can bring alphabets, maps and models into our school and into our minds with the objective of learning to communicate better, deeper and more concrete on subjects, issues and situations of our common, challenging, global era, and how we will move forward / proceed on Planet Earth. please see 9-d.org or benking.de and maybe send E-mail if you have comments or requests. to: benking.heiner@in-betweener.org

Here you find untypical maps done by or for children. Maybe this can help, by making your own planet earth out of maps like the Dymaxion or the the Waterman Projection that things are deep not flat, and not always as simple as they seem or made us to believe.

The (Butterfly) Waterman Projection


Please visit us again - as we want to relate more clearly to maps and models and flat and deep "cosmologies".

PLEASE SEE UP_DATED VERSIONS and ADD_ONS at: http//:in-betweener.org/flatlands/maps/earth-literacy.html


Denis Wood ... Seeing through maps etc**

"Children map their world"

Barbara Petchenik Children's Map Competition: 2005, see http://collections.ic.gc.ca/children/ see also the ICA site http://www.icaci.org/en/competition.html and

Stachowiak, UNESCO Scientific ****

Francois und Benking Saur Library Humbold University, Links Encyclopedia, Systems and Future Libraries and Atlases***

Bugayevskiy, Lev M. and John P. Snyder. 1995. Map Projections: A Reference Manual. London: Taylor and Francis.
Muehrcke, Phillip C. and Juliana O. Muehrcke. 1998. Map Use: Reading-Analysis-Interpretation, 4th ed. Madison, WI: JP Publications.
Snyder, John P. 1987. Map projections: a working manual. USGS Professional Paper 1395. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office

Comenius and World Peace, Deutsche Comenius Gesellschaft, Berlin 2005 on the occasion of UNESCO's 60. Anniversary

Wikipedia ***


 These web-based References are recommended for easy first access:

Earth Literacy:



*** Dekade****

UN-Millennium Goals:

AC/UNU Millennium Project:









http://www.flourish.org/upsidedownmap/ UPSIDE-DOWN resources !










http://geography.about.com/library/weekly/aa030201c.htm !!! example of biased review of the matters

<<< please revisit this site as Recommendations, additional references, and links will be added soon >>>

Important seems to be the realisation that a map is a "supersign" (Denis Wood) - a sign which has anther quality than signs like symbols or icons. A map can contain and combine other signs and has an agreed upon legend, frame of reference and content which as a basemap should be a public common good which guarantees fidletity and truth. Maps we saw above were simple or fancy designs,  like art-work with no reference and repeatability and often not useful or helpful to mommunicate and relate issues and situations, find directions, or bring scales, levels, proportions and consequences into one "picture". For more on maps and generalization, supersigns, signs and superstructures, see some selected references by the author. Nevertheless artwork, symbols, emblems, signets and logos are needed and should be created with all artistic freedom, provided they do not communicate a picture of the world out of proportion and provide young people with a "weired" ideas of how the Earth looks like. That Scientists and Polititians live with and base their decisions on distorted "world-maps" is another serious matter demanding urgent action by the bodies in charge.


Schlaufuchs, Trickster: Cheating as a Model in Education ..... ******* ART and CRAFT of MAP-MAKING

and harmonisation tradititon of UNESCO: Braille Alphabet etc. Note: on analog digital and various sign systems

later added further thoughts and considerations:


Data for maps of a 1:000 000 scale are not available yet as coherent digital maps with comprehensive topographic, environmental, social and infrastructural information. And they do yet offer an easy pan- and zoom- function for global to 1:000 000 scales. This is different for only a few thematic layers, as Google Earth demonstrates in quite impressive manner.

I have been just informed about "Earth Literacy Education: What, why and how? by Frans C. Verhagen, (Executive Director, International Society of Ecological Educators). There was also an article on Earth Literate Leadership around the Rio+10 Johannesburg Process. I feel very much in line with these two articles and only hope that the proper understanding and use might help us become concrete and literate at the same time. see links in the References and the Link EARTH LITERATE LEADERS.

We encounter a consistent problem with the insistence on a rectangular map shape, fit for our walls and atlases. As the cited examples show, the problem keeps being neglected. Consequently, in our daily life, we find "remnants" of the "Mercator projection". (PLEASE remember that this map's use is against Mercator's explicit will! And today's professional organisations strongly oppose its use. Why is it so hard to move forward, to an appropriate depiction of the Earth?

As a matter of fact, the old projections are not only "cheaper" to buy, but apparently we simply got used to our "views of the world" - so people continue to use and buy rectangular maps with the old distorted grid creating space around the poles (which do not exist!) and lulling us for example into a picture of vast ice-lands at the poles (which actually do not exist!) See picture: UNU **** and Fig. 20.

The alternative Peters Projection provides a fair "equal area" representation, but it can do so only in a rectangular frame by distorting shapes. Africa is "stretched", because as the surface around the equator is large, and the Northern and Southern Hemispheres close to the Poles are staunched or stretched because the pole is a pole (point). It is not a line along the width of the world-map.

It has to be understood that Arno Peters created a WORLD MAP and a WORLD ATLAS some 30 years ago (1972) when Mercator was the unquestioned "standard" everywhere. Foror Peters the format of Atlases was a must. He decided to use the "golden ratio" (Goldener Schnitt) for the Atlas-bookformat, and ranked it more important than the distortions of the land masses. An acceptable decision when we judge the relation of the size of the lands higher than the shape of the land. If we take it a step further, and staunch the Peters Map, we come close to the less distorted formats and shapes of the Hobo-Dyer Map (Figures 16-18).

An observation of the debate on ARNO PETERS and the Peters Projection sheds light on very extreme and insulting remarks, often motivated by ideologies of the time. Taking a step back, we can see that the remarks are typical for people who do not take the effort to look a little deeper into the key aspects of map making, and which compromises have been done for which ends. Truly, the uniquely controversial discussion about the Peters Map carries strong educational value, and it makes sense to include it a holistic discussion on world maps.

Peters and former US-President Jimmy Carter both needed a map for practical purposes. For comparing regions an equal area projection was a must. As Peters had none available, he created one based on mathematical formulas and a new-gon 400 degree full-circle system as used in modern surveying - not a hexigesimal system as was used in the old days. He stated that it was unknown to him, that Gall had created a similar "equal area projection" - and this sounds convincing, see.

In the setting of COLD WAR times, however, the discussion on a fair representation in world maps became dogmatic from the very beginning. As the "Mercator Maps" were enlarging the northern hemisphere, cutting off the southern hemisphere and not showing the equator in the middle of the map, the believers of the old map were soon called "colonialists". The advocates of a new map were called post-colonialists, or communists. Trenchees opened wide between so-called communists andcapitalists, between chauvinists and universalists. You can not believe how personal and insulting such debates have been. And they are clearly due to the omnipresent dualistic labelling and box-thinking [more] and what I call a lack of "Earth-Literacy and Map-Alphabetisation".

After the struggle about Mercator and Peters, we should step back and realise that there were great cartographers and historians, like Herodot, Mercator, von Humboldt, Ritter, Reclus, and Peters, who were not only artistic map-makers but historians and geographers.

I can only invite you to study the Peters Atlas and discover that Peters cared for coherent maps and databases long before the modern projects of Frazer Taylot (2003). And – most important – Peters has added a comparative and explorative approach to epochal change in his Synchronoptical Atlas of World History, very much in the spirit of Herodot's and Mercator's ambitions. Its online offspring, "HyperHistory", has been taken up by the Encyclopedia Britannica and the Canadian Heritage Foundation),.

A side-note: I have not met Peters personally but I feel his life work ranging from Music to History, from Geography to Economics should be seen as coherent. I sincerely hope that somebody will write an appropriate biography on Arno Peters, one day.

So when we insist on using for a rectangular world map, we need to make decisions. We can compromise on factors like the format, area-truth, distance-truth, shape-truth. We will arrive at compromising solutions, like the Robinson Projection or the Winkel II Projection for spherical representation. We can use the Peters and the Hobo-Dyer Projection if we need a rectangular presentation. We can also use projections like Fig 31-34 or those used by Frazer Taylor.

Important for any world-map should be the focus on the forms and the grid or frames of references used. Without such a frame we should not call it a map(!) but a signet, a logo or fancy design, but even then it should make us believe to present the world "as is".

see also: OUR VIEW OF LIFE is TOO FLAT AIZU landscape Overview and Oversimplification UNESCO Science for Peace Me, we, you, they and others models, Presentation at the Club of Budapest Members Meeting, UNESCO, Paris, 1997

Footnotes and Links:
The map of UNESCO at most of the UNESCO organisations sites, here the DESD 2004-2015 orientation map for the new decade.http://portal.unesco.org/education/en

GLOBALIS map, same as the The Millennium Project, The Earth Institute Map. Maps where the New Millennium Goals 2005-2014 are presented. It is the same as used by the UN and is even available digitally through UN organisations like the UN and UNESCO, but as it also used for land cover and geo-scientific research, is online available in the full version, and is used in similar forms also by the MDG initiative