This page is about LITERACY:

Literacy, Map Literacy, Earth Literacy, Earth Literacy Learning, as a requirement for

Earth-literate Leadership

(policy-makers who might need to study this).

"Our biggest challenge in this new century is to take an idea that sounds abstract - sustainable development -
and turn it into reality for all the world's people.
Making the abstract real and developing the capacities of individuals and societies to work for a sustainable future is,
essentially, an educational enterprise. "

Kofi Annan

Navigation for Earth Literacy and Map Alphabetisation:
EARTH LITERACY: Didacta Stuttgart, UNESCO Press, March 2005 s.a. PNYV editorial Original Discussion paper: TIME FOR RENEWAL Nov 25th 2005 Backgroundpaper: Earth Literacy and Earth Literate Leaders Map-making Recommendations Digital Worldmap-making Jan 2006 Earth Ignorance and Earth Literarcy, update May 2006

DRAFT prepared for the May 16th, 2006 Osnabrück session of the UNESCO Commission (but also prepared for sessions of the German UNESCO Commission DESD in Berlin 22. June, and 28. - 29. June in Hildesheim,

This paper is presently under construction and review!!! - pls. come back later.


UPs, DOWNs and Challenges connected to

World-Maps, -Models and -Views and the need for Earth-literate Leaders and Pupils


This is a progress report and update after the first introduction and discussion of this particular matter at a variety of press meetings around the German launch of the Decade of Sustainability Education DESD at Didacta 2005, followed up by a bigger lauch of our EARTH LITERACY initiative around the UN and UNESCO 60th celebrations in November 2005. For the sequence of events of this initiative please see Annex I. The earlier postings and press releases are available on request. Please start here and follow the links!


At the opening events of UNESCO Decade for Sustainability Eduaction we started to research the quality and use of world-maps in schools, in international organisations, and the public in general. We quickly realised that in-approriate world-maps are still in broad use in education, science, and policy-making bodies. Despite thirty years of better knowledge, the issue has not been reaching significant public attention. Meanwhile, recommendations have been made publicly available (see the 10 GOLDEN RULES for worldmaps) (a special UNESCO website with Newsletters has been announced for a long time). Recently, UNESCO, the WORLD BANK and the MDG Campaign have taken strong steps to at least change some of their world-maps in the entry pages of their internet portals.

NGO's like Greenpeace and IUCN are still making use of very distorted and in their proportions misguiding maps for their Programmes and Campaigns, whereas other "interest groups" - when feeling that equal-area maps can carry their "mesages" better - have already converted to more appropriate base-maps, like "equal area projections". For examples, see below the New Pentagon Map and the President Carter Map produced for his Nobel Laureat Lecture.

Despite some advances in making better use of compromise and equal area maps with some international organisations, the recent advent of modern digital, desktop maps poses a "very serious set-back" for bringing Earth Literacy to Schools and Leaders: the out-dated Mercator Projection is now flooding computer desktops and community-sites all over the world. The Greenpeace Campaign mentioned above is a prominent example: It uses an online-based, interactive map. But though calling out to people to save the oceans, the campaigns applies a representation that badly or unfairly distorts the world's oceans: in fact, making them smaller than they really are.

This update serves to bring back to memory the concepts of Earth Literacy and Literacy in general (LINK). It is an invitation to look deeper into the use of maps, models, and metaphors in schools, reseach, and policy making bodies and to help us make these issues more available and discussed in the general public. Below, you find some annoted examples, but please also follow the links to earlier postings.

illustrating the world-maps and proportions we are talking about

Screenshot - Maps from organisations relevant for out topic: like UNESCO's DESD, UNESCO, Development Gateway, IUCN, Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and Columbia Univeresity and World Bank (links to their pages to be added shortly - pls. "google" for them, if you want to check right now).

Compare them with other Screenshot world-maps found on the internet. They are sometimes even from the same organisations, but with very different projections or alternative "designs".

The fIrst Figure is taken from the World Bank site, which co-operates with the MDG and other organisations in the fields we are interested in. You see a compromise projection, that already depicts some countries / continents much larger than usual. The second screenshot portrays the new worldmaps just introduced by UNESCO for their frontpages or some, but not all! organisations under the UNESCO umbrella. It is interesting to realize that such maps are only a few clicks away from each other!

You might have a different feel for the size or area of certain regions of the world and will ultimately think and talk about these regions differently - we particularly refer to Africa, Greenland, India, China, Oceans,... You may find this irrelevant, but children and elder environmental NGO representatives asked us recently: Is Greenland larger than Europe ? (compare different Greenlands in the collection of five maps above) - what happens "when Greenland melts"? ... These are only little examples which trigger even more ignorant or fearful impressions and ideas, more than we are confronted with already in the media. And they are discriminating or downsizing southern hemisphere regions like Australia, India, China ... in the maps of industry, commerce, schools and news programs.

In addressing global issues, one of the worst mistakes is "to think we know, when we do not" (Mark Twain) or to not question and look any more.... what we find in the media or in our books. Children still attentively look at what they see around them, and maps are "real" for them. It is important that maps can be trusted to be fair and truthful, even having or holding public trust (especially large scale maps).

By 2006, DIGITAL WORLD MAPPING has reached a new quality for the public

In early 2006, a new quality and presence of world maps came into public awareness and use. Electronic explorable maps like GOOGLE & FRAPPR below. Users are thrilled by what they now have "at their fingertips".

Maybe please see here the view of the Mother of the Oceans. (Fig 19b). Here you can see the relations between solid grounds and water surfaces on Planet Earth.

Greenpeace with their campaign DEFENDING OUR OCEANS for example is using such maps, just like like many youth groups, individuals and corporations by tailoring such maps to map their friends or resources or whathaveyou. Here some more examples done and collected at MAPKI, for example by PNYV! (with a warning but no way to convince the young team to not use such appealing interactive but distorted maps), see FRAPPR.

PLEASE NOTE: These maps are very sophisticated. You can pan and zoom, add content and display various topographic or even hybrid formats [more] . As an example about EARTH LITERACY of an elder UN statesman (AssDG) and UN Earth Day Icon, who is still very happy with maps we were used to already centuries ago, which allow friends and collegues to locate themselves, but with no idea of how people like from Autralia or South America might find their fair a place on other peoples maps....

"Close to" EQUAL AREA PROJECTIONS over 500 years
BUT NOW, let us take a step back and look some more fair or close to "equal area projections" we have mentioned above or earlier:

Fig a) Waldseemüller Map 1507 b) HoBo-Dyer (close to Peters Map Projection - see tutorial text) c&d) New Pentagon Map "RUle Set Reset" recangle projection close to Eckert IV (we did not yet an answer from the independent Graphics Design Dep working for of the Times e) Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion Map f) SASI Worldmapper Map. Pls. do not miss: Fig 16-19c !!! to check sources, credits and references. And the page New Digital Worldmaps as since Jan 2006 the world of Worldmapping looks different for world, for pupils, and internet-fans.

We will make all maps "click-able" or "anchored" a.s.a.p. Still working on this..

Maps are very difficult to compare if you do not show their frames or grids, so let us try to compare them without distorting them(!) and remember the 10 GOLDEN RULES for Mapmaking. We have been presenting at some length in the Original Map-Analphabetism Text that there is not one correct optimum map projection for all purposes, but there are some professional guidelines to learn and keep in mind if you want to present the planet on a flat piece of paper. Above you therefore see only few examples of the multitude of possible layouts and grids, which kept in mind truth and fideltiy at as best serves the purpose of the mapamakers and their mission/objective. Definitely this has nothing to do with the thematic content of the map, see Pentagon Map. So please see the long more "tutorial-like" article and follow there to find all the sources and references of the maps presented with due copyright and ways to get such maps at propper scale. The maps above show when presented at the same hight that that trhey have have not the same width, so might not be equal area! There are thousands of equal-area projections for world maps - so do not get confused but learn ton ask question and question maps and models !

The first map is the Waldseemüller Map which was the first map that ever mentioned America and which celebrates its 500. anniversary next year. Fig b was used for his Nobel Peace Prize speech by former US President Carter - it helped him relate his journeys to South America and Africa depicting places he could not find on other maps. The difference? These maps are "true area" representations - or close to that. The map to the right is the NEW PENTAGON MAP, outlining and classifying states as "okay" or "not ok", developed or "failing" (whatever that means). Please go to the original Literacy page to study this deeper. All three of these "true area maps" show e.g. "AFRICA" quite different from the official MDG Millenium Development Goal signet above! The matter of size and proportion plays a central roles when we want to successfully address issues relevant for the people in these regions without overclaims and oversimplifications; in particular if we want to tackle poverty more deeply, address the issue of governance together with the people caring about democracy and participation!! - see maybe later Liquid and Loving Democracy !

We need to address the issues in their scales and proportions, but not by using maps which serve certain ends or crop parts of the world so we can only see what "mapers-makers" want us to see highlighted, exclusively. Please see Fig 16-19c where you also find references and more explanations, or here where the impact of modern media and maps in relation to world-making is discussed.

PLEASE NOTE ALSO: These are only a few examples of the documentation we collected over the past 2 years. It might be seen as unfair to simply present maps that we have arbitrarily collected form the internet. But it does make sense because the young generation is gathering a large part of their information from the internet. They use the web and can not and do not deeply (sufficiently) question the many resources they find. You might also object to the approach of taking examples form International Organisations and Non-Governamental Organisations (NGO's) as they are underfinanced and do not have the financial resources like big cooperations, who could afford to make a difference!

But the institutions researched and studied here work in the public interest and in the interest of youth and all cultures. Therefore, and, especially when concerned with the environment, I feel they should answer and report which maps they use and have in mind. The author is aware that UNEP for example used to be the expert on environmetnal data and mappping - but that is long ago. Today, children ask and still question differences, they see different shapes and sizes, they have a right to ask - and we as adults have to answer, we have to explain variety and qualities, truths and fidelity. We must not ignore and stop looking, stop feeling with people and their maps and models.

As a consequence, I feel that the topic is still hot, maybe hotter than ever. We need the public to review the world maps-models-views, that we commonly have in mind and refer to when discussing matters of concern. Deep and "Too-Flat" ones, but please with answers to people who still question and have still their creativity and curiosity to see the world as is.


The deep question behind all this talk and writing about LITERACY, EARTH LITERACY or EARTH IGNORANCE is ... Can we make "Sustainability" (see quote KOFI ANNAN above), its situations, sizes, or better scales, proportions and consequences real? Can we connect to values and awareness and consciousness, Ethics and Pragmatics, and can we, if we learn to communicate or dialogue about intangible but real situations and differences (like in micro or macro-scale), negotiate other terrains?
And if we can, - can we agree and share common fr
ames of references (call it grids or whatever) or "switching systems" and embody and make real, in models, a global covenant, in order to go beyond the need to agree and be right, as we share commons! In a Nutshell: Can we make Humans as MODEL MAKING ANIMALS (UNESCO Education report 197? (link to be added later**) come to share their models and connected values and chart shared directions? See General Model Theory and its founder Herbert Stachowiak, UNESCO, Scientific Thought 1974, or an extensive(!) SLIDE PRESENTATION, and the views/definitions in the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SYSTEMS AND CYBERNETICS.

Whoever imagines mental barriers which actually do not exist
and then thinks them away, has understood the world.
Like space is entrapped in geometry's network of lines,
thought is caught in its (own) inherent laws.
Maps make the world comprehensible to us;
we are still waiting for the star-maps of the spirit.
In the same way that ambling through fields
we risk getting lost, the spirit negotiates its terrain.
Friedrich Rückert , "Wisdom of the Brahmins"


History and some concerns about this world-mapping and world-views initiative

Associated to UN Decade Projects in Germany and Canada (DESD) as PNYV! and IHTEC we were alerted when realising in Febr. 2005 at Didacta that available maps and course material were primarily based on the 500 year old Mercator Map (which is very distorted and not recommended by any professional organisation!) and a very few compromising projections, but equal-area projections were not to be found. A quick review of maps in the industry and with international organisations showed the same pictures. We decided at that point to reseach and document the field under the light of the Decade for Sustainability Education, The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in their publications and on their websites, but also UN and UNESCO exhibited that first picture we observed.

After releasing and discussing our findings of who uses which maps on the occasion of UNESCO' 60th anniversary (see web-pages), we were happy to learn about recommendations for teacher training (see Literacy text with links) and very happy to realise that UNESCO and Worldbank and MDG have recently changed some of their "world-displays" on some of their web-sites, see examples below.. But with beginning of 2006, a new development became critical. Based on the old distorted Mercator Projections, "modern" digital world-maps, started flooding computer desktops globally; and so pupils, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's (see example Greenpeace), and international applications "bought" into the old, out-dated projections that many professionals would have expected to phase out.

We assume positions and perspectives of not only pupils who are confused by such maps, telling us "See: Greenland is larger than Europe or Australia", while it is the other way round .... and that of Environmental Research and Management who need to have a feel of the proportions to better communciate consequences of global and macro-change...., BUT of course, also of policy-makers, and decision-makers in industries, and of common citizens from all corners of the world. They all have the right and need for non-partisan, fair maps of the world instead of being lulled into strange boundaries and artificially separated regions of the world, creating artificial dichotomies and mental "boxes" that nurture differences and conflict, instead of seeing and celebrating the commons and harmonies in the world.



LITERACY in a broader sense, encompasses much more than just 'reading your text'. We also need to read not just the text in manuals, maps, courses, but link it with the context, the legend, the situation, metaphor, model. Only this way, we can understand meaning, context, significance, implications, grounds and intentions of a text! It is not only about an alphabet and the words used, but about words together with other sign forms making up a greater whole which needs to be understood and shared with others for meaningful joint actions.

As Literacy is understood: The sad "status-quo":

We have found this "more official" definition on Literacy on the web:
"OUR DEFINITION OF LITERACY focuses on "reading for a purpose". It emphasizes using printed and written information to function in society and to achieve one's goals and potential. This is somewhat different from a school-based definition of literacy, which focuses on learning to read and reading to learn."
Adult Literacy UNITED STATES (issue was brought to the fore last week, when Mark Schneider, Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, released the results of the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL). His report is online at: http://nces.ed.gov/whatsnew/commissioner/remarks2005/12_15_2005.asp.

"The 20th century decline has continued and even accelerated. In this first National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) study since 1992 adult literacy remained flat or dropped at every education level, from school dropouts through college graduates. It was rated according to four categories: Below Basic, Basic, Intermediate and Proficient." for more see: UNESCO Decade


"LITERACY IS ABOUT how we read - understand - share the meaning of words,
and signs, images, analogies, maps, models, even what we experience in Nature,
even across scales, times, and cultures, the Earth".


Literacy in "charge" media
Conventional - Traditional Literacy UN - UNESCO

Decade 2003-2004

WORDS - stories/analogies

just verbal analogies, see only the UNESCO Decade site with a Greenland larger than Australia. and in contrast to the UNESCO MEDIA services site.

Map and Model "Literacy" General Model Theory - Stachowiak UNESCO 1972, see folio 7, later also 6 and others.

see also Dennis Wood maps as "Supersigns" and the "campaign for map-alphabetisation"

Maps and Models as Supersigns, see also ICSU-CODATA slides:

and a text at the moment only in German from the TUAC (the unifying aspectcs of culture" seminar. see issue of truth-fidelity-trust-match is covered here som some degree.

Earth Literacy discussion and proposals since the Earth Summit 1992,

see Earth Literate Leaders for Johannisburg Rio +10

The EARTH ? - the Whole? and how we can think, impart, and teach issues like wholeness and holism in a modern beyond dualisms like exoteric/esoteric sense !


Please see the original discussion text and a little outline for the
UNESCO Decade of Sustainabiltiy Education Worldwide

... and was initiated by looking at the opening event of the DESD in Germany - UNESCO Decade of Sustainabiltiy Education Worldwide in early 2005 at DIDACTA in Stuttgart at how Children learn about the world in their classes and textbooks.

Please see this text first:

"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 -

on the occasion of the 50 years UNESCO celebrations in Paris and the World Summit on Information Systems (WSIS) inTunis

pls. see the ORIGINAL ANNIVERSARY ARTICLE the recommendations for map making, some texts about modern digital cartography and its impacts, and colelctions about Earth Literate Leadership and Governance.

At Didacta 2005* we realised that still world-maps view considered in-approriate, very distorted and replaced by compromising projections are still in use everwhere, also in teacher guides and materials to produce educational material.

Later we realised that with modern digital cartography we have missed the chance to overcome old world maps, world map projections and word views, but still the old maps are recreated and made available EVERYWHERE in form of FRAPPR and GOOGLE MAPs. We had to learn that with modern world of DIGITAL "world mapping" some old projections which wee through being replaced by compromise worldmap projections are celebrating their "revival".

But the problem seems to be very much "top down". The International Organisations in charge are still using these old maps we considered obsolete 30 years ago and so a lot of Interantional Programmes, like DESD, MDG, ... are on unstable, distorted projections, leading to misrepresenataiton and false assumptions, wrong ideas about relations between areas - region - cultures - impacts - ... in short: proportions and consequences.

Febr. 2nd 2006: There is presently a discussion of the use of inappropriate maps as a sign of ignorance, demagogy, apathy, charlatanery, ... I need to add here later the words for Nachlässigkeit, Dummheit, Fahrlässigkeit, Gleichgültigkeit,...

This page was prepared at hoc - giving a glimpse on deepworld.org and its section on COMMONS and LITERACY as we need commons, common frames of references - to "gauge the human prospectus" (Noel Brown Rio 1992 and 1994) and jointly define or find our ways and means. .... we might end up with questions around media policy and the arts and governance. or get lost in the "turns" without pragmatic spin. s.a. KOUVOLA-SIS.

(*Didacta is Germany's / Europe's largest annual Education Fair.)