5 July 2013 by thaliakr
With friends and family scattered all over the world, I’d love to have a huge map in our house (when we grow up and get a house).
The only reason we haven’t had one before is my West Wing addiction. What a marvellous show. I rewatched all seven seasons (minus a few disks that didn’t work in the computer) in late pregnancy and early breastfeeding. SBJ would probably still recognise the theme tune.
More than one West Wing episode is about Leo (the White House chief of staff) running his Big Block of Cheese Day. This is his spiel, trying to get his unconvinced staff on board for a day away from normal business:
‘President Andrew Jackson, in the main foyer of his White House, had a big block of cheese. The block of cheese was huge–over two tons. And it was there for any and all who might be hungry. Jackson wanted the White House to belong to the people, so from time to time, he opened his doors to those who wished an audience. It is in the spirit of Andrew Jackson that I, from time to time, ask senior staff to have face-to-face meetings with those people representing organizations who have a difficult time getting our attention. I know the more jaded among you see this as something rather beneath you. But I assure you that listening to the voices of passionate Americans is beneath no one, and surely not the people’s servants.’
Leo McGarry, ‘The Crackpots and These Women,’ Season One, The West Wing
The group that really succeeds in getting the attention of the senior staff, and also me, is the Cartographers for Social Equality. Their message is astonishing:
I’ve often thought imagined God looking at our planet and not caring much about national borders (more about selfish immigration policy another day). Since seeing that episode of The West Wing, I’ve also thought that God is among the few who know that Africa is 14 times larger than Greenland.
I tracked down Peters (or similar) projection maps for a church I worked with and my theological college, to use in prayer and worship, and I’d like one for our home.
The map has been controversial among cartographers (apparently), and of course, any flat map isn’t as representative as a globe of the reality of the planet’s proportions. There are, it turns out, dozens of different flat map projections that I’m wholly unqualified to compare. If you don’t want a Gall-Peters, how about an Eckert IV? Winkel Tripel?
What we see regularly can make a strong impression – just ask billboard advertisers – and I’d like SBJ to have a strong impression that Africa and South America, for example, are huge parts of our world. Oxfam, the United Nations Development Program, the Mennonite Central Committee and a bunch of other international social justice groups have adopted Peters projections in their work for the same reason. National Geographic has gone for the pleasingly named Winkel Tripel.
Or you could go super hardcore and get an ‘upside-down’ version, popular in the Southern Hemisphere. As a teenager I had a poster on my wall of the map that’s on this tea-towel:
I haven’t quite decided which one is for us, though the New Internationalist Peters projection is out front. Maybe a few different ones around the house would expose the cartographical compromises and open discussion.
I’m not suggesting this is the most important parenting decision I’ll make this year. I just wanted to share some West Wing, really. I’m keen to hear your thoughts on maps at home or The West Wing, or both, I guess, if you are a member of Cartographers for Social Equality.
Lois has just posted this map on Facebook, which makes the point forcefully.