Here’s a fruitful mid-morning activity for you—grab a map from somewhere and try to spot Africa. Once you find it, find Greenland and then compare the sizes of the two. Africa looks smaller, right? In reality, however, Africa is 14.5 times larger than Greenland. In a similar vein, Europe seems to be considerably larger than South America, whereas the latter is actually double the size of Europe; while Germany that appears to be in the middle of the map, is actually located on the northernmost quarter of the Earth. The list goes on and on. Strangely enough, we have a pop culture show to thank for revealing this truth to us (not to mention internet virality) or most people might never have known these rather important facts either. We haven’t stopped reading and thinking about maps, since.
What this implies is that we are not really where we think we are. And while that is mind blowing in itself, there are layers of serious implications this kind of misrepresentation has created. Of course, recreating a three-dimensional world in a two-dimensional map is no joke. In 1569, Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator designed a map to help European sailors with their navigation. While it made navigation easier, it completed distorted the world as it is, and has thereby helped foster European imperialist attitude and also create an ethnic bias against third world countries. As explain to us by the West Wing, in our society we tend to associate size with importance and power (take a look at the map again).
Earlier this year, we curated a collection of maps that showcased India’s position in comparison to the world in terms of various socio-economic-political issues. From gaining the privilege of being named as one of the oldest civilisations of the world to the unfortunate label of being the worst country to be born in, the maps taught us a lot about our country. But, there is always more to learn.
Recently, Reddit user, TeaDranks posted a recreated version of the world map that was designed based on the population of each country. He used data from the most recent foreign and domestic censuses made available, which range between 2011 and 2015. Each small square within the map represents 500,000 people and it’s amazing to see how drastically the map changes when you redesign it based on just this single factor.
China and India become so enormous in scale that they consume most of the land area, while Russia and Canada shrink to microscopic proportion. The population density of some countries are so high that they couldn’t even be represented using a single square of the map. In fact, the population of 29 countries with less than 250,000 people make up only a tiny, nine-square box on the map. If you can’t decide which country looks the smallest, it is the USA. It has only 5% of the world’s population.
This map brings an entirely different debate on the table—population control in India and why we need it. It is not only that we don’t have sufficient space to house our citizens but a whole host of the problems our country faces today can ultimately be tied back to the population explosion that we face. While China’s dictatorial family-planning policy is definitely not the right way to go, we need a comprehensive and holistic plan that provides awareness to people from all corners of our country. It may be a slow process, but it is high time we got around to it.
Words: Krupa Joseph