A few days ago I read a friend’s story of why he decided to go help fight Ebola in Sierra Leone as a doctor with Partners in Health.
In describing why he felt he had to go, he wrote “I don’t recall the exact article that set me off, but something clicked that day, and I remember feeling upset and angry. Politicians and media personalities were shouting that we should close the airports and quarantine returning health care workers in isolation tents. Some of it was motivated by ignorance, some by fear, some by politics. None of it was motivated or informed in any way by science. My favorite example was the school in New Jersey that panicked and refused to admit two elementary school children from Rwanda. Never mind that Rwanda is 2,600 miles from the epidemic area in West Africa. That’s the distance from my apartment in DC to Lake Tahoe. And believe me, given the average condition of roads in West Africa, it might as well be the distance to the moon.”
There are a lot of things contributing to this. But, I wonder if our reliance on the mercator map projection plays a small role too. As Westerners I think we vastly underestimate the hugeness of Africa, and this affects how we think, react, and feel about the news we hear from Africa.
This inspired me to want to compare the true sizes of different parts of the world. So, I created a little tool to explore for myself and to enable others to explore too.
This isn’t going to change the world. But, maybe it will help us understand the world just a tiny, tiny bit better.