Monday, June 10, 2013

Rand McNallyitis: The Mental Disease Which Prevents Geographers and the World from Accepting Global Change

Rand McNallyitis: (n) 1. The mental disease which prevents geographers and the general public from accepting global change in one's mental map or understanding of the world. 2. The thought which believes if something is on a map it must be real and permanent.

Z Geography is back and has a great post musing on the fact all maps have the Aral Sea when the Aral Sea is no more.
There is no Aral Sea, so why do our maps say there is?  From EOSnap.com (2013)
Whether it is the now mostly gone Lake Chad, the now gone Aral Sea, or some historical geopolitical boundary that continues to pass down from SHP file to SHP, people have difficulty imagining that the world is different than what a map shows.  I believe this thinking has prevented policy solutions in places where breaking up the country or reorganizing borders might be better than trying to keep artificial countries together (hint hint Pakistan/Afghanistan, almost all of Africa, Syria, etc).  It also leads to people to hold on to out of date world views which ignore environmental changes, massive demographic shifts (religion in Latin America or the rise of non-Arabs in Arabia, the impact of immigration on First World countries), and much more.  All this is a form of what I call Rand McNallyitis.

Geography:  The World is Changing, Are You Adapting?

1 comment:

Imran Forbes said...

I am not sure that static maps are preventing geographers from developing policies. Geography is about mapping changing spatial information using maps and developiing an understanding of the past patterns and emerging trends in the environment. This understanding is then communicated to policy makers to assist in development strategies and interventions to address the impact of geography on man and its environment. Geographers are just one group of technocrat providing information to policy makers. One thing that i think happens is that geography is not communicated effectively leading to policy makers just thinking of the information as "static" maps in other words, the spatial interaction of geographic models are lost in translation to non geographers. hence its seems that geogrpahers are not contributing to policy development for a changing globe.