Sunday, September 09, 2007

Mapping Anthropogenic Nature

The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World

This is the Aral Sea - map on the left from 1967, map on the right is current. The point of the article in the NY Times from which this map is taken (in addition to advertising the Times' new atlas) is that mapmaking has become a much more dynamic activity. Political boundaries seem to go through spurts of change, as with the post-1989 former Soviet republics, which then require remapping. But the point here is that increasingly maps need reworking because of major changes in the planet's natural geography. The Aral Sea is a high-profile case of relatively quick changes due to a series of astonishingly short-sighted irrigation projects.

The Aral Sea is coming back through human activity as well - particularly, through a World Bank / Kazakh government project (see here) building wiser engineering projects and policies. (Lake Chad, suffering a similar problem, on the other hand, is not).

With the consequences of climate change becoming increasingly striking, we'll be redrawing the maps every other year.

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