Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Has Its Day

Ever wonder why Earth is celebrated only one day of the year? Or why so many projection maps are not like this one?

I used to work with an Aussie (their own term, pronounced very much like Harriet's husband's name) at UT School of Public Health. She replaced the shared computer grad assistants' office world map (public health is very much an international study, and UTSPH had dozens of international students) with a south-on-top map. In every other respect, it was an ordinary Mercator projection world map... but the Land of Aus (again their term, pronounced just like the place the Wizard lived) was in the top hemisphere.

When I started to prepare an Earth Day post today, I went looking for such a map on Google Images. They are surprisingly scarce. Photos of Earth from space printed with the southern hemisphere on top are even scarcer, though those without labels may simply be turned over. You don't think we have a northern-hemisphere-centered cultural bias or something, do you? Surely not!

For a few years, a bit over a decade ago, I spent my Earth Days standing in the Houston Sierra Club tent in the Rice University stadium parking lot. We each used to stand three or four hours at a shift, chatting with passers-by about just what an urban Sierra Club does ("plenty!" is the answer; don't get me started). Now I wouldn't be able to stand on my own two feet (one natural; one being paid for on a time payment plan) for even one hour, and I've become a stay-at-home Sierran. But I do remember those days fondly, and the map above brings a smile to my face.


  1. Good times. Thank you for sharing. I didn't even remember Earth Day was coming up. I used to go to the celebrations, but stopped going, about five years ago. This past weekend, I had someplace other to be. I know I missed a good time.

    1. OWL, I've missed the celebrations myself for several years now. At the time I was going to them, I felt I had something to contribute to the education of the general public, many of whom want to help to "save the planet" but don't know where to begin. In a moderately large city like Houston, there are plenty of places to begin, but in economically hard times, people are understandably preoccupied with keeping their family afloat... fed, clothed, housed... and not so much with things that seem abstract when the source of one's next meal is a primary concern. If we ever emerge from the Great Recession, I am confident people will turn their attention to the environment again. I just hope they do so soon enough.



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