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istock

How Google Maps' Borders Differ From Country To Country

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istock

Most of us likely see maps as something uncontroversial and relatively permanent—a simple tool for getting from point A to point B. But in regions engaged in border disputes, maps can become a lot more contentious. In the past, individual cartographers could avoid controversy by simply drawing maps that reflected their country’s worldview. But what happens in the Internet era, when the whole world is using Google Maps?

As it turns out, Google Maps has a pretty fascinating policy for “solving” border disputes. Popular Science reports that when a border is disputed by two or more territories, Google Maps simply changes its borders in each country to reflect that country’s beliefs. Those in countries not affected by the border dispute see two dotted borders. On the other hand, citizens in the countries in disagreement see a solid line, one that represents their country’s view of the land dispute (see more of Google’s shifting borders here).  

This method of customizing borders based on each individual country’s view of a geopolitical situation was the subject of a recent study, published in the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law. Researchers worry that Google’s seemingly impartial border-drawing policy could inadvertently fuel border disputes.

“While Google’s cartographic platforms, Google Maps and Google Earth, are the most widely used mapping services in the world, their methodology for affixing borders and naming key features is completely unregulated and deviates from traditional mapping doctrine,” researcher Ethan R. Merel explains. “Google customizes its maps to adhere to each individual country’s beliefs and laws, so that its maps do not show a single and objective reality, but rather affirm existing perspectives of the world.”

Merel hopes to find a better way for Google Maps to display borders, and is advocating for increased oversight and regulation with regards to Google’s mapping policies. But for now, though we might all be using the same map app, we’re all seeing slightly different versions of the world. 

[h/t Popular Science]

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
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Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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National Low Income Housing Coalition
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Live Smarter
How Many Hours You Need to Work to Pay Rent in Each State
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National Low Income Housing Coalition

According to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a full-time worker in the U.S. must earn, on average, $17.14 per hour to comfortably afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent [PDF]. That said, even the nation’s highest minimum wage—which, starting in 2020, is slated to be pegged at $15 in Washington D.C.—isn’t enough to meet these numbers.

This raises the question: How many hours would the average minimum wage worker in each state need to work per week to afford their one-bedroom abodes, without paying more than 30 percent of their overall income? (Spoiler: Those earning the bare federal minimum of $7.25 per hour would need to work 94.5 hours per week—the equivalent of 2.4 full time jobs—to achieve this feat.)

The NLIHC broke down their comprehensive nationwide findings in the map above:

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