Maps shape our world, now more than ever. New digital maps not only help us to see how birds and astronauts see the Earth, but they also invite us to take a closer look at the state of our ecosystems. Such pictures, to repeat the cliche, are more powerful than words: if you can't fly to the Gulf Coast, for example, peek at an online map of Mississippi for a sense of the sheer scale of Katrina's devastation.
When Google Maps and Google Earth software made satellite views of the planet free last year, people started mixing up their own sets of data into the maps. As the blog Google Maps Mania shows, such mashups are legion. Suddenly subway directions, cheap gas, apartment rentals, city muggings, tiki bars, and UFO sightings have got a pushpin on a homegrown Google map.
The first mashup released by Google itself yesterday underscores the search giant's understanding that maps wield ecological might. Google worked with the makers of Earth Day to create its Green Summer pages, an eco-friendly sightseeing guide for the top five U.S. vacation destinations: San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, and Orlando. It plots the locations of raw foods restaurants, eco-friendly resorts and hotels, and plays videos to show off the businesses. And of course, you can search there for more green stuff. Sort of like Green Maps, only more interactive.
On that tip, don't forget oodles of other digital maps. The Google Sightseeing blog shows the beauty of the earth as well as pollution it suffers. Don't rent a helicopter to see the "Worst Places In The World;" Sprol also takes you to Google Maps views of disasters such as suburban strip mall madness and more. X-Maps let you view the worst spewers of carbon dioxide and acid rain, looking down from the clouds. It's hard to take climate change lightly after seeing its potential ability to reshape our coastlines as sea levels rise. Master mappers National Geographic allow you to view patterns in population, climate, natural hazards, topography, and mineral resources.Tons of tools help us picture global trends; Worldmapper inflates or shrinks regions based on their statistics.