Can you name the nearest major river? What about some of its tributaries? For city dwellers who live in a forest of concrete, these questions may draw a blank, but cartographer Daniel P. Huffman could have the right answer: portraying river systems as urban transit maps.Huffman, who has done river maps of Northern California, New England, the Columbia River, Colorado River, and the Mississippi, also runs a map design blog, Cartastrophe. He explains the inspiration behind his series of maps:
Rivers have been a key part of urban life for centuries. They have provided us with drinking water, protection, and a transit network that links us from one settlement to the next. I wanted to create a series of maps that gives people a new way to look at rivers: a much more modern, urban type of portrayal. So I turned to the style of urban transit maps pioneered by Harry Beck in the 1930s for the London Underground. Straight lines, 45º angles, simple geometry. The result is more of an abstract network representation than you would find on most maps, but it's also a lot more fun. The geography is intentionally distorted to clarify relationships. I think it helps translate the sort of visual language of nature into a more engineered one, putting the organic in more constructed terms. Not every line depicted is navigable, but all are important to the hydrological systems shown.
It makes sense to translate things into a visual language that a lot of us are familiar with. After all, here on TreeHugger we talk a lot about 'ecological literacy' and how that affects the way we relate to our environment and local issues. And it can be a broad term, covering basics such as really knowing the place where you live (ie. like having an idea of which regional watershed you occupy and so on), to more complex concepts like the carbon cycle. For city folk, all of this may be a bit abstract, but clear and simple maps like these could be a step in the right direction.
Check out the rest of the series (you can even purchase one, with 10% of sales going to water conservation organizations) here.
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