At one point in time, European nations ruled almost the entire world. Europe was and is mighty, powerful and influential. Although Europe’s history over the past centuries knows a lot of ‘grandeur’, how grand is the territory that it consists of?
The most common type of map is the Mercator depiction. Due to the earth being a globe and maps being a two-dimensional representation, it is not easy to get the dimensions right. The Mercator projection results in an over representation of areas near the poles. At the same time, areas around the equator look relatively small.
Europe VS Africa
With Europe being fairly high to the north, it looks bigger than it is. The same goes for Russia, which despite being the greatest landmass in a country, is not that much bigger than some others as it looks. On the opposite spectrum is Africa. Wrapped around the equator, it is much larger than it looks on the map.
The extremes are seen in Greenland, which appears to be a massive continent in its own right. In reality, it is less than a third the size of the United States. Africa looks as if it is at most twice the size of Europe, possibly less when we consider geographical Europe extends to the Ural mountains.
The Real Size Of Europe
In reality, Asia composes ten times the size of the European Union. The EU composes less than half the landmass of geographical Europe. China on its own is twice the size of the EU, both geographically and population-wise. Even the US holds twice the territory of the EU. Out of the worlds total landmass of 148 million square kilometers, the EU makes up around 3% of the total. Asia makes up over 30%. Africa sits around 20% of the total. The Americas combined form a region of 42.5 million square kilometers, very close to Asia’s 30%.
Even Australia on its own has a greater territory than the entire European Union combined.
Not All Land Is The Same
Of course not every piece of land is as easy to live on as the other. Some areas of the world are desert, or frozen tundra. It is no surprise that these areas are inhabited by fewer people than others, and less inviting to migrate towards. However, even when we remove the 9.2 million square kilometers that encompass the Sahara, Africa has over 20 million left.
Similarly, Europe has mountain ranges that are sparsely populated. From the Carpathians and the Alps, to the Pyrenees. Spain is mostly populated around the coast, with the exception of Madrid in the center. Scandinavia has few people living in the cold north, or in the dense forests in its middle.
It becomes a whole different question to answer which land is most suited to live on, and where the border is with ‘acceptable’ standards.
So What Is The Point?
Far-spread usage of the Mercator projection in schoolbooks and maps hanging on the walls of public libraries has created a mistaken image of Europe’s prominence on the world map. The Euro-centric view of the world in history classes combined with an unreal depiction in geography classes has led people to overestimate the size of the continent.
The European Union needs to accept that it is a geographically tiny player, and will be even smaller after the Brexit takes place. Europe is in no place to solve all the worlds problems. Although drowning while being infatuated by your own mirror-image like Narcissus did is rather pathetic, it would be good for Europe nonetheless to look in a properly shaped mirror some day.