Looking at the World

The Confluence project is attempting to photograph every whole-number intersection of latitude and longitude on the planet:

There are 64,442 of these perfect integer degree confluences on earth, places where the theoretical latitudes and longitudes that humans have drawn to navigate the globe crisscross at actual, pinpoint-able locations. A little more than 14,000 of them are on land not near either of the poles (and about 2,000 more are over accessible water where you might still be able to make out land in the distance). You can, in other words, try to visit these places–at least, if you have a GPS device in hand.

You can visit the project and view all the photos taken to date here at confluence.org.  What struck me most in scanning through photos from intersections in North America is how few depict urban landscapes or any human-built infrastructure.  One upshot of an urban civilization across a huge land mass is that there’s very low built-environment density across most of the land area, and even within most big metropolitan areas there’s a fair amount of undeveloped land.  And, most people spend most of their time in and around that already-unevenly distributed built environment.  So the “random” grid sampling of long-lat intersections shows a much more “empty” or “wild” -looking continent than I think most people would usually expect or experience.

A great example of this is 41 N – 74 W.  This is the closest intersection to New York City and its surrounding urban spaces, which are home to something like 3% of the US’s entire population in a relative handful of square miles.  10 million people, 800 languages spoken, 400 years of vertical and horizontal city growth, the whole nine yards.   And the lat/long point that’s closest to all that looks like this:

Something to ponder, and also to hopefully prompt some consideration of worldviews and cultural ideas about “empty” land.  In any event, this a beautiful, fascinating tour of planet Earth in the early 21st.  Check it out!

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