It’s hard to imagine a time when Antarctica was a stone’s throw from the Australian Outback, or when Morocco was right across the street from New York. But that was the world 300 million years ago, when the lands of Earth were clumped into the supercontinent of Pangea.
Of course, back then, there was no United States or any other country—not yet—so geologists have been less concerned with accounting for Pangea’s placement of countries than its placement of continents. In response, Massimo Pietrobon redrew the map of Pangea, painstakingly accounting for the political boundaries that separate us today. And what he rendered is astounding to ponder.
"Europe is touching now Africa, Cuba is touching Miami, and Venezuela is also almost touching the U.S.A.," Pietrobon explains. "There’s no separation between all the nations of the world."
Pietrobon is the first to admit that he was forced to take some artistic liberty. The precise arrangement of Pangea is a debated theory. And even after researching the best information on plate tectonics and placing waterways as accurately as possible, Pietrobon was faced with the fact that our science is inherently limited, and besides, much of the world was created by entities like underwater volcanoes and surfaced at a later date.
"I decided how to create my map, forcing here and there where necessary, because the task of this work is its meaning and its visual impact, not the scientific reality," Pietrobon explains.
Indeed, whether or not one particular country is slightly misplaced isn’t really the point. It’s that when we look back 300 million years into our geological history, it seems absurd to think that we somehow ended up where we are today—not from the standpoint of nature but from the standpoint of human nature. And once faced with that absurdity, I actually find the effect quite hopeful. The Political Pangea can be both our history and our ideal future.
"All of the distances that drive policies of fear and mistrust crumble down," Pietrobon says. "The world is united."
[Hat tip: FlowingData]