Globes are fascinating geographic instruments. They give a proportionately accurate view of the earth allowing for a better understanding of the relationships between various land areas and water bodies.
While paper maps and on-screen digital maps can give much more detail about large scale areas of the earth, the globe gives an accurate representation of earth’s features at a very small scale. Nevertheless one rarely sees globes anymore today. Few classrooms have one to teach students about the planet they live on. Fewer still are found in homes.
There are several reasons for the disappearance of the globe from society.
Quality globes are expensive
You can pick up a fairly cheap one at WalMart or Target but to get a high quality one that will last many years and the annotation can be read clearly you might have to spend up to $150 or more.
Globes are difficult to update
World data can change. Place names and spellings do not stay the same forever. Updating a globe basically means buying a new one so the expense and effort do not always seem worth it. Some globe manufacturers offer a globe update program. These programs offer a discount if the globe you bought from them is within a certain warranty period.
Digital globes are prevalent
Google Earth can give a more versatile 3D model of the earth’s surface by serving updated data and more of it. Google Earth is free and it does not take up any room.
The question remains, are there any reasons why someone would want to still own a globe? I contend there are at least four good reasons for buying one:
1. A tactile 3D earth is one of the best ways for someone to learn about the relationships between places on the earth. It can be difficult to conceptualize what is meant by terms like “the other side of the earth” or “the land down under”. On a globe it becomes obvious. Seeing a spherical object rotating on an axis is still a most effective learning tool.
2. They look cool in an office or a library. Nothing says geography professional like a quality globe.
3. Globes make it easier to understand the concepts of latitude and longitude. Lines of latitude and longitude are measured in angular degrees from the center of the earth. Understanding this is not easy on a flat paper map.
4. Globes add a certain style to rooms. You can choose decorative globes that look vintage, modern, dark, light, large, small, nautical themed or covered with animal pictures for children. You can even find globes of the moon or ones that show constellations and glow in the dark.
Whatever your reason for buying a globe rest assured it will get used. There is just something about the things that make you want to touch them, spin them and admire them. Although they might not be the first thing one thinks about when geography is mentioned these days, globes are still a great and valuable tool for everyone.