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This world map is wild
New Zealand artist-cartographer Anton Thomas evokes awe for nature with his latest creation.
Kia ora, welcome to Future Proof brought to you by AMP. I’m Ellen, thanks for joining me this week.
Image credit: Anton Thomas.
Stuck at home during a pandemic lockdown, artist-cartographer Anton Thomas, like many of us, was desperate to escape. “I thought: this is my chance. I'm going to make that world map that I've always dreamed of,” he says.
From his home in Melbourne, Thomas began his artistic expedition in Alaska, sketching out a grizzly bear with a mouthful of salmon in coloured pencil. Three years later, Wild World was finished: 1,642 animal species depicted across land and seascapes in an intricate and expansive world map. Thomas had three criteria for choosing species to illustrate: they had to be wild (“No domesticated animals. No French bulldogs,” he says), as well as native and currently living.
“It’s a celebration of the nature that we still have,” says Thomas. “There is plenty of very bad news to look at about the ecology of this planet. But I want people – especially the next generation – to know that there’s still so much wilderness on this planet. There’s so much to protect.”
In New Zealand, a tūī towers next to Mt Taranaki, a black robin perches on the Chatham Islands, and a longfin eel swims towards its breeding grounds near Tonga.
Image credit: Anton Thomas.
Thomas grew up in Nelson, where the nearby mountains and ocean sparked geographical curiosity. He has loved maps for as long as he can remember. “People often get excited at fantasy world maps, but maps of the real world gave me the context that I needed to understand that I was already in a fantasy world of epic proportions,” he says.
Going on the Wild World expedition allowed Thomas to discover nature in far-flung places: “surreal looking” monkeys in the Amazon, and “spooky” deep-sea fishes. “There's one called the giant oarfish and it literally looks like a giant sea serpent,” he says. All the weird and wonderful species inhabiting the map are listed in an accompanying booklet.
The map itself foregoes political borders, roads and cities to focus on what Thomas calls the “foundational layer” of nature. “Mountains, deserts, forests, ice, ocean and millions of species – of which we are but one. It’s a map of nature, rather than nations.” Labelled geographical features make the map not just an artwork, but a resource. This is part of Thomas’ philosophy: using art to draw people in, “but it’s like a Trojan horse: nested inside is the geography lesson.”
In the age of smartphones, where an app does the work of navigating maps for us, Thomas wonders if we’re “losing our geographic foundations, our sense of place.”
“I think there’s a massive opportunity for cartographers to provide beautiful, informative, creative maps. So people can keep figuring out where they are.”
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Rare parrots exceed breeding expectations
Kākāriki karaka, or orange-fronted parakeets, are flourishing inside the predator-proof fence at Brook Waimārama Sanctuary near Nelson. In 2021, 125 captive-raised birds were released into the sanctuary, while a recent count indicates their population has increased to 170. There are about 300–450 in the wild, making them “Nationally Critical”.
In other hopeful conservation news this week, rats, stoats and weasels have been eliminated from Wellington’s Miramar Peninsula, boosting native wildlife. Maintaining that state will require biosecurity systems and “vigilance in perpetuity”, project director James Wilcox told RNZ. But it proves that eliminating pests is possible in an urban environment.
Waka Kotahi pauses funding for cycling, walking and public transport projects
Waka Kotahi, the New Zealand Transport Agency, have announced they’re putting sustainable transport initiatives on hold until they receive “clear direction” from the incoming government about investment priorities. This includes the $305 million Transport Choices programme to deliver cycleways and walkable neighbourhoods. The decision has been labelled “unacceptable and outrageous” by sustainable transport advocates. Meanwhile, a new modelling study estimates that a combination of four transport policies implemented across 120 cities – including Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch – could cut transport emissions by a combined 22% without compromising quality of life. The four policies modelled were: a tax on polluting vehicles, incentives to use cleaner vehicles, investment in public transport, and urban planning policies that restrict urban sprawl.
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Image credit: National Aquarium.
To finish this issue, chaos in bird world this week as TV host John Oliver weighs in on Forest & Bird’s Bird of the Century. But beyond the two weeks of birdy banter for the annual competition, avian drama continues apace among the National Aquarium’s resident kororā, where Love Island-style scandals regularly rock the tight knit community of penguins. The Spinoff’s Alex Casey gets the inside scoop on the penguins who have garnered thousands of fans on social media.
Have a flippin’ cool week,
Got some feedback about Future Proof or topics you’d like covered? Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org