I am impressed by the “Principle Rivers/Mountains/Lakes” map diagrams that were so popular in the mid 1800s and have been curious about how I might reproduce that aesthetic without etching on copper plates and hand tinting.
Then I saw a tweet which led me to this article in Nature Communications about the top plastic waste contributing rivers in the world and I thought it might be just the right excuse to try it out. So I focused on the top three rivers and sampled paper and ink textures from an 1850 Atlas of Physical Geography and went at it. Here is the result…
I carried on the style with the help of a throwback font from Warren Davison and some period prose.
Why? It’s fun. And I wanted to try this sort of retro diagrammetric map. But also I think seeing current data in an unfamiliar or highly dated context might help us pause and take note, while if it were presented sterilely as a table or a conventional map it may catch fewer eyes.
I showed this to my 11-year-old daughter, Willow. She asked what the boxes were. I told her each box represents plastic garbage about the weight of five cars. Her eyes widened and she said, “Wait, each DAY?”.
Here is a how-to, if you are interested in making something similar or accessing the style file or data sources, or just interested in learning how people make things.
2 thoughts on “Rivers of Plastic”
You’ve really outdone yourself on this one, it looks great!
This is just fantastic. Not the waste obviously bit the way of showing it. Thanks for sharing the how to. I might have a crack at rivers that produce the biggest sediment load on the Great Barrier Reef.