A friend who went to Sierra Leone with Doctor's Without Borders to fight the ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014, was frustrated that "a school in New Jersey refused to admit two elementary school children from Rwanda. Never mind that Rwanda is 2,600 miles from the epidemic area in West Africa. That’s the distance from my apartment in DC to Lake Tahoe. And believe me, given the average condition of roads in West Africa, it might as well be the distance to the moon."
As Westerners I think we vastly underestimate the hugeness of Africa, affecting how we think, react, and feel about the news we hear from Africa. This is complicated, but I wonder if our reliance on the mercator map project plays a role too. Every 2-dimensional map of the world distorts the shapes or sizes of countries in some way. The common mercator map creates huge distortions of area, with countries near the equator looking much smaller than if they were far north or south.
To explore this, I used D3 to create a playground for comparing the true sizes of countries around the world. Instead of mercator, the countries are depicted with the Lambert azimuthal equal area projection which preserves the relative areas of countries and land masses.