Traditional globes are still big business even in the age of Google Earth

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. yearning / ˈyɜr nɪŋ / (n.) – a strong feeling of longing or desire for something, often accompanied by sadness

    Human yearning for connection drives us to seek out meaningful relationships with others.

  2. the cosmos / ðə ˈkɒz moʊs / (n.) – the whole universe

    Exploring the depths of the cosmos has been a lifelong dream for many astronauts.

  3. existential / ˌɛg zɪˈstɛn ʃəl / (adj.) – related to human existence

    Studying philosophy often involves exploring existential themes such as freedom, responsibility, and finding purpose.

  4. wrestle with (something) / ˈrɛs əl wɪθ / (phrasal v.) – to try to find a solution to a challenging situation

    The company wrestles with adapting to new regulations in the industry.

  5. overt / oʊˈvɜrt / (adj.) – done or shown openly; not concealed or hidden

    The company’s overt commitment to sustainability is evident in its public statements and environmental initiatives.


Read the text below.

A globe in the age of Google Earth?

London globemaker Peter Bellerby thinks the human yearning to “find our place in the cosmos” has helped globes survive their original purpose—navigation—and the internet. “You don’t go onto Google Earth to get inspired,” Bellerby says in his airy studio, surrounded by dozens of globes in various languages and states of completion. “A globe is very much something that connects you to the planet that we live on.”

But beyond the existential and historical appeal, earthly matters such as cost and geopolitics hover over globemaking. Bellerby’s globes run from about 1,500 British pounds (about 1,900 USD) for the smallest to six figures for the 50-inch Churchill model, and he makes about 600 orbs a year of varying size and ornamentation.

Creating them is a complex process. Bellerby says he wrestles often with customs officials in regions with disputed borders, such as India, China, North Africa, and the Middle East. “In India, I can go to prison for six months if we don’t depict the border between India and Pakistan as the Delhi government wants us to. So, we have to get things like that right.”

Bellerby doesn’t name clients, but he says they come from more socioeconomic levels than you’d think—from families to businesses and heads of state. Private art collectors come calling. So do movie makers. And yes, some of the planet’s wealthiest people buy them.

And there is a real question about whether globes—especially handmade orbs—remain relevant as more than works of art and history for those who can afford them.

They are, after all, snapshots of the past—of the way their patrons and makers saw the world at a certain point in time.

“Sadly, I think globe usage probably is declining, perhaps particularly in the school setting where digital technologies are taking over,” Joshua Nall, Director of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science in Cambridge, said. “I think now they’re perhaps more becoming items of overt prestige. They’re being bought as display pieces to look beautiful, which of course they always have been.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • How does interacting with real objects, such as physical globes, differ from using digital versions, like virtual maps or Google Earth (ex. it engages our senses more, it gives us a deeper emotional connection with the universe)? Discuss.
  • Do you think it’s important to revive the use of globes in schools in this digital age? Why or why not? What are the potential benefits of incorporating physical globes into educational curricula alongside digital technologies? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • In your opinion, what does the future hold for physical globes? Will they continue to hold cultural and historical significance, or will they eventually fade as technology advances? Discuss.
  • Now that digital technology is taking over, what other important things do you think might be at risk of disappearing (ex. physical photographs, hardbound books)? What do you think can be done to prevent these from totally disappearing? Discuss.