Not too long ago now, bad things happened to Haiti. And not just the usual bad things, which are pretty bad – Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere (and the fact that the hemispherical distinction is made should tell you a few things about poverty in other parts of the world). I am talking, of course, about the earthquake and the resultant aftershocks.
Like most other Americans (I suppose), I heard about it in the news, and I closed my eyes and dropped my head and spent some time mourning for people I had never met.
I then considered what I could do to make things better and, again like most Americans (I suppose), I came to the conclusion that I should just throw some money at the situation.
Shortly thereafter, though, I caught wind of a bit of a movement (for want of a better word). Map Dorks had taken a good look at the existing maps of Haiti, and had found them wanting. And so the call went forth to all Map Dorks: Relief efforts in Haiti need accurate maps.
And let me tell you, boys and girls, the Map Dorks stepped up. With the help of imagery provided by the likes of Yahoo, DigitalGlobe and GeoEye (who acquired satellite imagery the day after the initial quake), armies of mappers converged on Open Street Map and kicked serious ass all over Haiti. In the space of a day the maps of Port-au-Prince went from looking like a hill town in upstate New York (disclaimer: I LOVE hill towns in upstate New York) to looking like Manhattan. And they are accurate in ways that maps of Haiti have never been. Within a day a Garmin IMG file was produced and a day after that someone whipped up an iPhone app to leverage the OSM data for use on the ground. And we (Map Dorks, I mean) haven’t stopped. My life is crowded these days, but I can still find the time to give an hour or two to Haiti every day. It really isn’t that hard to do. And I think it’s rather more significant to the people on the ground in Haiti than the 20 bucks I can afford to send.
But this is all beside the point. The point is the response to this crisis of Map Dorkia, who – for better or worse – are (on some level, at least) my people. And my people have behaved admirably in this situation. There are a couple who have been especially helpful and noteworthy (I’m talking about you, Kate and Dave), but while they are unique they are not unusual amongst Map Dorks. When the call went out, many answered.
And because of that, I am very, very, proud of my people.