Global Map of the Empathic Imagination

Imagine you had to invent a new kind of atlas which showed the extent of our planet’s economic and cultural globalization, and the interconnections between the world’s environmental crises. That’s the aim of the ATLAS of Interdependence, a project being masterminded by the new economics foundation, the Open University and Sheffield University. The ATLAS will be an evolving online resource containing entries from geologists, geographers, scientists, journalists, artists, campaigners and historians, each providing their personal vision of global interdependence. Here is a sneak preview of my own entry, called the Global Map of the Empathic Imagination. Do let me know if you think it needs any additional landmarks.

Traditional maps are comprised of divisions. National borders separate us from one another, as do oceans and mountain ranges. In an age of interdependence, we need maps that do the opposite. They must show the forces that bind humanity together, offering glimpses of the common ground that is the basis for tackling the planet’s most acute crises, from climate change and wealth inequality to the violent conflicts between countries and religions. The Global Map of the Empathic Imagination has been designed to serve this purpose. It is a gateway to ideas and practical actions around empathy that can create a revolution of human relationships.

Empathy is the greatest social force that bonds human beings to one another. But what is empathy, why does it matter, and how can you map it?

I define empathy as the art of stepping into the shoes of another person and seeing the world from their perspective. That means understanding the beliefs, experiences, hopes and fears that comprise their worldview. The imaginative act of looking through someone else’s eyes can help erode our assumptions and prejudices about them, enabling us to recognise their humanity, and spurring us to take action on their behalf. As I describe in this video clip, empathy has the potential to create meaningful ties across boundaries of nationality, culture, age, gender and other divides.

Below you will find the Global Map of the Empathic Imagination. It is an attempt to show the power of empathy to create social change and tackle the planet’s fundamental collective problems. Hover over Canada and you will be offered the headline, ‘How babies can teach empathy in schools’. A short text describes the world’s most innovative empathy teaching programme for school children, called Roots of Empathy, which began in Toronto. Follow the link further and you will be transported to a detailed article about the programme that appears on Outrospection, my blog dedicated to empathy. There are similar markers across the map that will draw you into an inspiring range of empathic topics, such as ‘Should you empathise with your father’s killer?’, ‘Why we need a Climate Futures Museum’ and ‘How a Victorian traveller broke racist taboos’. They explore empathy from every angle – history, neuroscience, psychology, biology, social policy, politics and religion. All of them link to articles on Outrospection.

Travelling across the earth using the Global Map of the Empathic Imagination will not only expand your curiosity about other people and challenge the way you see yourself, but show how you can become part of the empathy-based social movements that we so desperately need to confront climate change and other planetary crises. Join the empathic revolution and cry out its guiding ideal, ‘You are, therefore I am’.


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