Environmental Determinism and Modern Geography

  • In the late 19th Century, environmental determinism was revived by the German geographer Friedrich Rätzel. He was heavily influenced by evolutionary biology and the impact a person's environment has on their cultural evolution.
  • Rätzel's student, Ellen Churchill Semple, introduced the theory in the United States in the early 20th Century, where it grew in popularity.
  • Another student of Rätzel, Ellsworth Huntington, also worked on expanding the theory, which led to a subset of environmental determinism, called climatic determinism. He said that the economic development in a country could be predicted based on its distance from the equator.

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  • Strabo, Plato, and Aristotle used climatic factors to explain why the Greeks were more developed than societies in hotter and colder climates.
  • Aristotle developed a climate classification system to explain why people settled in some regions of the world.
  • An Arab sociologist, Ibn Khaldun (1332AD to 1406AD), believed that the hot climate of Sub-Saharan Africa caused dark human skin.

Environmental determinism's popularity began to decline in the 1920s as its claims were often found to be wrong. Critics claimed it was racist and perpetuated imperialism.

Carl Sauer said environmental determinism led to premature generalizations about an area's culture. From this critique, geographers developed the environmental possibilism theory to explain cultural development.

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Four possible metrics serve as indicators to see if our chance of collapse is falling or rising.

  1. Temperature is a clear metric for climate change.
  2. Complexity is represented by GDP.
  3. The ecological footprint is an indicator of environmental degradation.
  4. Inequality. The typical measurement of the Gini Index shows inequality has decreased slightly globally but increasing within countries. As the Gini Index only measures relative changes in income, it may be misleading.

Temperature, complexity, and environmental degradation have been trending steeply upwards.

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The good light at the onset of spring is brighter and makes spring feel so central. Daylight is noticeably increasing in length, and the sky is bluer.

Bright light can make us happier. It can be as effective in treating depression as Prozac. Some data reveals that light exposure during the day is related to the quality of sleep, which will affect emotions and systemic health.

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