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Geography, Institutions and the Fate of People and Planet in the 21st Century

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❶Other states like El Salvador and Guatemala produced coffee on plantations, where individuals were more disenfranchised. Why is the global North more developed than the global South etc….



The Afro-Arab writer al-Jahiz argued that the skin color of people and livestock were determined by the water, soil, and heat of their environments. He compared the color of black basalt in the northern Najd to the skin color of the peoples living there to support his theory. Ibn Khaldun , the Arab sociologist and polymath , similarly linked skin color to environmental factors. In his Muqaddimah , he wrote that black skin was due to the hot climate of sub-Saharan Africa and not due to African lineage.

He thereby challenged Hamitic theories of race that held that the sons of Ham son of Noah were cursed with black skin. Ibn Khaldun believed that the physical environment influenced non-physical factors in addition to skin color. He argued that soil, climate, and food determined whether people were nomadic or sedentary , and what customs and ceremonies they held.

His writings may have influenced the later writings of Montesquieu during the 18th century through the traveller Jean Chardin , who travelled to Persia and described theories resembling those of Ibn Khaldun. Environmental determinism has been widely criticized as a tool to legitimize colonialism , racism , and imperialism in Africa , North America , South America , and Asia. Many writers, including Thomas Jefferson , supported and legitimized African colonization by arguing that tropical climates made peoples uncivilized.

Jefferson argued that tropical climates encouraged laziness, relaxed attitudes, promiscuity and generally degenerative societies, while the frequent variability in the weather of the middle and northern latitudes led to stronger work ethics and civilized societies.

Defects of character supposedly generated by tropical climates were believed to be inheritable under the Lamarckian theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics , a discredited precursor to the Darwinian theory of natural selection.

Lamarckianism suggested that those physiological changes may be passed directly to offspring, without the need for offspring to develop the trait in the same manner.

Acclimatization societies directly supported colonial enterprises and enjoyed their benefits. The writings of Lamarck provided theoretical backing for the acclimatization doctrines. Ellen Churchill Semple , a prominent environmental determinism scholar, applied her theories in a case study which focused on the Philippines , where she mapped civilization and wildness onto the topography of the islands. Scholars thereby imposed racial stereotypes on whole societies.

The role of environmental determinism in rationalizing and legitimizing racism , ethnocentrism and economic inequality has consequently drawn strong criticism. Many modern scientists have also critiqued classical environmental determinism as unscientific. Carl Sauer criticized the premature generalizations resulting from bias in environmentalism in He argued that to define geography as the study of environmental influences is to assume in advance that such influences do operate, and that science cannot be based upon or committed to preconceptions.

David Landes similarly condemns of what he terms the unscientific moral geography of Ellsworth Huntington. He argues that Huntington undermined geography as a science by attributing all human activity to physical influences so that he might classify civilizations hierarchically — favoring those civilizations he considered best. Environmental determinism was revived in the late-twentieth century as neo-environmental determinism.

The new term coined by the social scientist and critic Andrew Sluyter. Neo-environmental determinism examines how the physical environment predisposes societies and states towards particular trajectories of economic and political development. It explores how geographic and ecological forces influence state-building , economic development , and institutions.

It also addresses fears surrounding the effects of modern climate change. Neo-environmental determinism scholars debate how much the physical environment shapes economic and political institutions.

Economic historians Stanley Engerman and Kenneth Sokoloff argue that factor endowments greatly affected "institutional" development in the Americas, by which they mean the tendency to more free democratic, free market or unfree dictatorial, economically restrictive regimes.

Robinson underscore that the geographic factors most influenced institutional development during early state formation and colonialism.

They argue that geographic differences cannot explain economic growth disparities after A. Economists Jeffrey Sachs and John Luke Gallup have examined the direct impacts of geographic and climatic factors on economic development, especially the role of geography on the cost of trade and access to markets, the disease environment, and agricultural productivity.

The contemporary global warming crisis has also impacted environmental determinism scholarship. Jared Diamond draws similarities between the changing climate conditions that brought down the Easter Island civilization and global warming in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

A scientist at the Lamont—Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University , writes that societal collapse due to climate change is possible today. In the Pulitzer Prize winning Guns, Germs, and Steel , author Jared Diamond points to geography as the answer to why certain states were able to grow and develop faster and stronger than others.

His theory cited the natural environment and raw materials a civilization was blessed with as factors for success, instead of popular century old claims of racial and cultural superiority. Diamond says that these natural endowments began with the dawn of man, and favored Eurasian civilizations due to their location along similar latitudes, suitable farming climate, and early animal domestication.

Diamond argues that early states located along the same latitude lines were uniquely suited to take advantage of similar climates, making it easier for crops, livestock, and farming techniques to spread. Crops such as wheat and barley were simple to grow and easy to harvest, and regions suitable for their cultivation saw high population densities and the growth of early cities. The ability to domesticate herd animals, which had no natural fear of humans, high birth rates, and an innate hierarchy, gave some civilizations the advantages of free labor, fertilizers, and war animals.

The east-west orientation of Eurasia allowed for knowledge capital to spread quickly, and writing systems to keep track of advanced farming techniques gave people the ability to store and build upon a knowledge base across generations. Craftsmanship flourished as a surplus of food from farming allowed some groups the freedom to explore and create, which lead to the development of metallurgy and advances in technology.

While the advantageous geography helped to develop early societies, the close proximity in which humans and their animals lived led to the spread of disease across Eurasia. Over several centuries, rampant disease decimated populations, but ultimately led to disease resistant communities.

Diamond suggests that these chains of causation led to European and Asian civilizations holding a dominant place in the world today. Diamond uses the Spanish conquistadors' conquering of the Americas as a case study for his theory. He argues that the Europeans took advantage of their environment to build large and complex states complete with advanced technology and weapons.

The Incans and other native groups were not as blessed, suffering from a north—south orientation that prevented the flow of goods and knowledge across the continent. The Americas also lacked the animals, metals, and complex writing systems of Eurasia which prevented them from achieving the military or biological protections needed to fight off the European threat.

In his book States and Power in Africa , political scientist Jeffrey Herbst argues that environmental conditions help explain why, in contrast to other parts of the world such as Europe, many pre-colonial societies in Africa did not develop into dense, settled, hierarchical societies with strong state control that competed with neighboring states for people and territory.

Herbst argues that the European state-building experience was highly idiosyncratic because it occurred under systemic geographic pressures that favored wars of conquest — namely, passable terrain , land scarcity , and high-population densities.

European states consequently developed strong institutions and capital-periphery linkages. By contrast, geographic and climatic factors in pre-colonial Africa made establishing absolute control over particular pieces of land prohibitively costly.

Some early African empires, like the Ashanti Empire , successfully projected power over large distances by building roads. The largest pre-colonial polities arose in the Sudanian Savanna belt of West Africa because the horses and camels could transport armies over the terrain. In other areas, no centralized political organizations existed above the village level.

African states did not develop more responsive institutions under colonial rule or post-independence. Speaking at a U. People in developing nations, particularly those in the tropics, are facing challenges of providing food, water and economic opportunity for burgeoning populations. In addition, climate change will exacerbate environmental threats from drought, flooding, heatwaves, agricultural pests and human disease in many of these countries. In such a world, we desperately need the right paradigms and strategies for economic development.

In this we face two types of error. On the other hand, to assume that simply providing economic tutelage and some start-up capital here and there will be sufficient in countries which faces real geographic and environmental challenges can be equally ineffective. What about the planet? It is not just people who pay the price if we cannot get the development balance right. A paper in Science , led by geographer Bill Adams from Oxford, illustrated the critical linkages between alleviating poverty in the developing world and improving biodiversity conservation there.

In Mali, where I have worked, supplying charcoal for domestic use in urban areas such as Bamako leads not only to increased rates of deforestation and associated biodiversity threats, but also contributes to greater greenhouse gas emissions then use of LPG or electricity which are economically unattainable for most people. When economic resources are in short supply, it is difficult to impossible for national environmental conservation efforts to be developed and implemented.

At the same time, it does not seem right for international groups to focus funding on endangered species or other environmental concerns alone and ignore the plight of the people in those nations. People and planet must, and can, be considered in unison. In reading the writings of Diamond, Sachs, Acemoglu, Robinson and others involved in this debate, it is clear that they recognize the balance between the importance of geography versus institutions is not immutable, but can change over space and through time.

It seems to me there is much work for geographers from every corner of our discipline to engage with this. Fundamental questions of economic geography, political geography, development geography and political ecology are clearly in play here. Our experience and insights, both in terms of on the ground work and theory, are of obvious value. In addition, the arguments that are posited in some economics articles from both sides of the debate clearly are naive in terms of climate, hydrology, soils, vegetation, crops, etc.

German as well as French geography provides geese and frogs. Image from The World Until Yesterday. Today, no scholar would be silly enough to deny that culture, history, and individual choices play a big role in many human phenomena. Several reasons may underlie this widespread but nonsensical view.

One reason is that some geographic explanations advanced a century ago were racist, thereby causing all geographic explanations to become tainted by racist associations in the minds of many scholars other than geographers. But many genetic, historical, psychological, and anthropological explanations advanced a century ago were also racist, yet the validity of newer non-racist genetic etc. A third reason is that geographic explanations usually depend on detailed technical facts of geography and other fields of scholarship: A Hadza woman foraging while carrying her grandchild.

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Febri Priyoyudanto Africa: The Importance of Geographic Determinism Yogyakarta-Indonesia The Importance of Geographic Determinism Throughout the study of geography, there have been a number of different approaches to explaining the development of the world's societies and cultures.

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Environmental determinism has been widely criticized as a tool to legitimize colonialism, racism, and imperialism in Africa, North America, South America, and Asia. Environmental determinism enabled geographers to scientifically justify the supremacy of white European races and the naturalness of imperialism.

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Moreover, the Mediterranean region was magnificently well stocked with cereals that lend themselves to domestication. Of the world's 56 species of large seeded grasses, 32 are found wild in the Mediterranean area. By contrast, North America and sub-Saharan Africa boast only four each; East Asia has six. Geographic Determinism Jared Diamond wrote a book called Guns, Germs, and Steel, in which he describes the effects of Geography on civilizations. These Geographic factors and features determine how successful or unsuccessful a country or region is .

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Environmental determinism (also known as climatic determinism or geographical determinism) is the study of how the physical environment predisposes societies and states towards particular development trajectories. May 01,  · Although environmental determinism is a fairly recent approach to formal geographic study, its origins go back to ancient times. Climatic factors for example were used by Strabo, Plato, and Aristotle to explain why the Greeks were so much more developed in the early ages than societies in hotter and colder climates.