Environmental Determinism is the idea that the environment shapes its inhabitants, and will —or will not— provide for them to accomplish their goals. While Possibilism is the idea that mankind —for this example it will be routinely mankind and not another species—can accomplish their goal s because it is possible or could become possible with assistance, such as training, tools, equipment, specialized environmental gear, etc. These two ideas can be almost as conflict-ridden as Creationism and Evolution, with both sides of the fight drawing lines in the sand and rallying behind them. Stop Using Plagiarized Content. Get Essay Hopefully the reader of this essay will find that Environmental determinism and Possibilism may have different theories, but are not so different when considered towards a problems beginning and ultimately its end.

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In the history of geographical concepts, there have been various approaches and schools of thought of study man-nature interaction.

Their major initial source for explanations was the physical environment, and that theoretical position was established around the belief that the nature of human activity was controlled by the parameters of the physical world within which it was set. Determinism is one of the most important philosophies which persisted up to the Second World War in one shape or the other.

The point of view is that the physical environment controls the course of human action. In other words, the belief that variation in human behaviour around the world can be explained by the differences in the natural environment.

The essence of the deterministic school of thought is that the history, culture, living style and stage of development of a social group or nation are exclusively or largely governed by the physical factors of environment.

The determinists generally consider man a passive agent on which the physical factors are constantly acting and thus determining his attitude and process of decision making. In brief, determinists believe that most human activity can be explained as a response to the natural environment. The first attempt to explain the physical features and character traits of various peoples and their culture with reference to the influence of natural conditions was made by the Greek and Roman scholars.

In the Greco-Roman period, regional studies were closely bound up with the study of history. Strabo referred to similar phenomena when explaining the mighty and greatness of Rome.

Aristotle, for example, explained the differences between Northern Europeans and Asians in terms of climatic causes. He argued that the colder climates of Europe produced brave but unintelligent people who were able to maintain their independence but who did not have the capacity to rule others.

Aristotle thought that the people inhabiting the warm climates of Asia were intelligent but lacking in spirit and therefore subject to slavery. Because humans often judge their own home as the best place, it is not surprising that Aristotle believed that the middle place, combing the best of all possible worlds, was Greece Glacken, The Greek scholars have referred to the easy-going ways of Asiatics living in favourable environmental conditions, while the penurious Europeans had to work hard for a little amelioration of their poor environment.

They contrast the tall, gentle, brave folk of the most windy mountains with the lean, sinewy blonde inhabitants of dry lowlands. Aristotle emphatically attributed the progress of certain nations to their favourable environmental conditions. Montesquieu pointed out that the people in cold climates are stronger physically, more courageous, frank, less suspicious and less cunning than those in the warm climates.

The people of warm climates are timorous, weak in body, indolent and passive. Geographical determinism continued to dominate the writings of the Arab geographers. They divided the habitable world into seven kisbwars, or terrestial zones climate and highlighted the physical and cultural characteristics of races and nations of these zones.

Al-Masudi, for example, asserted that in the land like Sham Syria where water is abundant, the people are gay and humorous, while the people of dry and arid lands are short-tempered. The nomads who live in the open air are marked by strength and resolution, wisdom and physical fitness. George Tathan—a leading historian of the 18th century—also explained the differences between peoples with reference to the differences between the lands in which they lived.

Kant was also a determinist, who stated that the people of New-Holland East Indies have half-closed eyes and cannot see to any distance without bending their heads back until they touch their backs.

This is due to the innumerable flies which are always flying in their eyes. Kant further stressed the point that all the inhabitants of hot lands are exceptionally lazy and timid. Timidity engenders superstition and in lands ruled by kings it leads to slavery. In support of his hypothesis of the influence of climate, he stated that animals and men which migrate to other countries gradually get affected by their environment. For example, the brown squirrels which migrate to Siberia turn grey and the colour of white cows in winters turns greyish.

Carl Ritter—the leading German geographer— adopted an anthropocentric approach and introduced geographical determinism in the early 19th century. Ritter attempted to establish the cause variations in the physical constitution of body, physique and health of men living in different physical environmental conditions. He stated that the narrow eyelids of Turkoman people were an obvious effect of the desert upon the human organism. Many geographers of his school declared that their main task was to identify the influence exerted by geographical conditions on material culture and the political destinies of the inhabitants of a given region, both in the past and present.

The origin of the scientific determinism lie in the work of Charles Darwin, whose seminal book Origin of Species influenced many geographers. The concern was with documenting the control or influence of environment upon human society. He cited the example of British Isles and Japan and asserted that both these countries have insular locations, which provide natural defence against the invaders.

Consequently, the people of these countries have been making rapid progress. He was convinced that the course of history, the mode of life of a people and the stage of its development are closely influenced by the physical features and location of a place in relation to mountains and plains.

In his deterministic approach, he gave more weight to location in relation to topographic features. Historical Perspective of Scientific Determinism: The theological school of thought advocated the idea of a designed earth: one especially fitted for the human species. The deterministic school of thought is that of environmental influence on culture.

This drives initially from the contrast between nature and custom in different places and came to be used in interpreting the great array of human cultural and biological differences. Thomas Malthus who was a scientific determinist , emphasized not only the influence of different environments but also the limitations which the earth imposed on social development. The father of this generation of offspring seems to have been Carl Ritter whose theme was that the physical environment was capable of determining the course of human development.

The names of Friedrich Ratzel and Ellen Churchill Semple are associated with the most outspoken expression of the idea of environmental determinism. This approach was slightly modified by Ellsworth Huntington and Griffith Taylor. Huntington tried to seek out objective evidence of the effect of physical environment, and in particular climate which he regarded as an important influence on human behaviour. Taylor was even more careful to gather accurate data about environment and to relate these to his idea of human habitability, especially in Australia.

He tended to play down socio-economic factor. He believed that environment sets the limit of human development. Environmental Determinism: As stated earlier, the origin of environmental determinism lies in the work of Charles Darwin, whose seminal book Origin of Species influenced many scientists. The belief that variations in human behaviour around the world can be explained by differences in the natural environment is known as environmental determinism.

Davis in his cycle of erosion model of landform development , Ellen Churchill Semple and Ellsworth Huntington. Semple was the direct descendant of Ratzel. She preached the philosophy of her master and thus was a staunch supporter of determinism.

Her books Americal History and its Geographic Conditions and Influences of Geographic Environment , established environmentalism in America in the early decades of the 20th century. This means not merely that he is a child of the earth, dust of her dust, but the earth has mothered hin, set him task, directed his thought, confronted him with difficulties, that have strengthened his body and sharpened his wits, gave him his problems of navigation or irrigation and at the same time whispered hints for their solution.

She has entered into his bones and tissues, into his mind and soul. On the mountain she has given him leg muscles of iron to climb the slope, along the coast she has left these weak and flabby, but given him instead vigorous development of chest and arm to handle his paddle or oar. In river valley, she attaches him to fertile soil… Simple, in her book, distinguishes the attitudinal characteristics of the people living in different physical settings and points out that the dwellers of mountains are essentially conservative.

There is little in their environment to stimulate them to change and little reaches them from the outside world. Hence, innovation is repugnant to them. As a matter of fact, the process of diffusion of new ideas and innovations in the hilly tracts of isolation and relative isolation is slow as compared to the well-connected plains of the world. This relative isolation of the hill dwellers leads to orthodoxy, conservativism and suspicious attitude towards strangers.

They are extremely sensitive to their traditions and do not like criticism. They have strong religious feelings and an intense love for family. The bitter struggle for existence makes the hill men industrious, frugal, provident and honest. Contrary to this, the people of plain parts of Europe are energetic, serious, thoughtful rather than emotional, and cautious rather than impulsive.

The people of the Mediterranean region where the climate is temperate and mild are gay, humorous, sporting and imaginative as life is easy. Elseworth Huntington—the American geographer—who wrote the monumental book, The Principles of Human Geography in , was a protagonist of environmental determinism. He, however, constantly reiterated the importance of genetic constitution and threw his weight behind various genetic enterprises Spate, He took the most decisive step since the time of Hippocrates towards something new and conclusive in environmental causation thinking.

He advanced theories relating to course of civilization to climatic change. Huntington divided the world in the mild and harsh climatic zones and established that the ancient civilizations Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Chinese, Indus flourished in the fertile river valleys of mild climates. He also established the hypothesis of invasion and tribal warfare. According to Huntington, religion and racial character are the products of climate. Such a climatic condition is found in the North-East U. The underdevelopment of the tropics, he explains, is owing to the humid, hot, oppressive weather which makes the people lethargic, lazy, inefficient, suspicious and timid.

Huntington thus believed that out of all the factors of natural environment, climate was the fundamental factor in the rise of civilization He concluded that his homeland, which was the north-eastern part of U. Environmental determinism is regarded by many people as overly simplistic because it neglects the cultural factors that affect human behaviour. Two societies that inhabit areas having similar climates and landforms may be very dissimilar.

Many scholars made it vividly clear that climate influenced physical properties of the soil which ultimately determined the cropping patterns, on which depend the dietary habits, physique and attitudes of the inhabitants. Mac Carrison demonstrated conclusively that the greater stature, strong constitution and superior physical resistance of the Sikhs of Northern India as compared to those of the Tamils of South India are a direct result of the superior Sikh diet, particularly its greater richness in protein.

The Khasis of the plateau of Meghalaya have in general a poor physique because the protein intake in their diet is significantly low and the humid weather throughout the year creates breathing problems to the inhabitants of this plateau. The Kikuyus are farmers living on a diet of cereals, tubers and legumes; and the Mesais on the other hand, are cattle raisers, whose diet includes meat, milk and ox-blood, which they take from the animals.

These two human groups living side by side in the same environment differ profoundly in their physical measurements. This difference is the direct result of their fundamentally different diets. Similarly, there is no doubt that the low stature and poor physique of most of the tribals, the rural masses and the slum-dwellers of India are the result of starvation, undernourishment and malnutrition.

The poor physique of the Somalians, Nepalis, Bangladesis and Vietnamese may also be explained against the background of their poor diet and undernourishment. How closely soil and vegetation influence the health and stature of peoples and animals has been explained by Karl Mackey.

Traditionally, it used to be thought that these Shetland ponies constituted a separate race of horses, stabilized by inbreeding—until some businessmen decided to supply the American market by raising these ponies in U. The fact is, there are no separate races of ponies. Even after hundreds of generations when the ponies were taken to areas with richer soil they regained the characteristics of their ancestors.

A similar example can be found among the Chinese and the Japanese who migrated to Europe and America. Their weight and height increased after a period of time. The Pygmies also lose their characteristics when transplanted to plain regions where agriculture and cattle-raising provide much more varied food.


What Is Environmental Determinism?

Neo-determinism Determinism Philosophy of Determinism is based upon the interaction between primitive human society and strong forces of nature. This is an older philosophy which persisted till World War II. It says that the strong forces of environment control the course of human action. This implies that the history, culture, mode of life, and the level of development of the societal groups and countries are exclusively or largely controlled by the physical environment.


Environmental Determinism and Possibilism

Email Environmental possibilism and determinism are theories, put forth in order to comprehend and understand the role played by the physical environmental conditions in the emergence and progress of any human culture or society in a particular location. ScienceStruck explores and lists out the differences between these two concepts. Studies related to this field attempt to establish the human or natural factors underlying the environmental changes occurring at that site. It also tries to understand the sociocultural evolution of humans based on the stimuli provided by their physical living conditions. Till , philosophers believed that human civilizations form and proliferate in certain parts of the world due to the direct influence of the natural physical environment found in those places.

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