Concept Note Environmental Determinism Essay

731 words - 3 pages

Environmental Determinism – A Concept Note

Environmental determinism was described by Semple (1911, p.620) as ‘the influence of climate upon race temperament’. It formed a notion that sparked debate in the 19th and 20th century, as to whether human society and activities are controlled by the physical environment in which they take place (Goodwin et al 2005).

Scientific thinkers of the 19th century, Larmarck and Darwin looked at the environmental impacts on organisms’ biology and their subsequent behavior. In Lamarck's (1914 ed.) theory, he outlines how an organisms’ shape and organisation is caused by environmentally induced habits – ‘the giraffe actively stretched its neck ...view middle of the document...

As Geography moved into the 20th century the notion started to be seen as generalised and largely racist, Peet (1985, p.327) goes on to suggest that it fails “to realize the profound differences between human beings and the rest of nature”. Its development indeed comes from the biological work by Darwin and Larmarck and little separation during this early stage was made between humans and other animals. Karl Marx (1845) outlined however “men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness… They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence”. This means of subsistence is seen in the form of human labour, whereby Marx outlined how humans can shape and effect the environment, ‘’Labour is, first of all, a process by which man, through his own actions, mediates, regulates and controls the metabolism between him and nature’’ (Marx 1976, p.283).
Further criticism came from Carl Saucer, Peet (1985, p.327-328) nicely summarised some of her thoughts on environmental determinism, “Nature merely provided the materials that set the limits within which lay many possible choices”. This notion makes up the backbone for what is known as Possibilism, a contrasting idea to determinism and one that could be seen as more accurate.
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