Environment and the Roots of Globalization
Monday, October. 22nd, 2012
1. Give a basic definition of environmental determinism. What is Ludwig von Mises' take
on the concept?
a) Environmental determinism: physical environment determines, and can even set limits to the
fate of humans. One fundamental argument of ED is based around physical geography. For
example: tropical (warmer) climates manifest laziness & relaxed attitudes. On the other hand,
variable (more harsh) climates promote determined and driven work ethics.
b) Ludwig Von Mises’ definition of environmentalism is: the doctrine that explains historical
changes as produced by the environment in which peoples are living He believes that this
concept revolves around 2 categories: physical/geographical & social/cultural.
o People’s civilization are brought about by geographical factors
Flora/fauna determine thoughts/actions
Believes that anthropogeograpical studiers will trade differences between race, nations
and civilizations back to man’s natural environment
o Believes that geographical environment is the:
Only factor by which man is placed on Earth
Provides a “stimulus” but not a response
Sets a task, but has man to solve it
o Humans will act different, in different parts of the world due to geography
o Geographical differences in civilization: fur used in North, wood used by the Dutch.
o Stresses the fact that there is continuity in human civilization
Rising civilization is placed in a social and cultural background that the generation before
Man lives in a circumscribed spot, but is not determined by it.
2. What is Ricardo Hausmann's argument as to how the fact that a country is 'landlocked'
affects its growth prospects? How does he account for the plight of tropical agriculture?
Ricardo states that, because of geography, landlocked nations do not have access to markets &
new technologies, and this in turn hinders their ability to prosper. The idea of countries located
between 0 and 20 degrees are poor is offensive and implies racism. This stereotype does not
allow for and equal opportunity to prosper. 3. What is Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin's take on the various environmental determinist
explanations that have been used to explain Africa's current social and economic plight?
- African poverty decline has taken place, in countries that were slighted as well as in those
that were favoured by geography and history.
- African poverty reduction cannot be explained by a large country, or even by a single set
of countries possessing some beneficial geographical or historical characteristic.
- All classes of countries, including those with disadvantageous geography and history,
experience reductions in poverty.
- Poor geography and history have not posed insurmountable obstacles to poverty
- Even the most blighted parts of the poorest continent can set themselves firmly on the
trend of limiting and even eradicating poverty within the space of a decade.
4. What is Diamond's take on traditional 'environmental determinist' arguments?
1. Racial or genetic superiority, no objective evidence
2. Cold climate stimulates inventiveness
• But Europeans inherited
• Metallurgy from warm peoples
3. Lowland river valleys in dry climates depended on irrigation and centralized bureaucracies
• Nile river valley
• Tigris & Euphrates Valley
• Yellow & Yangtza Valleys
• But irrigation systems followed, not accompanied bureaucracies
4. Guns, infectious diseases, steel tools manufactured goods
5. What is the megafauna 'overkill' hypothesis? What are the main
arguments in its favour?
megafauna = large animals such as elephants, mammoths, rhinoceros and diprotodon
The megafauna ‘overkill’ hypothesis is thought that at the end of the last age, conditions became
increasing warmer. This warm weather caused the megafauna to be replaced by more weather
adapted animals, such as elk, deer and pigs.
The main arguments in favour are temperate climate made way for more adapted animals. In
Australia, most animals lost their habitat and water supply, causing them to retreat to a narrow
band in eastern Australia where there was permanent water and better vegetation. 6. What are the main arguments against the megafauna overkill
hypothesis? What are the alternative explanations for the
disappearance of megafauna outside of Africa? What is Diamond's
position in this debate?
The main arguments against are... on pg.42
- Defenders of the overkill hypothesis reply: you would hardly expect to find kill sites if the
extermination was completed very quickly and long ago, such as within few millennia some
40,000 years ago.
- The MAIN ARGUMENT AGAINST (the critics respond with a counter theory): Perhaps the
giants succumbed instead to a change in climate, such as severe drought on the already
chronically dry Australian continent
Alternative explanations for the disappearance results in the megafauna being hunted to
extinction by early hunter-gatherers.
Diamond’s position is that the megafauna extinction is due to the arrival of early humans, either
by elimination or by non-direct means.
Please refer to: info in case something is missing or you want to check.
Pg. 42 in the textbook, you can also check out 43-44, 46-47, 162, 175, 213 and 355
7. Describe concisely the range of Polynesian environmental conditions.
Describe concisely the types of societies that resulted from these conditions.
What does this prove according to Diamond?
Polynesian environmental conditions
The climate in Polynesia varies from warm tropical on most islands , which lie near the equator,
to temperate on most of New Zealand, and cold subantarctic on the Chathams. Island geology
also varied drastically as it included coral atolls, raised limestone, volcanic islands, pieces of
continents and in some cases a mixture of those types. The elevation of various islands
contributed to the amount of rainfall which they received, ultimately resulted in streams and
weathered soil. High elevation mountain areas generated rain, so the islands where heavily
weathered and had an abundance of streams. Lower elevation islands such as Easter Island also
had rich soils because of volcanic ashfalls, but they lacked streams and water systems. Lastly, the
area and distribution of islands varied from 100 acres to 103,000 square miles. Most polynesian
islands were in more or less regular contact because of proximity. Although some islands such as
Easter and the Chathams are small and so remote from other islands that once initially colonized,
the societies developed in complete isolation from the rest of the world.
Types of societies that resulted from these conditions
Polynesia's varying environments have influenced the development of its societies. Climate
affected the ability to produce food and ultimately was a deciding factor as to which societies prospered. Warmer islands close to the equator catered perfect conditions for growing tropical
fruit. The agricultural societies that developed as a result had higher population densities and
were able to develop