Environment or Environmentalism in Geography has always been an important theme in geography and geography has been increasingly defined as a study of Man 👨 Environment 🌿🌳 relationship.
The conventional and the classical approach to environmental issues has been studying environment as follows.
- Environmental determinism - As an important determinant of human behavior.
- Possibilism - Man as an agent of free will operating on the environmental
As an offshoot of welfare geography, environmentalism is an altogether a different approach. This branch of geography is trying to deal with issues related to environment problems such as misuse and overuse of resources and addressing pollution. Environmentalism as a movement was essentially to attract the attention of thinkers and politicians to environmental issues in development planning. In the 1970s as a part of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) initiative, a commission was set up by the government in Environmental education, and it sponsored a task force to work for the environmental quality.
There have been two types of approaches in dealing with environmental issues.
- The Traditional approach.
- The Proactive approach.
The Traditional approach.
The traditional approach which is also the conservative approach which believed in describing the problem due to man's activities. This approach tried to shock and all the impact of adverse consequences and the solution it offered was radical environmentalism. To this belongs the Malthusian theory. Paul R. Ehrlich's population bomb and thinkers like Barry Commoner predicted a near certain collapse of the planet.
The Proactive approach.
The more proactive approach was with those about environmental management with the emphasis on dealing with environmental problems and environmental hazards. This approach was popularized by Jordan who said "Don't just blame lets manage".
The proactive approach in Environmentalism was of two kinds.
- Techno-centric / Neo Classical approach 💱 & 👨💻
- The Eco-centric Approach / Neo- Environmentalism 🌿🌳 ⚖️ 🏗️
Techno-centric / Neo-Classical approach 💱 & 👨💻
It believed in market 💱 based solutions and technological 👨💻 innovations. It had faith in human creativity to solve all problems.
The Eco-centric Approach / Neo- Environmentalism 🌿🌳 ⚖️ 🏗️
The eco-centric approach is also called as Neo-Environmentalism. This was the pragmatic balance ⚖️ between extreme environmental ♻️ 🌿🌳 consciousness and developmental 🏗️ compulsions.
This approach is about limiting the impacts on the environment while accommodating the need to develop. It includes the concept of Gaianism from the works of James Love-lock who believe that the earth is Goddess GAIA (Greek goddess of the Earth)👸 is well integrated and capable of stabilizing on its own and man's activity should not be disrupting the GAIA. Therefore, the disruptions should not cross the environmental boundaries of stability. This is the modern concept of Neo Environmentalism under sustainable development.
Environmental determinism of Ratzel and his influences.
Paradigm phase - Environmental Determinism
Ratzel's geography is considered to be a Paradigm phase in geography. He was influenced by Darwin and Earnest Haeckel. Through his two books 'Anthropogeographie' volumes 1 and 2, talked about man and environment relation in human geography.
Anthropogeograpie volume 1 was extensively written on how physical features of earth influence human culture. Hence environmental determinism.
Political geography - Lebensraum
Ratzel's idea of determinism also includes political geography where he believed every Kingdom and state are like organisms destined to grow and expand because of the need to increase the living space - Lebensraum. It is therefore the destiny of the state to grow are else it will die. Ratzel is known to have influenced Karl Haushofer who was the political advisor of Hitler.
Influence on American ED
Ratzel heavily influenced the environmental determinism of America under Ellen Semple and Elsworth Huntington. Both are considered radical environmental determinists.
Ellen Semple was influenced by Ratzels 'Anthropogeographie' volume 1 because in volume 2 Ratzel discusses how man and his culture influencers nature.
There are many geographers who disapproved of categorizing Ratzel as an extreme radical determinist. Because the fact is even Vidal in his possibilism acknowledges having been influenced by Ratzel s volume 2 book 📚.
Ellen Semple wrote 2 books 📚
- American history and its geographical condition - 1903
- Influences of geographical climate - 1911
- The pulse of Asia - 1907
- Civilization and Climate - 1915
The pulse of Asia - 1907
In this book, Huntington discusses the violent military history of Mongols and their reputation as invaders was because of the drying up of central Asian grasslands that forced the Mongol tribesmen to venture out.
Civilization and Climate - 1915
In this book, Huntington discusses how stimulating climate of temperate latitude was responsible for better civilizational growth and development.
Freidrich Ratzel - Cultural landscape
Possibilism is a School of geography that believes that man is not mechanically controlled by the environment. The more deciding aspects in man environment relationship are the culture or the ways of life or 'Genre de Vie' which means ways of life/culture. This idea was first given by Ratzel in his book 'Anthropogeographie' - volume 2 where Ratzel discusses Cultural landscape which is the product of man having imprints on nature.
Vidal de la Blanche
But as a school of thought, possibilism was developed by Vidal de la Blanche in his book principles of human geography in 1921. Vidal is known to have acknowledged Ratzel and defined geography as the study of man-environment relationship where nature sets limits and offers possibilities that man chooses on the basis of the culture that he inherits.
Vidal's possibilism is not considered radical possibilism because for Vidal, the larger limits are set by nature and options exercized by man are only within those limits.
Vidal's ideas influenced the possibilism of America where scholars like Barrows, Carl Sauer, and Whittlesey were influenced by possibilism.
Barrow's human ecology is about how Mans culture and society and social ecology is the deciding factor in the adaptation of man with nature.
Whittlesey - sequent occupation
Whittlesey's sequent occupation is about how the environment gets reevaluated every time a new culture occupies and operates on it and the environment acquires imprints on such culture much like how Ratzel referred to the cultural landscaping as 'Palimpsest' of the historical-cultural changes.
The compromise between extreme determinism and possibilism - Stop and go determinism of Griffith Taylor
New determinism - Ratzel
New-Determinism is the environmental determinism of Ratzel. It was new because he brought in the concept of Darwinian evolution into environmental determinism. It is not the same as Neo-Determinism.
Griffith Tailor - A Compromise.
Griffith Tailor's ideas were based on a pragmatic wise compromise between extreme radical determinism and extreme Possiblism. Possiblism however was never radical because even Vidal acknowledged that the limits are set by nature and man ultimately chooses from possibilities offered by nature.
Stop and go determinism
According to Taylor man is not at the mercy of nature but at the same time man cannot wish away nature or ignore the limits of nature. Man is like a traffic light policeman who can momentarily pause the traffic and redirect traffic but cannot stop the traffic for eternity nor can make it disappear. Because of the analogy of traffic light, Taylor's idea is called the stop and go determinism.
He also said the man doesn't take fertilizers to a barren land. ie even in the choices that man exercises, nature continues to be an important determinant. His ideas are also called pragmatic determinism. Because according to Tyler there is a price for every decision that man makes.
Neo-environmentalism and sustainable development
Nature extracts a price for every interaction that man has with it. So it is wise that man does not defy the larger nature's plan and modify nature only to the extent where the price extracted is bearable. This idea became one of the basis for Neo-environmentalism and its latest form of sustainable development.
Previous years question paper.
- 1991: Explain the major contribution by Arab geographers of the early medieval period in the development of geographic thought.
- 1992: Give a comparative assessment of the works of Humboldt and Ritter leading to the foundation of modern geographical thought.
- 1994: Examine critically the concepts of 'determinism; and possibilism. Bring out the significance of the regional concept.
- 1997: Critically examine the concept of dualism with special reference to physical versus human geography.
- 2013: "Ellen Churchill Semple is an ardent supporter of Determinism."
- 2015: "There is a rejuvenation of environmentalism as a paradigm in geographical studies." Comment.
- 2016: Discuss the relevance of 'Stop and Go Determinism' in the present day context