AP Human Geography – Unit 1 – Section 6

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To what extent does the physical environment shape human actions.
To consider; the work of human geography is to determine the relationships among physical and social phenomena in a particular area that is studied.
Then everything in the landscape is related.
The Founders of Western Geography
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and Carl Ritter (1779-1859):German geographers
Responsible for the “where” and “why” approach to geographic study
argued that geography should move beyond describing earth;s surface to explaning why certain phenomena were present or absent
urged Human eographers to adopt scienctific inquiry used by natural scientists
Applying the scientific method
Von Humboldt and ritter concentrated on how the physical environment cause for socail development
Environmental Determinism
This is the belief that the physical environment determies social development. It is the idea that human behavior, individually and collectively, is strong affected by, even controlled or determined by, the environment.
The ideal climate: Western Europe, or the Notheastern United States. The term was coined by Ellsworth Huntington (1876-1947).
What is cultural ecology? It’s the study of human cultures and their ability to adapt and exist within a particular physical environment.
*The environment can have both positive and negative affects on people*
The Debate
Are such sweeping generalizations, as those asserted by environmental determinists, valid? Isn’t humanity capable of much more than merely adapting to the natural environment? What about highly developed civilations outside of Western Europe.
Examples: Northern Africa, East Asia
Possibilism
It was a reaction to environmental deteriminism. This is the belief that the natural environment merely serves to limit the range of choices available to a culture.
The choices that a society make depend on its members requirements and the technology available to them. Possibilism advances the idea that the environment may limit some human actions, but people have the ability to adjust to their surroundings.
The influence of the natural environment declines with increasing technological sophistication. Humans can transform their surroundings and have the capacity to modify their natural environments.
The Regional Approach of Geographic Study
Paul Vital de la Blache (1845-1918) and Gene Brunhes (1869-1930) French. They rejected the idea that physical factors simply determined human actions. They argued that each place has its own distinctive landscape that results from a unique combination of social relationships and physical processes. they also argued that geographers should examine the social and physical processes of each place or location studied.
Points to consider
Changing weather, heat and cold waves, influence the activites of significant numbers of people, even when they spend most of their time indoors in controlled environments. many people agree that the natural environment affects human activity but people are the decision makers and the modifiers, not the slaves of environmental forces. The decisions that people make about their environments are influenced by culture. We cannot escape the environmental context in which we are situated.
And don’t forget
Any explanation of human environment relations that does not give credence to the power of cultural ideas and practices embarks on a simplistic path. Perhaps even being wrong.
What is the position of contempory geographers?
They reject the extreme position of environmental determinalists. They have modified the regional studies approach.
Affected:
Environmental determinalism
Possibilism
Regional approach
Regional approach dealing with culuture