Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I did a search online last night for Ellsworth Huntington and learned that I should be able to borrow most of his books through interlibrary loan. Most of them are held in university collections (I should have figured) and quite a few of those are in offsite annexes. BUT, they are still available! I was a bit disturbed to see that he had written a book on eugenics. Yikes! Aside from that little tidbit, he seemed to have been a very well-respected Yale scientist.

Somewhere in my search last night I came across a brief bio of Huntington that someone had posted. It was very bare bones, hardly informative, and at the bottom summed up his work in one sentence that basically said he preached environmental determinism, which has subsequently been totally disproven. Bah!

Jared Diamond, I remember, in Guns, Germs, and Steel seemed very worried that he would be accused of environmental determinism. I think he really has continued the work of Huntington, and yeah, maybe you could label it all determinism, but I tend to think of it as potentialities and propensities held in climate and locale. To me, it feels like there’s truth hidden here. When school starts again I will start to borrow these books and have a look myself.

If you take a cactus and put it in a pot with a well-drained sandy mix, give it lots of sun and not a lot of water, that cactus will express itself quite differently than if you put it in a rich potting mix, set it in the shade, misted it and watered it frequently. Is that determinism? I guess so.

A prickly pear growing on rangeland behind Snyder here is an expression of this place. It obviously cannot express itself in the misty, shady hills of Pennsylvania.

Is it too far of a stretch then to say that humans express themselves differently in different locales and climates? And that we thrive better into certain locales than in others?

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