What is environmental determinism and possibilism? Possibilism is the belief that anything is possible. Meaning given whatever environmental conditions we are able to overcome them through knowledge, skills, technology and money. Environmental Determinism is when the conditions in the environment tell us what we are capable of doing. What is possiblism?

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Email Environmental possibilism and determinism are theories, put forth in order to comprehend and understand the role played by the physical environmental conditions in the emergence and progress of any human culture or society in a particular location.

ScienceStruck explores and lists out the differences between these two concepts. Studies related to this field attempt to establish the human or natural factors underlying the environmental changes occurring at that site.

It also tries to understand the sociocultural evolution of humans based on the stimuli provided by their physical living conditions. Till , philosophers believed that human civilizations form and proliferate in certain parts of the world due to the direct influence of the natural physical environment found in those places.

They put forth these beliefs in the form of theories which claimed that the environment had deterministic effects on the nature of human society and culture. The natural environment posed as a limiting factor for the development and progress of people inhabiting the particular area environmental determinism.

This provided a logical reasoning for diversity that was observed among the various civilizations and settlements of humans across the globe.

These theories reinforced the idea that human-environment interactions were solely driven by the physical conditions, and that they were unidirectional. However, as time elapsed, scholars and scientists began to question the validity of these theories, as they did not account for the impact of humans on the environment. They also did not take into account the essential factor of human ingenuity and advancement in technology.

Due to the availability of advanced technology, humans could have a larger impact on the environment and easily adapt themselves, if not overcome, to the physical conditions.

This contradicted the previous claim of the deterministic nature of the environment and in its stead proposed that while the environment did pose a few limiting factors to the prosperity of the inhabiting people, the people or society was also capable of having an impact on the surrounding and molding it as per their needs environmental possibilism. After , both these sets of theories were revised and improved upon, as they proved inadequate to explain all the aspects related to human-environment interactions.

A comprehensive comparison of these two concepts is given below. Environmental Possibilism Vs. Environmental Determinism Environmental Possibilism.


What Is Environmental Determinism?

Environmental determinism is a theory put forth in the 19th century, that proposes that the geographical and physical attributes of an environment shape the development of the indigenous human societies. Learn more about this concept through this ScienceStruck post. The first-ever mention of this concept dates back to the 5th century medical treatise ascribed to Hippocrates. During the time of the Roman empire, the Greek geographer asserted that climate influenced the psychological disposition of the race of people inhabiting that area. In , the Arab sociologist and polymath, Ibn Khaldun also adhered to this concept and proposed that the differences between different people, whether nomadic or sedentary, including their customs and institutions were a direct result of their physical environment-habitat, climate, soil, food.


Environmental determinism

Main article: Guns, Germs, and Steel In the Pulitzer Prize winning Guns, Germs, and Steel , author Jared Diamond points to geography as the answer to why certain states were able to grow and develop faster and stronger than others. His theory cited the natural environment and raw materials a civilization was blessed with as factors for success, instead of popular century old claims of racial and cultural superiority. Diamond says that these natural endowments began with the dawn of man, and favored Eurasian civilizations due to their location along similar latitudes, suitable farming climate, and early animal domestication. Crops such as wheat and barley were simple to grow and easy to harvest, and regions suitable for their cultivation saw high population densities and the growth of early cities.


Possibilism (geography)

Neo-determinism Determinism Philosophy of Determinism is based upon the interaction between primitive human society and strong forces of nature. This is an older philosophy which persisted till World War II. It says that the strong forces of environment control the course of human action. This implies that the history, culture, mode of life, and the level of development of the societal groups and countries are exclusively or largely controlled by the physical environment. According to Determinism, man is a passive agent, and nature is active agent, which controls and determines the action and decision-making processes of man. As per determinism, the human actions can be explained as a response to the natural environment. Environmental determinism This philosophy says that aspects of physical geography, particularly climate, influenced the psychological mind-set of individuals, which in turn defined the behaviour and culture of the society that those individuals formed.

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