Influences of Geographic Environment on the
Basis of Ratzel's System of Anthropo-geography

Ellen Churchill Semple, (Henry Holt and Company: New York, 1911) pg.619-622.

Climatic contrasts aid differentiation also by influencing both natural and artificial selection in the distribution of peoples. This effect is conspicuous in the distribution of immigrants in all colonial lands like Africa, South America, and in every part of the United States. The warm, moist air of the Gulf and South Atlantic States is attracting back to the congenial habitat of the "black belt" the negroes of the North, where, moreover, their numbers are being further depleted by a harsh climate, which finds in them a large proportion of the unfit. The presence of a big negro laboring class in the South, itself primarily a result of climate, has long served to exclude foreign immigration, which sought therefore the unoccupied lands and the congenial climate of the more bracing North. Hence it is both a direct and indirect effect of climate that the North shows a large proportion of aliens, and the white population of the South an almost unadulterated English stock.

The influence of climate upon race temperament, both as a direct and indirect effect, can not be doubted, despite an occasional exception, like the cheery, genial Eskimos, who seem to carry in their sunny natures an antidote to the cold and poverty of their environment. In general, a close correspondence obtains between climate and temperament. The northern peoples of Europe are energetic, provident, serious, thoughtful rather than emotional, cautious rather than impulsive. The southerners of the sub-tropical Mediterranean basin are easy-going, improvident except under pressing necessity, gay, emotional, imaginative, all qualities which among the negroes of the equatorial belt degenerate into grave racial faults. If, as many ethnologists maintain, the blond Teutons of the north are a bleached out branch of the brunette Mediterranean race, this contrast in temperament is due to climate. A comparison of northern and southern peoples of the same race and within the same Temperate Zone reveals numerous small differences of nature and character, which can be traced back directly or indirectly to climatic differences, and which mount up to a considerable sum total. The man of the colder habitat is more domestic, stays more in his home. Though he is not necessarily more moderate or continent than the southerner, he has to pay more for his indulgences, so he is economical in expenditures. With the southerner it is "easy come, easy go." He, therefore, suffers more frequently in a crisis. The low cost of living keeps down his wages, so that as a laborer he is poorly paid. This fact, together with his improvidence, tends to swell the proletariat in warm countries of the Temperate Zone; and though here it does not produce the distressing impression of a proletariat in Dublin or Liverpool or Boston, it is always degrading. It levels society and economic status downward, while in the cooler countries of the Temperate Zone, the process is upward. The laborer of the north, owing to his providence and larger profits, which render small economies possible, is constantly recruited into the class of the capitalist.

Everywhere a cold climate puts a steadying hand on the human heart and brain. It gives an autumn tinge to life. Among the folk of warmer lands eternal spring holds sway. National life and temperament have the buoyancy and thoughtlessness of childhood, its charm and its weakness. These distinctions and contrasts meet us everywhere. The southern Chinese, and especially the Cantonese, is more irresponsible and hot-blooded than the Celestial of the north, though the bitter struggle for existence in the over-crowded Kwangtung province has made him quite as industrious; but on his holidays he takes his pleasure in singing, gambling, and various forms of dissipation. The southern Russian is described as more light-hearted than his kinsman of the bleaker north, though both are touched with the melancholy of the Slav. In this case, however, the question immediately arises, how far the dweller of the southern wheat lands owes his happy disposition to the easy conditions of life in the fertile Ukraine, as opposed to the fiercer struggle for subsistence in the glaciated lake and forest belt of the north. Similar distinctions of climate and national temperament exist in the two sections of Germany. The contrast between the energetic, enterprising, self-contained Saxon of the Baltic lowland and the genial, spontaneous Bavarian or Swabian is conspicuous, though the only geographical advantage possessed by the latter is a warmer temperature attended by a sunnier sky. He contains in his blood a considerable infusion of the Alpine stock and is therefore racially differentiated from the northern Teuton, but this hardly accounts for the difference of temperament, because the same Alpine stock is plodding, earnest and rather stolid on the northern slope of the Alps, but in the warm air and sunshine of the southern slope, it abates these qualities and conforms more nearly to the Italian type of character. The North Italian, however, presents a striking contrast to the indolent, irresponsible, improvident citizens of Naples, Calabria, and Sicily, who belong to the contrasted Mediterranean race, and have been longer subjected to the relaxing effects of sub-tropical heat.

Where the climatic difference is small, it is nevertheless often conspicuous enough to eclipse other concomitant factors which are at work, and hence to encourage the formation of some easy blanket theory of climatic influences. But just because the difference is slight, all attending geographic and ethnic circumstances ought to be scrutinized, to insure a correct statement of the geographical equation. The contrast between the light-hearted, gracious peasants of warm, sunny Andalusia and the reserved, almost morose inhabitants of cool and cloudy Asturias is the effect not only of climate but of the east life in a fertile river plain, opposed to the bitter struggle for existence in the rough Cantabrian Mountains. Moreover, a strong infusion of Alpine blood has given this group of Spanish mountaineers the patience and seriousness which characterizes the race in other parts of continental Europe. The conditions which have differentiated Scotch from English have been climate, relief, location, geologic composition of the soil, and ethnic composition of the two peoples. The divergent development of Northerners and Southerners in America arose from contrasts in climate, soil and area. It was not only the enervating heat and moisture of the Southern States, but also the large extent of their fertile area which necessitated slave labor, introduced the plantation system, and resulted in the whole aristocratic organization of society in the South.

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