Man's Quest for Social Guidance: The Study of Social Problems

By Howard W. Odum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE PHYSICAL BACKGROUND OF SOCIETY

The General Influence of Physical Environment . In Chapter I we listed the general physical environment as one of the major social forces affecting the individual and the group. In the two chapters preceding this we have emphasized the importance of geographic influences and general physical environment upon the nature and qualification of social leaders and upon the whole process of social change. Professor Beach goes so far as to say that a great part of the rapid and enormous change of the present era has been due to the natural environment. Certainly the widening conquest of nature by man has been one of the greatest of all stimuli to scientific discovery as well as to social engineering. Climate and soil and accessibility have been most important factors in the development of communities and of civilizations. There are those who hold that efficiency in human society varies according to climate and that low efficiency must inevitably be present in excessively warm regions. In this chapter we shall take up further many of these considerations together with their bearing upon social study and social problems, and shall review briefly the influence of physical environment upon human nature and the social order.

Human Geography . Among the most important evidences of the newer attention that is being given to the physical environment are the modern tendencies in the science of geography. Whereas the old emphasis tended to ignore the human element in geography, the newer science treats more and more fully the social and humanistic aspects. Mr. C. C. Huntington, in School and Society for October 23, 1926, gives some of the evidences for the dynamic quality of geography as a science. Fifty years ago, he points out, geography was in a descriptive state. Some emphasis was laid upon political geography and a little later geography may have been considered as a science of distribution. Early in the twentieth century the subject entered upon the biogeographic

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