Civilization and Climate

By Ellsworth Huntington; Humphrey Milford | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
CIVILIZATION AND CLIMATE

The races of the earth are like trees. Each according to its kind brings forth the fruit known as civilization. As russet apples and pippins may grow from the same trunk, and as peaches may even be grafted on a plum tree, so the culture of allied races may be transferred from one to another. Yet no one expects pears on cherry branches, and it is useless to look for Slavic civilization among the Chinese. Each may borrow from its neighbors, but will put its own stamp upon what it obtains. The nature of a people's culture, like the flavor of a fruit, depends primarily upon racial inheritance which can be changed only by the slow processes of biological variation and selection.

Yet inheritance is only one of the great factors in the development of civilization. Religion, education, government, and the many human institutions and customs which surround us form a second great group of influences whose power seems almost immeasurable. They do for man what cultivation does for an orchard. One tree may bear a few wormy, knotty little apples scarcely fit for the pigs, while another of the same variety is loaded with great red-cheeked fruit of the most toothsome description. The reason for the difference is obvious. One tree grows in a tangle of bushes in thin, unfertilized soil, and the other in the midst of a carefully tilled garden. One is burdened with dead wood and suckers, and infested with insects, while the other is carefully pruned, scraped and sprayed.

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