Environmental Determinism

I’ve been struggling to understand “environmental determinism,” and why some people think it’s so icky. Thanks to Wikipedia, I finally get it. I was stuck on the plain English meaning of the words, and thought I had stumbled down the rabbit hole of some sort of academic argument over the relative importance of environmental boundary conditions and human response in determining the trajectory of societies.

Apparently there’s an older, uglier meaning of “environmental determinism” that explains, for example, why my ancestors who grew up on the beaches of California ended up as lazy surf bums, only interesting in drinking beer and screwing. In other words, to quote the wikipeople, “The basic argument of the environmental determinists was that aspects of physical geography, particularly climate, influenced the psychological temperament of individuals, which in turn shaped the culture and society that those individuals formed.” You can see how that leads you down a racist path in a hurry. I know plenty of surfers interested in other things besides beer and sex. Like surfing, for example.

Dude, no wonder people thought it was icky.