I recently watched a video explaining how environmental determinism is basically the sum of all evil and how it was used to justify colonialism.
The argument was without weight and used carefully selected opinions rather than actual facts.
Interestingly, environmental determinism can be a powerful argument again colonial efforts as it extols the fact that all races are essential genetically equal and that various factors may impact on the ability of the said race to build a specific type of culture, architecture or governmental system.
Take for example a race of desert dwellers far removed from the ocean. Ask yourself; what is the cultural probability that their traditions would heavily involve the idea of a fishing or the likelihood that their people would use shells to make a variety of jewellery?
Further, with an environment that is not able to support a large population due to a lack of water, what would the likelihood be of their culture becoming a vast empire? Considerably less than that of a culture that has more access to water and food producing land.
Let’s look at genetics for the sake of understanding. Genetics while not proving one race is superior to another may in fact give a biological advantage to certain phenotypes. One thing that must be highlighted is that basic genotypes are the same in all races, however, how genes are expressed, which is to say, the phenotype make provide a clear advantage. White skin poses a significant disadvantage in lands where there are higher levels of ultraviolet radiation. Darker skin on the other hand allows the absorption of vitamin D at an appropriate level but still provides protection from the genetic damage caused by UV radiation, meaning that within the context of environment the darker skin provides a higher chance of survival and general well being. Hence, the equator is home to various races that are more prone to dark skin (given ultra stimulation). This is a form of environmental determinism.
Then what about the linguistic land scape? Consider the types of languages found in particular geographic ranges.
We know for a fact that the more mountainous or isolated a region is the more likely it is to develop dialects within a shorter period, places such as the Caucuses, Papua New Guinea, Australia and South America come to mind.
Environmental determinism is clearly at play. To deny the correlation as something based on race is a façade of political correctness based on ideological reasoning in the stead of solid scientific evidence.
Think further about language. Languages that are tonal and use more voiced nasal phonemic units are found at higher concentrations in geographic regions that are hot and humid. Hot humid environments are often densely forested and sound does not carry over long distances. Conversation or communication generally occur in close proximity with speakers, hence, nasal sounds are discernible due to this. In humid and hot environments most social settings that call for communication such as hunting use secondary signalling systems such as sign languages or whistles.
The opposite is true for languages that are found in geographically wider areas. Nasal sounds do not carry over a long distance and are often fewer in these languages. They contain a higher amount of frictives as well as a tendency toward longer vowels especially languages found in the desert. Many desert languages also have a slower tempo although this is not always the case.
It cannot be denied that environmental factors effect culture in numerous ways from language to staple foods. Arguing that environmental determinism is without basis is therefore attempting to walk through the world blindfolded and proclaiming that the laws of physics dare not impede one if one decides to walk off the edge of the cliff.
Sadly, some simple minded individuals confuse stereotypes with environmental determinism.
In short, if one desires to make a video about a load of senseless drivel, then one should at least make a rough attempt to state SOMETHING factually or else risk the assumption that one's audience is as uninformed and uneducated as oneself.
The video link is below. I do only half jokingly warn you to expect neuron damage after watching it (and am in no way responsible for the damage that arises should you be brave enough to.)