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Environmental Determinism

The average swede will live 80 years while the average person in Malawi will live half as long. Why do Scandinavians live longer than residents of Malawi by a factor of two? A proximal reason is that European countries have more productive economies, higher incomes and better healthcare, which all contribute to increased longevity.

The more complex task is to explain why some countries are rich and others poor in the first place. Recently, scholars have reprised a “geography is destiny” argument that concludes that the natural environment ultimately determine a region's eventual level of economic prosperity. This essay explores the 19th century origins of environmental determinism as an explanation for 21st century socio-economic disparities.

Environmental determinism attributes economic inequalities to natural laws, and the uneven distribution ...

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