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C9T: Environmental Geography – Concept and Scope
Man and Environmental relationship
Man-environment relationships refer to the interactions and feedbacks between the human and
the natural components and,consequently, to the linkages between the social and the geophysical
systems. There are various philosophies put forwarded by various school of thoughts to study the
man-environment relationship in a better and easy way which are as follows:
1. Environmental Determinism
The first approach adopted by the geographers to generalize the patterns of human occupations
of the earth surface was deterministic. The philosophy of determinism opines that the decisions
and actions taken by man are just effects and governed by casual laws. The point of view is that
the physical environment controls the course of human action. In other words, the belief that
variation in human behaviour around the world can be explained by the differences in the
natural environment is the crux of this man-environment relationship philosophy.
The first attempt made to explain the influence of environmental condition on the people and
their culture was made by Greek and Roman Scholar. Later, three American geographers e.g.,
W.M. Davis, E.C. Semple and E. Huntington strengthened the concept of environmentalism.
2. Teleological Approach
Teleological approach is based on religious faith of man being superior to nature and all other
creatures. Actually, this started from the teachings of Judeo-Christian religious tradition which
addressed that ‘man is superior to all creatures and everything is created for his use and
enjoyment’. This ideology of man-environment/nature relationship fostered the man to exploit
natural resources and to subdue nature without considering the after-effects of thoughtless and
uncontrolled plundering of natural resources.
This approach of man-environment relationship led to excessive and rapid rate of exploitation of
natural resources in North America and Western Europe.
3. Possibilistic Approach
The theory of Possibilism was born in the beginning of 20th century. The concept of possibilism
says that nature provide a number of opportunities and possibilities from among which man is
free to select or choose. The philosophy states that man with the help of his mind and will
changes the influence of nature on him. The philosophy of possibilism attempts to explain the
man and environment relationship in different way taking man as an active agent.
Page | 2
C9T: Environmental Geography – Concept and Scope
For example, man invented iron and it was up to him that how he makes the use of that iron. It
was up to him whether he uses the iron for making hammer or a bicycle, a car, a ship or a plane
it depends on his technological development.
Two French geographers, Vidal de la Blache and Jeans Bruhnes and American geographers
Isiah Bowman and Carl Sauer founded the school of possibilism and as remarked by Febvre,
‘There are no necessities, but everywhere possibilities and man as a master of these possibilities
is the judge of their use’.
4. Neo-determinism
The concept of neo-determinism was put forward by Griffith Taylor which reflects a middle
path between the two ideas of environmental determinism and possibilism. He says that man is
like a traffic controller who can accelerate, slow or stop down the progress but he cannot change
the direction, this is the reason why this philosophy is also called as stop and go determinism.
The concept shows that there is neither a situation of absolute necessity (environmental
determinism) nor is there a condition of absolute freedom (possibilism). Men have to
respond the red signals and can proceed on the path of development only when nature permits
the modification. It means that possibilities can be created within the limits provided by
nature.
5. Cultural Ecology
The third and most recent approach that of cultural ecology, incorporates the idea of an
adaptive response of a culture to its environment. It differs from the above two approaches by
suggesting that only certain critical aspects of the environment determine certain aspects of
the socio-culture, and it tries to spell them out. Steward, who in 1955 made the major
contribution to the development of the cultural ecology concept, states that the objective of
this approach is to determine whether similar socio-cultural adjustments occur in similar
environments.
6. Structuralists Deterministic Approach
The Writings of the 'realist' philosophers or the structuralists, within the geographical
approach analysed the human-environment system aimed at identifying the way in which
political and economic structure determines or influences individual adjustment to the
environment, particularly in the Third World settings. This concept explains how disaster puts
the poor people in more vulnerable situations. Even after disaster the poor suffer more
Page | 3
C9T: Environmental Geography – Concept and Scope
because the elite in society capture a large part of the benefits of both financial aid for
recovery and the ‘normal’ development.
7. Positivism
Positivism is a philosophical approach founded upon the belief that "phenomena of the
human social world is no different from those of the natural inorganic and organic world.
Positivism as a philosophical system recognising only that which can be scientifically
verified or which is capable of logical or mathematical proof and therefore rejecting
metaphysics. As a result, the father of positivism Auguste Comte felt that social phenomena
should be studied using more scientific methodologies. The reasoning behind the coining of
the term 'positivism' was the approaches aim to prioritize actual truths.
8. Humanism
Humanistic approach to study man and environment relationship emerged in 1960s as a
critical reaction against positivism. Since the focus of humanistic approach was to keep role of
human at the centre point and it emphasizes the role of human awareness, human agency,
human consciousness and human creativity this is the reason why humanistic approach was
supported by Kirk (1951) focusing on the complexity and ambiguity of relationship between man
and environment.
9. Behaviouralism
It may be seen as a developing criticism and dissatisfied with the models and theories
developed by the positivist using statistical techniques (quantitative revolution) which were
based on the economic rationality of man leads to the development of behavioural approach
to study man and environment relationship in geography. Behavioural geography treats man
as a responder to stimuli. It seeks to identify how different individuals respond to particular
stimuli (and also how the same individual responds to the same stimuli in different situations)
to isolate the correlates of those varying responses to build models that can predict the
probable impact of certain stimuli.

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Paper: Man and Environmental relationship

  • 1. Page | 1 C9T: Environmental Geography – Concept and Scope Man and Environmental relationship Man-environment relationships refer to the interactions and feedbacks between the human and the natural components and,consequently, to the linkages between the social and the geophysical systems. There are various philosophies put forwarded by various school of thoughts to study the man-environment relationship in a better and easy way which are as follows: 1. Environmental Determinism The first approach adopted by the geographers to generalize the patterns of human occupations of the earth surface was deterministic. The philosophy of determinism opines that the decisions and actions taken by man are just effects and governed by casual laws. The point of view is that the physical environment controls the course of human action. In other words, the belief that variation in human behaviour around the world can be explained by the differences in the natural environment is the crux of this man-environment relationship philosophy. The first attempt made to explain the influence of environmental condition on the people and their culture was made by Greek and Roman Scholar. Later, three American geographers e.g., W.M. Davis, E.C. Semple and E. Huntington strengthened the concept of environmentalism. 2. Teleological Approach Teleological approach is based on religious faith of man being superior to nature and all other creatures. Actually, this started from the teachings of Judeo-Christian religious tradition which addressed that ‘man is superior to all creatures and everything is created for his use and enjoyment’. This ideology of man-environment/nature relationship fostered the man to exploit natural resources and to subdue nature without considering the after-effects of thoughtless and uncontrolled plundering of natural resources. This approach of man-environment relationship led to excessive and rapid rate of exploitation of natural resources in North America and Western Europe. 3. Possibilistic Approach The theory of Possibilism was born in the beginning of 20th century. The concept of possibilism says that nature provide a number of opportunities and possibilities from among which man is free to select or choose. The philosophy states that man with the help of his mind and will changes the influence of nature on him. The philosophy of possibilism attempts to explain the man and environment relationship in different way taking man as an active agent.
  • 2. Page | 2 C9T: Environmental Geography – Concept and Scope For example, man invented iron and it was up to him that how he makes the use of that iron. It was up to him whether he uses the iron for making hammer or a bicycle, a car, a ship or a plane it depends on his technological development. Two French geographers, Vidal de la Blache and Jeans Bruhnes and American geographers Isiah Bowman and Carl Sauer founded the school of possibilism and as remarked by Febvre, ‘There are no necessities, but everywhere possibilities and man as a master of these possibilities is the judge of their use’. 4. Neo-determinism The concept of neo-determinism was put forward by Griffith Taylor which reflects a middle path between the two ideas of environmental determinism and possibilism. He says that man is like a traffic controller who can accelerate, slow or stop down the progress but he cannot change the direction, this is the reason why this philosophy is also called as stop and go determinism. The concept shows that there is neither a situation of absolute necessity (environmental determinism) nor is there a condition of absolute freedom (possibilism). Men have to respond the red signals and can proceed on the path of development only when nature permits the modification. It means that possibilities can be created within the limits provided by nature. 5. Cultural Ecology The third and most recent approach that of cultural ecology, incorporates the idea of an adaptive response of a culture to its environment. It differs from the above two approaches by suggesting that only certain critical aspects of the environment determine certain aspects of the socio-culture, and it tries to spell them out. Steward, who in 1955 made the major contribution to the development of the cultural ecology concept, states that the objective of this approach is to determine whether similar socio-cultural adjustments occur in similar environments. 6. Structuralists Deterministic Approach The Writings of the 'realist' philosophers or the structuralists, within the geographical approach analysed the human-environment system aimed at identifying the way in which political and economic structure determines or influences individual adjustment to the environment, particularly in the Third World settings. This concept explains how disaster puts the poor people in more vulnerable situations. Even after disaster the poor suffer more
  • 3. Page | 3 C9T: Environmental Geography – Concept and Scope because the elite in society capture a large part of the benefits of both financial aid for recovery and the ‘normal’ development. 7. Positivism Positivism is a philosophical approach founded upon the belief that "phenomena of the human social world is no different from those of the natural inorganic and organic world. Positivism as a philosophical system recognising only that which can be scientifically verified or which is capable of logical or mathematical proof and therefore rejecting metaphysics. As a result, the father of positivism Auguste Comte felt that social phenomena should be studied using more scientific methodologies. The reasoning behind the coining of the term 'positivism' was the approaches aim to prioritize actual truths. 8. Humanism Humanistic approach to study man and environment relationship emerged in 1960s as a critical reaction against positivism. Since the focus of humanistic approach was to keep role of human at the centre point and it emphasizes the role of human awareness, human agency, human consciousness and human creativity this is the reason why humanistic approach was supported by Kirk (1951) focusing on the complexity and ambiguity of relationship between man and environment. 9. Behaviouralism It may be seen as a developing criticism and dissatisfied with the models and theories developed by the positivist using statistical techniques (quantitative revolution) which were based on the economic rationality of man leads to the development of behavioural approach to study man and environment relationship in geography. Behavioural geography treats man as a responder to stimuli. It seeks to identify how different individuals respond to particular stimuli (and also how the same individual responds to the same stimuli in different situations) to isolate the correlates of those varying responses to build models that can predict the probable impact of certain stimuli.