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Climate and Society


  1. Michael H. Glantz

Published Online: 15 JUL 2005

DOI: 10.1002/047147844X.me2195

Water Encyclopedia

Water Encyclopedia

How to Cite

Glantz, M. H. 2005. Climate and Society. Water Encyclopedia. 4:183–186.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 JUL 2005


At the turn of the twentieth century, scholars who wrote about the interplay between climate and society did so based on their perceptions of climate as a boundary constraint for the development prospects of a society. Perceptions of climate were used as an excuse to dominate societies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. As a result, climate–society studies soon became viewed as a colonial ploy to control populations in developing areas in the tropics. Perhaps the most cited book in this regard was written by Ellsworth Huntington, Climate and Civilization, published in 1915 (1). In his view, inhabitants of the tropics were destined to accept lower levels of economic and social development because their climate setting was not conducive to lively (i.e., productive) human activity or an aggressive work ethic. According to Huntington, tropical climate was the main culprit causing people in the tropics to be less productive than people in temperate regions. Huntington argued that the temperate climate has an energizing effect on humans. With the growing belief that such an argument was racist in intent, Huntington's work was challenged, and discussion of the various ways in which climate might influence human behavior was stifled for decades, notwithstanding a few notable exceptions. One such exception is entitled Climate and the Energy of Nations (2) in which Markham referred to the “air-conditioning revolution,” a revolution based on the development and spread of a new technology into the tropical areas. Markham asserted that technology brings islands of temperate-zone climate into the tropics, thereby generating a more aggressive work ethic.


  • tropical climate;
  • desertification;
  • climate-related anomalies