What Role Did Geography Play In The Past – And What Does It Mean For The Future?

Another recent article explores the factors that drove civilization success. The article – along with a number of recent books – looks for historical signals that aid in our understanding of the future. In this case, the focus is geography, which the article positions as the reason both individuals and civilizations are the way they are today. If history informs our views of possible futures, then according to the article, geography has influenced history more than any other factor. The author uses Japan as an example.

Four-fifths of Japan’s territory is huge mountains, and 70% of the land on the island is terrible for food production. That leaves a tiny piece of the country left to develop, which is why Japan has just a few cities which are so densely populated. Japan is also a very homogeneous culture. There are barely any ancient tribes and ethnicities. This is due to the first civilizations in the country settling very near each other, at least the successful ones. However, this wasn’t good for cultural spreading, and thus the Japanese civilization was born as we now know them.

Gabriel Sanchez – Geography: The Determining Factor in Civilization’s Success

In positioning geography as the key factor in a civilization’s success, the author describes geographical components and how they affected ancient civilizations. They are latitude, weather, agriculture, animals, mountains, rivers, and coastlines. Mr. Sanchez describes each component and the role it played in shaping a civilization. For example, he describes weather this way:

Weather is not only a factor in the growing of crops. It can also determine the fate of the diseases in the land, the well-being of their animals and have great advantages or terrible disadvantages upon armed conflict. Throughout history, many invasions and conquests were determined not by the men battling them but by the weather that opposed them.

Gabriel Sanchez – Geography: The Determining Factor in Civilization’s Success

Various geographical components played a role in historical invasions. For example, the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico are great shores to land, which was a huge factor in the conquering of America by the Europeans. Much like domain convergence played a role in shaping our current world, geographic features converged to shape societies. The article describes how the combination of features shaped Europe, Africa, and the ancient civilization of Mesopotamia.

Mesopotamia’s location was the best for its citizens. Running along the Fertile Crescent, located in today’s Iraq-Syria-Turkey zone, was the richest on all planet Earth. It had the best animals for domestication, varied weather that allowed for the growth of food all year, and two enormous rivers, Tigris and Euphrates.

Gabriel Sanchez – Geography: The Determining Factor in Civilization’s Success

A walk back in time is interesting, but for the purpose of understanding possible futures, does it help? The article poses that question this way: does geography influence the world today as much as it did years ago? As we explore possible futures, geography is yet another factor to consider. For example, assessing the role that Africa plays in the future must consider the geographical obstacles of the past. As the article describes, Africa, is large and vertical with several latitudes, having more climates than Europe: Mediterranean, Desert, Forest, Saho, and Tropical. The transportation of foods, crops, and animals is nearly impossible. The rivers in Africa are not deep nor calm enough to navigate through, making trade routes impossible. The consequence of this is that these civilizations have always had to struggle with food supplementation and combat starvation.

These history lessons teach us that multiple factors converged to shape our world. When thinking about the future, we must consider them all. The article provides us with food for thought.

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