Africa / Agriculture / Asia / Innovation Systems / Soils

Does a country’s dirt determine its destiny?

‘Chad is dirt poor because its dirt is poor. Germany is relatively rich because its soil is rich. That’s the provocative conclusion flowing from a new study, which suggests that just two fundamental factors—soil type and climate—can largely explain why humans have prospered in some places but not in others. The finding, drawn from a computer model originally used to predict the distribution of moths, also may help explain why some regions are more prone to violence than others.

‘Since at least the 1700s, scholars have argued that geographic differences such as rainfall, air temperature, and soil quality can have a major impact on economic development. They noted that many poor nations, for instance, are clustered in tropical regions characterized by poor soils for agriculture and lots of nasty diseases, such as malaria. More recently, scholars such as best-selling geographer Jared Diamond of the University of California, Los Angeles, have also suggested that regions that didn’t have easily domesticated animals, such as central Africa, ultimately became less wealthy than those that did.

‘Critics of “biogeographical determinism,” however, have argued that other factors—such as a people’s history, culture, and educational and political institutions—better explain why nations in cooler regions have prospered.’

Read more . . . (ScienceNOW, Does a Country’s Dirt Determine Its Destiny?, 28 May 2010)

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