It has been a long-standing theory among political analysts the one that suggests that social behavior may be significantly influenced by natural factors such as the weather or geographical accidents. But how are the concepts of climate and politics connected, specifically?
Even though ideological tendencies and personal political preferences are the results of multiple elements and circumstances, it is possible to define a general description of the effects that climate has proven to have on political ideas and their extension.
Since political inclinations are submitted to constant change, this article will announce the main tendencies that have prevailed according to the geographical distribution of different societies across the world in warm weather and cold weather.
But first, let’s look at some basic concepts..
Ideology for one can be understood as a system of ideas that gives partial accounts on reality, with the purpose of serving the interests of a particular social group or class. Is it possible that this system of ideas is shaped, partially, by climate conditions?
According to cultural psychologist Michele Gelfand, cultures adapt to their environments. The political and economic stresses that a nation has been submitted to are key elements to define the kind of culture people may have, even if those stresses happened years ago. Individuals in “tight“ cultures are more self-monitoring and they tend to display high levels of personal accountability while “loose“ cultures are more innovative and open to change, with members choosing to have more diverse experiences.
Tight cultures, according to Gelfand’s study have more predictable behaviors, and individuals tend to have similar life experiences, facilitating group cohesion. Therefore, climate and politics might be related at a behavioral level. The weather often has an effect on people´s stress level and because of that stress, political and social responses might be affected.
Weather and climate have systematically affected political behavior throughout history in many different ways. They affect mood, how people feel, daily decisions on everyone´s course of action, how we move to one place or another and have a considerable influence on governmental planning for infrastructure.
During the Enlightenment period, several authors stood for the idea that social behavior was strongly motivated by the particular climate that different cities experienced. This might be because climate change has always had an important influence on the fluctuation of demographic variables. Hundreds have emigrated across the world in the search for warmer weather, fertile lands or even to get closer to the coast and sea trade.
Climate Events that Affect Politics
Climate-related events like floods, wildfires, heatwaves, and droughts can lead to profound social, economic and political consequences. The victim profile in these scenarios tends to be socially disadvantaged or marginalized. Atypical weather conditions have provoked mortality peaks as a result of both starvations and infectious diseases. Poor weather (cold winters, dry summers or wet springs and autumns) has aggravated major health problems.
For example, according to matter experts, the rain has a depressive effect on voting rates among the poor. Whereas lower voting rates of wealthier groups have been observed in warmer, sunnier days since people prefer to enjoy themselves outside.
The greatest harm is likely to concentrate in low and middle-income countries exposed to disasters. These states are also characterized by high levels of corruption and weak institutions because of ineffective responses from the government.
As proof, there are cases of populations living in countries where conflict and ethnic strife is present or have been so recently. The contingency strategies to face climate events are reduced when government structures are intermediate between democratic and authoritarian and where the distribution of resources is inequitable.
How can we tell?
Weather is measurable. As individuals, we´re subject to many measurable stimuli that define our inclinations. But that´s not where it ends. Human beings, as Aristoteles addressed, are political animals. Personal preferences matter since they have a substantial effect on our social community. Our opinion can shape others. So if the climate is a mind-setting factor on political tendencies, even candidates for political parties will need to know how relevant it is to consider.
To verify whether we´re talking about an important factor or not, let´s break it down to the two major climates: warm weather vs. cold weather.
The higher temperatures on the planet are focused between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorni (which surround the Equator). This is the tropical zone. The farther north or south we go from these latitudes, the more the temperature will drop. That´s why northern and southern countries have much colder weather than central ones.
According to the question that this article addresses, areas like the Caribbean, Africa, and Oceania would have populations that share similar political tendencies. And then again, the people of northern countries like de U.S., the Netherlands, Russia would lean on resembling political perspectives as those that predominate in southern countries such as Argentina or Chile. Except, evidently, they don´t.
Take Africa. Being the second-most populous continent, most of its territory (approximately, the whole northern half) has arid conditions. This desert gets more limited at the center of the continent where the condensed jungle and savanna take place. It is the hottest continent on Earth. Now, when it comes to politics it has a contrasted organization: some locations remain under a tribal organization, while there are states that not so long ago where governed by authoritarian regimes.
The same observations can be made in the Caribbean. It is a region with a huge political diversity. Even though it may appear as a small area, different political ideas coexist and led to almost opposite frames of organization. It has sixteen independent countries and thirteen distinct “associated“ territories. The political spectrum varies from Cuba to liberal democracies (some of them fragile, rising from recent authoritarian past) and overseas territories associated with the U.S. and European countries.
As shown by the former classification of warm vs. cold weather, there isn’t necessarily a correlation between climate change and the propensity towards a political notion. Actually, one particular geographical environment with its own specific climate may include diverse political ideas. The Caribbean is a perfect example of this logic.
So who´s the Dark Horse?
A dark horse in politics is a political candidate that, initially, people give very little importance to, and surprisingly ends up being elected. There are certain elements that tend to be minimized when it comes to predicting political inclinations. These are some of them:
Technological advancements have permitted human societies to reduce the impact of weather conditions. Depending on the levels of economic development reached by a community, people will count on different tools to be protected from meteorological shocks. In fact, technology, as opposed to weather, is a key element to understanding political behavior.
Urban vs. Rural Areas
It turns out, geographical location is a conditioning concept. Not because of high or low temperatures, but because of the proximity to urbanized areas. Rural areas generally have a smaller population, and therefore a smaller economy. The diversity of products and services offered is reduced if compared to those in the cities and just the same thing happens with educational institutions.
Political inclinations reflect this: conservative vote carries a lot more weight in rural areas whereas urban areas have a wider and diverse political range.
Over the last decades, political issues and concerns have transcended constitutional borders. There have been many concerns that, even though they started at a specific location with its particular aspects, people across the world empathies. A globalized system like this can have repercussions on populations located far from where the events occur.
From this point of view, a political statement needs to take into consideration different cultures, histories, weather, even languages. Any tool that will help to cross those bridges is fundamental, from the Internet to a language service provider. Political activists, candidates, voters should look for all the help they can get to interpret and reach a closer look at the reasons behind an opinion. You´ll be surprised by how fast they might change.