Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Terrence A. Tollefson

Committee Members

Glenn Bettis, Louise L. MacKay, Robert W. Peplies


The research was to examine the issue of environmental determinism. It was an ideology that was prevalent throughout the early decades of the 20th century that held that the natural environment was responsible for virtually all human development. It helped bring the study of geography into the venue of postsecondary education, where it was viewed as a tool for study of human activities. It was a new science inspired by Darwinism that viewed human adaptation to the natural environment as critical to socialization.

Relying on historical sources, the purpose of the study was to reveal how environmental determinism became a controversial extension of an ancient belief system. It played a role in religious thought, philosophy, and the rise of the social sciences. It likely dates back to the Neolithic epoch in which cultures explained the mysteries of the natural world in terms of fearsome anthropomorphisized elements. Today, the gods and goddesses have fallen by the wayside, while environmental determinism has not.

Eventually, the ideology lost its major supporter and then became a topic of disapproval. However, it was never entirely disproven, but it did fall from grace. And, it is a belief that has persisted for centuries. It was central to Calvinism and some versions of Protestantism that were relocated to North America where it took root. In view of the evidence, it is proposed that environmental determinism be reopened for reassessment and debate. It is manifest that future generations be apprised of the potential problems that it may inspire. To paraphrase Ellen Churchill Semple, the study of humans without consideration of the earth, would be like studying cactus without consideration of the desert.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Copyright by the authors.