Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/176

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places where the struggle to meet physical needs consumes every energy. For that reason, the character of the winter may be regarded as another factor constantly tending to retard Russian national evolution.

In many instances the value of the climatic variation from season to season, and especially the effect of the cold season, as a stimulus to regularity of effort is over-estimated. In this country, it is true, the cold winters are, to a certain extent an asset, in that during this period of the year great volumes of clear, dry, pure and invigorating air spread eastward from the northwestern highlands. From these "cold waves" comes stimulation, vigor and energy for many of the American people, yet the duration and intensity of the cold, especially in the more northerly sections, impose heavy burdens on a large part of the population. There is such a thing as too harsh a spur of the seasons. Many a Russian peasant is a chronically jaded creature largely on that account; while in this country, the poor are made poorer because of the increased need for woolen clothing, warmer houses and heavier diet. Though commonly passed over lightly, this question of climatic position is at all times of critical importance in the strength and welfare of nations.

Considered from the broad standpoint, the combined influence of physical position and situation climatically determines whether important national evolution may or may not have its inception and advance successfully under the modifying influences of the other physical factors.

Surface.—The configuration of the surface, to which alone so much significance is usually attached, is a consideration of decidedly secondary importance in the evolution of nations, for the reason that similar surfaces, in different positions, show radically unlike results. Thus a national evolution, may in an inhospitable position remain incapable of type of surface which, when well situated, appears most favorable to any real development. On the other hand, a less desirable type of surface in a more advantageous position may serve as the basis for a fairly important nation. The untouched, level Arctic tundras, and the progress of rugged Norway, may be cited as contrasting examples of the importance of position, both physically and climatically, in considering what the surface qualities are likely to induce.

Surface Area.—In the consideration of the surface and its features, the extent of the surface or the area of the national territory, is of primary significance. The influence of mere size varies in the different stages of evolution. During the first steps of national growth a small or restricted area, other things being favorable, quickly produces & condition of compactness, which is at once a source of strength and a material aid in the advancement of national qualities. The familiar description of Britain as "a tight little island" suggests the way in which British separation was supplemented by restriction of area in