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Possibilism in Geography |Perspectives in Human Geography | Human Geography UPSC | Possibilism geography |Geography optional notes

Possibilism(संभववाद ) in Geography
  • The concept of Possibilism came about as a reaction to environmental determinism. In environmental determinism, human beings are treated as a passive elements. But the concept of Possibilism believed that man was always an active agent in the environment.
  • With the advancement of knowledge, science, and technology in human society, they change the environment according to their own accord. Agriculture is an example of this. Human activity is not controlled by only environmental factors.
  • The theory of possibilism states that the world is full of possibilities, it is up to humans how they use them.
  • Israel lacks basic natural resources such as water. They innovated drip irrigation systems and vertical farming to overcome the food shortage in the country. Israel's agricultural techniques for farming today are world-class, they are far ahead in terms of agricultural productivity and they are now exporting many agricultural products.
  • In India, we are cultivating rice through canal irrigation in Rajasthan which is a desert.
The above activity is happening because the environment is allowing us to do it in other ways. This belief comes from possibilism thought in geography.

The French geographer, PauVidal de la Blache[1845 to 1918] was the founder of French human geography. He was the first to propound possibilism in geography.

As per Vidal de la Blache, 
  • Nature only sets limits and provides many possibilities for human settlement. But the way man adjusts to the environment depends on his own way of life and not only on the environment.

As per Vidal la Blache, 
  • The environment sets some limits but does not completely control human culture. 
  • The lifestyle of people defines the culture and Lifestyle is the product of civilization.
  • Variations in foods, habits, culture, etc are also found in a similar environment. If the environment dictates completely, then these variations can not exist.
  • The environment is not a dictator, it is just an advisor. Example:
    • Under hydroponics technology, humans can grow vegetables without using soil.
    • Tea, coffee, and rubber can be cultivated in the tundra under artificial environmental conditions created by humans.
    • Here the environment is restraining us in one way and allowing us to do the same in another way.
  • Environment limits some possibilities but gives other possibilities.
    • The environment prevents rice cultivation in the rain-fed area but gives other possibilities that are the cultivation of Bajara, barley, etc
French geographer, Mr.  Lucien Febvre [1878 to 1956] opposed the concept of determinism, and give his own concept of possibilism theory in geography.

Febvre 's  possibilism concept:
  • The world is full of possibilities.
  • Nature provides many possibilities, and possibilities can be increased through knowledge, innovation, and technological advancement
  • Man is not a passive element, man is the active agent. Man can create, alter, and destroy the environment.
  • Man is the not product of the environment, man is the product of culture and the environment

Support of possibilism:
Please refer to the critics part of the below page:

Criticism of Possibilism:

  • Possibilism has overemphasized the role of culture and civilization. The role of the environment is neglected, and it may lead to environmental loss.
  • Possibilism can create environmental problems if we act against nature. Examples,
    • We are facing climate change problems due to pollution and Greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Facing the problem of landslides, earthquakes, etc due to dam building in a hazardous-prone area.
    • Facing floods due to silting of the river from mining and deforestation.
    • Facing dengue outrage in part of Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana due to waterlogging around the canal.
  • There are no unlimited possibilities in the all-region. Possibilities vary from region to region.
  • Possibilities are not economically viable against the environment all the time. For example, rice cultivation in the rainfed area is possible but not economically viable.

Try to solve the following questions:

  • Write summary notes on Possibilism in geography.
  • Explain the significance of the Possibilism concept in the present world.
  • Compare and contrast Febvre and Vidal La Blache's concept of Possibilism.
  • What are the major criticisms of Possibilism in geography?
  • Review the concepts of determinism and possibilism. ( 60-62nd BPSC geography)
Answer the following multiple-choice questions on Possibilism:

1. Which of the following geographer believed that environment does not define human culture completely?

a) Karl Ritter
b) Richard Hartshorne
c) Friedrich Ratzel
d) Vidal La Lablache

Answer. d) Vidal La Lablache

2. Which of the following is not a supporter of Possibilism geography?
a) Vidal La Lablache
b) Lucian Febvre
c) Herbert John Fleure
d) Ellen Churchill

Answer. d) Ellen Churchill

3. Who is the founder of French Human geography?
a) Vidal La Lablache
b) Lucian Febvre
c) Herbert John Fleure
d) Ellen Churchill

Answer. a) Vidal La Lablache

4. Which of the following is not an example of Possibilism?
a) Industrial revolution
b) Primitive society
c) Agricultural advancement
d) Technological revolution

Answer. b) Primitive society

5. Which of the following defines Possibilism?
a) Environment only limits the number of choices that people have.
b) Environment provides unlimited choice to humans.
c) Environment control human behavior completely
d) Human is free from any environmental limitation

Answer. a) Environment only limits the number of choices that people have.

6. Which of the following is the main theme of Possibilism?
a) Human is a product of the Environment
b) Human is the product of culture
c) Nature provide possibilities and human utilize them according to culture, tradition, and level of socio-economic development.
d) Nature provides possibilities and humans utilize them according to natural law.

Answer. c) Nature provide possibilities and human utilize them according to culture, tradition, and level of socio-economic development.

7. Who introduced the possibilism?
a) Vidal La Lablache
b) Lucian Febvre
c) Herbert John Fleure
d) Ellen Churchill

Answer. a) Paul Vidal La Lablache

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Click here for Comments
21 April 2022 at 13:22 ×

I really appreciate this reference

11 May 2023 at 11:33 ×

Language is simple yet remembering