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Friday, 24 June 2011
The colder you are, the richer you are. The top map is world temperatures in 2007, and the bottom is GDP per person in 2006.
There are exceptions, of course. But they only go to prove the rule: the exceptions are hot places that are rich just because of natural resources (Saudi Arabia), or because they were very recently colonised by people from cold places (Australia).
We are tropical animals, so this seems strange. Surely, we would expect, our natural environment should be the one in which we should be the most productive? But the reverse is the case.
Those of us in the cold world carry a couple of millimeters of the tropics around with us all the time in the form of our clothes, and this gives us a clue.
Also, hot India is in the process of becoming rich, as is multi-climated China. Both are following on the heels of the now-rich Far East, which is also hot. Wherever the hot world becomes cold by the introduction of air conditioning, wealth follows.
The minimum you need to survive in a cold climate is food and shelter. But the minimum you need to survive in a hot climate is just food.
People have not evolved to be productive. Evolution doesn't care a hoot about GDP. People have evolved to survive with the minimum of effort in their natural environment. Out of it, they have to work harder. We don't need much in hot places, so we don't work hard there. The greater wealth in cold places is just a by-product of people needing to keep active and needing to be inventive to keep warm.
It is no accident that the Industrial Revolution was started by the manufacture of those millimeter-thicknesses of the tropics in a cold country.