Latitudinal Bigotry
By Bart Vogelzang

Maybe bigotry is too harsh a word, but I have found myself regularly thinking that the most productive people seem to be in the higher numbered latitudes around the world. Maybe it is due to poor perception on my part, but I’m not really convinced of that.

In the recent years, say the last 100 or so, it seems that the vast majority of the productivity in the world has come from the northernmost countries, and even in many instances the northernmost reaches within countries, with a distinct flip in the southern hemisphere, where the southernmost peoples seem to be most productive.

Of course it could be argued, even successfully, that they are also the most damaging to the environment, and exploitive in many ways. Maybe it goes hand in hand, but that is not really my dilemma, my concern. Rather, I am upset that I think those people living nearer the equator are less hardworking, somehow, in some sense.

I’ve seen this concept of ‘southern sloth’ (‘deep north’ in Australia) discussed before, and the explanation given is usually that people in more central climes never had to work as hard to get sustenance, with food ripe for the picking on trees and bushes, and fish to be scooped up out of the waters, and very little need for even finding clothing and shelter. Northerners, and southerners, living in harsh cold climates which would kill you during the winter if you weren’t prepared, simply had to become more productive in order to survive past one season. Well, that reasoning has to be false.

It’s pretty obvious to anyone doing even minor checking into it, that extreme climates also exists closer to the equator, and that there are plenty of cold areas at higher elevations. Planning, producing and storing was as essential there as anywhere else. So what is really the reason for the seeming difference?

Maybe there isn’t a difference, but when you look at Europe, the northern reaches almost always outperform the southern ones; same in America. Australia, being in the southern hemisphere finds their southern areas doing more than the north. South Africa consistently outperforms the rest of Africa, and in Asia we continually see Korea, Japan, and northern China producing more than southern areas. So what is the cause?

As unscientific as it is, based on nothing but personal conjecture, I maintain that warm-to-hot environments are detrimental to initiative, create emotion-laden inconsistencies and frustrations, and generally make people less cooperative and tolerant of each other. As ‘proof’, I submit that unified production is significantly reduced in summertime, to the point that management of human resource based businesses have scheduled the vast majority of their employee vacation times during the hot weather. Many even shut down completely, until cooler weather returns and people get along with each other better, and more safely. I’m not saying that individuals are not productive, as you can easily see extremely hard working people in those ‘central’ zones, but with cooperation with each other being less the overall result seems to be less productivity.

Some years ago I read that statistically riots take place much more often in the summer than in winter, and much more often in warmer areas of the world than in colder ones. There has also been some indication that even prison riots can be reduced in number by simply holding the temperatures a few degrees less. It seems that some part of our brains are ‘stimulated’ by anger and the very same location is stimulated by heat; which leaves the brain essentially unable to differentiate being overheated from being angry. At some point some wise people must have understood this though, since we have the expression, “go cool down” that we utter to someone who is angry. Actually cooling down does reduce the anger, which probably means there is something to this.

The interesting thing is though, higher temperatures affect not everyone adversely, and those people actually need it to be warmer in order to thrive. They don’t go nuts from warmth, but become more productive and alive. If we could identify each type more accurately, then encourage each to move to the places best for them, maybe the whole world could be equally supportive and tolerant.

© 2011 Bart Vogelzang. All Right Reserved