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Climate and economy

I have long been interested in the possible relationships between climate and economy. Because my unproven hypothesis is that, given the choice, most city dwellers would probably prefer to hang out on Ipanema beach and drink caipirinhas in the sun than sit in a windowless cube farm toiling away on cover pages for TPS reports.

Well it turns out that there is some science to support this theory. A 2012 study by professors at Harvard and the University of North Carolina did in fact discover that people tend to work a little harder and focus a bit more when the weather is crappy outside and they’re not distracted by the promise of glorious sunshine.

This Scientific American article from 2013 also argued that there are physiological reasons for why we’re maybe not as sharp in extremely warm weather. The possible science is that excessive heat is more taxing on our body (compared to the cold) and so more energy is required to maintain homeostasis. That leaves less mental capacity for TPS cover pages.

Of course, these sorts of ideas aren’t all that novel. For centuries, economists as well as many others have posited that climate could be one of the reasons why geographies like northern Europe have historically had a higher standard of living than the south. It instilled work ethic and an awareness of deadlines. If you didn’t plan accordingly, you would starve to death in the winter.

But we also know that climate alone won’t do it. There are many examples of tropical cities with advanced economies and high-functioning societies. (The invention of air conditioning surely played a meaningful role.) And on the flipside, there are many examples of cold shitholes. So it’s complicated. But all this being said, doesn’t a caipirinha on the beach sound nice right about now?

Photo by TAIS HELENA DE CARVALHO on Unsplash


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