[FOUNTAIN]It must be the weatherHuman beings can’t escape the influence of their climate. In primitive times, it virtually determined the course of people’s lives.
In centuries past, some Europeans went so far as to assert that the climate determined their ethnic superiority. On the assumption that their own climate created favorable conditions for the development of civilization, European thinkers tried to deduce that other races were made inferior by bad weather.
Charles de Montesquieu (1689-1755), the French Enligh-tenment author who promoted the concept of three separate branches of government, was not free of such prejudices. Montesquieu said in his book “The Spirit of Laws” that while extremely hot weather withered man’s power and courage, the winter cold encouraged the development of the physical and spiritual abilities that enabled great actions.
He also asserted that the people of southern Korea were not as brave as those in the north. This was a bold conclusion that Montesquieu, who never visited Korea, dared corroborate only with his imagination. His logic reflects a strain of 18th-century European thought that tended to overemphasize the importance of the weather.
According to modern science, the most suitable temperature for physical exercise is between 15 and 20 degrees centigrade (59 and 68 Fahrenheit). At that temperature, man’s brain and muscles are said to work most vigorously. English scientists insisted that the lowest temperature at which someone could die from the heat was 39 degrees centigrade. It is said that the body cannot regulate its temperature if one exercises for prolonged time at over 26 degrees centigrade.
Of course, people tend not to gather together in places that are too hot or too cold. Plazas, that symbol of democracy, are rare in regions of extreme temperatures. The view that extreme climates discourage the development of democracy could have some justification.
But the attempt to explain all human activity according to the weather seems unreasonable. Korea is a country with a great gap of temperatue between the coldest day and warmest day in a year. If you are Montesquieu, you could infer from that that Korea has dramatic ups and downs, socially and economically.
August promises to be hotter than usual this year. Let not your power and courage wither because of the hot weather.
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.