Dumont d'Urville's association of cultural regions with racial types chanelled subsequent scholarship into attempts to explain or refute this connection. As a consequence, other explanations of cultural formation were neglected. Mounting dissatisfaction with this scheme in the modern era has not given rise to a commonly accepted alternative. Recent trends towards viewing cultures as constantly evolving entities and mounting concern with human relations with the environment suggest a way forward through breaking the historical vacillation between cultural and environmental explanations and instead combining them. A closer look at Western Polynesian history suggests communities combined highly localised affinities with expansive spheres of interaction and awareness. The optimal unit to analyse the formation and maintenance of cultures is one where geography and climate foster regular interaction between communities.