Jared Diamond (in Guns, Germs and Steel) derives amazing explanatory mileage fom linking geographical variation with natural selection. Both are as exogenous as we can hope for.
Sunday's NY Times included a piece on innovation and geography as destiny. This is all about agglomeration economies -- which also link to selection.
Cities (places) compete and the winners are those that manage spatial arrangements so that potential positive externalities are exploited while the negative ones are muted -- other things equal. This is very tricky and requires flexible land markets.