In the spirit of the world campaign to save polar bears and buy carbon indulgences to assuage our collective guilt, it is vital to point out that published scientific studies also make a case for driving more, burning more coal, and breeding more flatulent cows. The reason: Global warming will make you happier, healthier and even sexier. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recognized psychiatric disorder due to low levels of summer sunshine. SAD or the "winter blues" involves:
and loss of libido (sexual desire)
In other words, lack of sunshine can make you fat, miserable, sleepy and unsexy.
The predictable result is an increase in heart disease, suicide risk, poor sexual relationships, and general misery. Just a small rise in worldwide temperature could dramatically raise the world's level of happiness and even sexual desire. In a world of six billion people, tens of millions of sufferers might be rescued from SAD with only a small temperature rise. Why do retirees move to Florida and Arizona? For the sunshine, of course. What will increase sunny days all over the planet? Global warming will!
It all comes down to hormones and sunshine. San Francisco is famous for its cold and foggy summers, as Mark Twain famously pointed out. During the California summer, people who drive a few miles from fogbound San Francisco to sunny Marin County often notice how much happier they feel all of a sudden. It's not imagination. It's the effect of bright sunlight on your mood.
There's more. The National Institutes of Health database lists almost 18,000 articles on the subject of light therapy (phototherapy). Not all of those articles cover natural sunlight, but many of them do. All we hear about is sun tanning and skin cancer --- but did you know that sunshine has favorable effects on certain cancers? Just this year two Dutch researchers published an article showing that
"sunlight also has a favourable effects; specifically, it may inhibit the development and progression of diseases of the bones, muscles and skin, of various malignancies (carcinoma of the prostate, breast, colon and ovary, non-Hodgkin lymphoma), and may prevent certain autoimmune diseases, particularly multiple sclerosis."
Sunlight has long been known to stimulate vitamin D synthesis in the skin, which is vital for healthy bones and to delay arthritis in aging. But there may be other pathways for these health effects.
There is a simple biological reason why humans need sunshine. Until 50 thousand years ago all of our ancestors lived in Africa, and even during the Ice Ages, the African continent remained warm and sunny. Humans did not migrate toward cold latitudes until we invented the technology to do so: fur clothing, solid shelters, the right kind of social organization, and perhaps hunting and fishing techniques something like the Eskimos use today, including the use of sharp flint spears.
We have only adapted to colder climes since the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago. That sounds like a long time, but it is only 400 generations: Not much time compared to the 200 million years of earlier mammalian evolution in Africa. Our closest primate relatives, the chimps, still share most of our physiology; our bodies have not changed nearly as much as our brains.
Our bodies are therefore well-adapted to a sunny climate, and that means that many of our body clocks are triggered by dawn and dusk. Sunlight in our natural African environment is many times brighter than the indoor lights we use today. So we are well-adapted to a high-intensity light-dark cycle. Artificial light cycles, jet-lag, shift work, all are believed to degrade our mental performance, to trigger sleepiness and cognitive impairments leading to road accidents, and increases in medical errors when hospital residents are forced into ever-changing work shifts. Bodily processes that are supposed to occur in synch with each other go out of synch. Scientists are testing the hypothesis that a loss of bodily synchrony may play a role in Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, alcoholism, breast cancer, and of course insomnia.
"Altered environmental conditions can disrupt circadian clock molecular coordination in peripheral organs including tumors and play a significant role in malignant progression."
Much remains to be found out about chronobiology, the effects of time cycles on the body. But a good rule of thumb is that going back to a natural sunlight cycle for our species is a sensible idea. Global warming will bring our daily cycle closer to the original light cycle of our ancestral world in Africa.
You can try to increase sun exposure by vacationing in Hawaii, or you can use special light treatments. Or you can take anti-depressants and get psychoanalyzed. But if you really want to help everybody, rich and poor alike, women, men and children, whites and blacks, Swedes and Africans, go for sunshine the year around.
If Global Warming predictions hold true, we will see an average increase of about 3 degrees F in the next hundred years. That doesn't sound like much, but if you live at high latitudes it means earlier spring and later winters. It might only mean a week or two of increased sunshine in Sweden, but among the suicidal Swedes, thousands of lives could be saved. Even a small increase in the global sum of human happiness might decrease violence and even warfare.
Peace through Global Warming may be only a century away.
Just think how a small increase in driving, eating beef, and drilling for oil could substantially increase human happiness. If all of us make a small effort, millions of people could live happier, healthier and sexier lives. Show you care!
--- James Lewis blogs at www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com