We are Africans.
Humans are an African mammal and non-African humans have only recently, evolutionarily speaking, begun evolving to adapt to non-African environments.
Travelling in Southern Africa you immediately recognize your cousins. That is, the other primates who are much like smaller versions of people with similar hands and faces. With an immersion in our ancestral fauna you quickly recognize your affinity to the world and the reality of evolution.
The misunderstanding of many in the West during the 19th century, the fact that they reacted negatively to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, is partly because the link to the “tree-of-life” was not obvious without close relatives to observe. The northern people of the world were living in an environment wholly different from the world of their ancestors, and so are we today.
We are maladjusted to live in this part of the world. Unlike many of the other animals that have evolved in this environment, we cannot survive for long without technological adaptations to protect us from the cold and help us deal with the scarcity of food.
Where in the world could we live with technology – with tools – no more advanced than the technology of a chimpanzee? One answer is a beach on a lake in central Africa. In this place we would have fruit in the trees, roots in the ground, seafood in the water, a forest to sleep in at night and warmth all year long. Unlike life in the temperate regions, we would not need tools to keep us warm or cook our food.
Yet tools such as clothing, shelter and fire, possibly first developed in Africa to help deal with different threats, such as predatory animals, would allow our ancestors to one day travel, and live, in cold, harsh climates. This migration to a new environment was possible because our ancestors brought the technology – the tools and behaviourial adaptations – to sustain them.
But did they bring all the technological adaptations or did they evolve?
Many groups of people in the temperate regions of the world have evolved pale-coloured skin in order to increase the amount of vitamin D that is absorbed from the sunlight. Natural selection has selected for lighter skin in humans because darker skin allows in less sunlight and the subsequent lack of vitamin D impairs, among other things, the ability of women to give birth. Pale-coloured skin permits the human body to produce more vitamin D in the temperate environment where the sun does not produce, for part of the year, the energy required for vitamin D production.
Further exacerbating the problem, the sunshine being received by many humans in recent generations has decreased with the transition from outdoor jobs and aversion to, and avoidance of, sunshine due to the risk of skin cancer.
A lack of vitamin D may actually be less healthy than exposure to sunshine. A recent review of mortality rates in the United States has shown that the increased rates of skin cancer in the sunny, southern states are only a small fraction of the increased rates of large organ cancers in the less sunny, northern states. The rates of disease incidence are also greater in less sunny areas – diseases such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, osteoporosis and others that have been shown to be reduced with increased amounts of vitamin D.
We are all Africans and have evolved to be adapted to the African environment – a tropical climate. To achieve rejuvenation one may seek out technological solutions or, simply, move back to Africa.