TED2009: Nina Jablonski


Anthropologist Nina Jablonski is on stage at TED2009. She is talking about the consequences of darkly-pigmented people moving from high UV areas to low UV areas. If people move to areas where they didn't evolve skin to handle the types and quantity of UV, it can lead to trouble. Light pigmentation in tropics causes cancer and darkly pigmented people will get vitamin D deficiency, which leads to loss of immune function, mood, mental health, and a host of other disorders.


  1. I’d like to see the research on this. My professors pointed out how technology makes us more adaptable.
    We have things like clothes and sunscreen for protection from the sun. There are many ways to get vitamen D and seasonal mood disordered affect all kinds of people.

  2. I’ve always felt that ancestral foodstuffs were marginally more healthy than more recently encountered ones.

    Unwelcome stereotypes were born of the ignorance of over-emphasizing this, but it’s foolish to assume we’re separate from the environments in which we are raised– and the ones we cultivate for ourselves over time.

  3. Speaking as someone who has somewhat light skin (I’m not white), living at 2 degrees latitude, I can tell you that much of the variability is on a personal level – how much time you spend in the sun. My father who works outdoors is much darker than his mother. And since he’s retired, he gotten much lighter, though he’s still darker than everyone else in our family. It’s the same in every family. You’d find a few who are extremely light / dark, and it co-relates to whether the spend very little / much time outside.

  4. This probably won’t get through, but here goes:

    I get this weird sort of segregationist, not-supposed-to vibe from this post:

    White imperialists should get out of the tropics, and blacks face nothing but misery in the cold (literally) western world.

    Is this the message?

  5. Not necessarily. As long as dark skinned people get adequate Vitamin D, they are okay.
    The one exception to the paler skin at low UV latitudes are the Inuit. That’s because they get enough Vitamin D from the seals they eat(livers) so they didn’t need to evolve paler skin.
    I’ve read somewhere that the evolutionary pressures that caused the dark skinned ancestors of today’s light skinned people to become paler are still going on in present day dark skinned people so given time, they will become lighter skinned.

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