Evan Wright on Misconceptions and Missing the Mark
Evan Wright was a journalist embedded in the lead Humvee of First Recon's Bravo Company's Second Platoon and based his book Generation Kill on the experience. HBO has turned the book into a miniseries that is a precise retelling of the early weeks of the military campaign from the point of view of the guys on the ground: the non-commissioned officers and platoon-level commanders who led the way to Baghdad.
His new book Hella Nation, was recently released in April of 2009. From his work as a reporter at Hustler magazine, to his National Magazine Award-winning writing for Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, Evan Wright has always had an affinity for outsiders-what he calls "the lost tribes of America." The previously published pieces in this collection chart a deeply personal journey, beginning with his stark but sympathetic portrayals of sex workers in Porn Valley, through his raw portrait of a Hollywood überagent-turned-war documentarian and hero of America's far right. His subjects are people for whom the American dream is either just out of grasp, or something they've chosen to reject altogether.
Question: In your opinion, where are we missing the mark in fighting this war?
Evan Wright: Sure, and I think we’re using less artillery today but the... it’s just kind of a weird...It also is about the media as I analyzed it that because so much of our news comes from television and television is image driven TV editors like to do shows about the air force because they always have stock footage of planes taking off, it looks cool, and as you’re competing as a news program on cable with all other forms of entertainment and you want to stop... get viewers to stop on your channel it helps to show sexy images of like Top Gun pictures of planes flying. So TV news coverage of the war focuses a lot on what the air force does and the reality is... when we were invading Iraq is for the marine corps especially through the march up through Mesopotamia they used artillery heavily. And artillery is not as sexy to film as aircraft and so one of the examples I cite is when we got to Nasiriyah marines took fire there, the army had some soldiers captured and killed, and so it turned in to this kind of cluster fuck. But.. and the marines responded. It was tactically sound. The dumped I think... I’m citing from memory of my book which was based on interviews of the artillery battalion. I think we dropped- the Americans dropped two to three thousand rounds of artillery into Nasiriyah in a very short period of time. That’s an enormous amount of ordnance to be dropping into a city of four hundred thousand people and that those stories were never covered as far as I know by the... or never adequately covered by the television news reporters.
Question: What are other misperceptions that Americans have about our military?
Evan Wright: Yeah. Well, first of all, there are several misperceptions and in a way the title of the mini series, Generation Kill, almost... the title itself would perpetuate some of those misconceptions and one of the misconceptions is that the soldiers or marines who are there willingly are psychopaths who just want to kill people. And if you listen to marines, as viewers would in the first episode of Generation Kill, all they talk about is killing and how it’d be fun to have been the pilot that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima ‘cause he killed a lot of people, etc., but that’s all talk. What I actually found is that many of the soldiers, and I found this in my multiple trips to the Middle East, they’re... they view themselves as professionals and they actually... they’re stoked to go in to combat often but they actually don’t want to kill civilians. And so when you read about the Hadithas and the Abu Ghraibs where they’re abusing troops, captives, I actually believe that those are the aberrations of the U.S. military. I’ve actually found that most of the troops at the troop level, the trigger pullers, they take a lot of care to avoid killing civilians, but the other reality is no matter how careful the military is in warfare that’s what happens.
Question: Regarding Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, were you there?
Evan Wright: No. I went back afterwards but not at the time.
Question: How did it affect marine morale?
Evan Wright: I think that Gitmo is sort of not an issue that’s as important to the Iraqis but the Abu Ghraib is... whatever people think of it in America or in the U.S. military, there’s people in the U.S. military who complain because they think it was overly emphasized in the Western media. I disagree but the sad reality is Gitmo- Abu Ghraib gave the insurgents their single greatest weapon for rallying their troops to fight the Americans, and so that’s one thing that I think about it. It was probably the single most devastating act that the Americans committed in Iraq in terms of weakening their ability to occupy the country or whatever they want to call it that we’re doing over there, and I think a lot of troops were disappointed. You know what’s weird? I was actually... Just strangely enough, I was at a fitness center at Camp Pendleton, which is the home of the First Marine Division, and I happened to be visiting a marine friend of mine, Eric Kocher, who you’re going to interview later, who had been severely injured in an ambush over there. He came home, he was recovering, and he was going to the gym, and I went to the gym with him and this was right as all the TVs in this Camp Pendleton marine corps gym were showing the first images of Abu Ghraib. And I remember I was standing on a little treadmill next to some troops and they were just looking at this, shaking their heads at the images of Abu Ghraib, going...and some of them were saying, “This is terrible. What the fuck have we done?” The marines were saying, “What the fuck have these army soldiers done to really undermine any credibility America had over in Iraq?” There’s something else about Abu Ghraib that’s really interesting to me, having been back to Iraq and spent a lot of time with Iraqi civilians and Iraqi military forces that are trying to work with the Americans. The one thing about Abu Ghraib that I think Americans don’t get at home is that, much as it totally offended the Muslim world and Iraqis and horrified them with the humiliations of Arabs at the hands of American troops, the thing that Americans don’t often get is that in addition to those stories the other story that’s much more prevalent in Iraq is that of U.S. troops working side by side with Iraqis and especially under the surge. What Petraeus did is he sent out all these small units of Americans. Instead of being on these big bases, he was sending platoons of forty guys to live in these remote outposts with forty Iraqi policemen or forty Iraqi soldiers. And these Americans and these Iraqis live side by side, they eat the same food often, they depend on each other for their lives, and these are the stories that I see- that I saw every day when I was back in Iraq last summer as the surge was kicking in. And I think that Americans don’t quite understand how, even if the Iraqis don’t like us, even if they’re really disturbed by Abu Ghraib, they feel a sense of dependency on us right now because if we pull out they recognize in the short term that their lives will be much worse, much more chaotic. And I think that’s not understood and I’m not making an argument that we should stay there. I’m just pointing out that that’s the reality. I think it’s becoming clear and also because the violence has gone down so much in Iraq that some aspects of the surge, at least in the short term, have actually worked, and I actually think our political leaders... that reality hasn’t yet caught up with the debate that we’re having in this country. The fact that the surge was technically and interestingly enough... Harry Reid... I remember ‘cause I was working on this story. He declared the surge a failure I think back in May of 2007 and that was an interesting time ‘cause the surge actually hadn’t gone into effect yet all the way. It wasn’t until June that all the troops got there and so you saw leaders, more on the Democratic side, declaring the surge a failure and then I think they were anticipating that it would be, but in fact it kind of succeeded insofar as it was billed by... As Petraeus and others said it would succeed, it kind of did succeed and so now I think that’s a reality that hasn’t sunk in yet. So I don’t know what it means ‘cause I’m not an expert on the future but it’s an interesting dilemma for the Democratic party, which has kind of run and for good reason they’ve run on the fact that hey, Iraq is a total failure; we got to get out of there. Well, now elements of it have succeeded. Can you make the same argument? I don’t know. I have to say this ‘cause I’ve spent so much time over there, but the other argument that I would hear... When Obama and others talked about drawing down troops from Iraq they would say, “We’ll leave behind a small force of Americans.” Sometimes they’d have a number like five thousand or twenty thousand who would remain in Iraq as advisers and that’s an interesting... it sounds interesting to say that, but the reality is if you just drew down to five thousand Americans in Iraq and then you started to have say a mass slaughter of Sunnis by Shia and this is occurring say ten miles from a base where Americans live, and these images of absolute horror and civil war are broadcast on the international media, how is it going to look when you have five thousand Americans living in that neighborhood unable to prevent it from happening and just sort of being on their bases ‘cause that would be the reality? I’m not saying that would necessarily happen but the idea of drawing down to 5,000 troops or whatever number people have is sometimes... I think a lot of Americans hear that and it sounds like a really great idea but I’ve always... whenever I hear that I think how the hell is that going to work? Either you stay for a long time and slowly draw them down or you just pull out at once and let the chips fall where they may.
Question: What are the future implications of this?
Evan Wright: I think it’s becoming clear and also because the violence has gone down so much in Iraq that some aspects of the surge, at least in the short term, have actually worked, and I actually think our political leaders- that reality hasn’t yet caught up with the debate that we’re having in this country. The fact that the surge was technically and interestingly enough... Harry Reid...I remember ‘cause I was working on this story. He declared the surge a failure I think back in May of 2007 and that was an interesting time ‘cause the surge actually hadn’t gone into effect yet all the way. It wasn’t until June that all the troops got there and so you saw leaders, more on the Democratic side, declaring the surge a failure and then I think they were anticipating that it would be, but in fact it kind of succeeded insofar as it was billed by...as Petraeus and others said it would succeed, it kind of did succeed and so now I think that’s a reality that hasn’t sunk in yet. So I don’t know what it means ‘cause I’m not an expert on the future but it’s an interesting dilemma for the Democratic party, which has kind of run and for good reason they’ve run on the fact that hey, Iraq is a total failure; we got to get out of there. Well, now elements of it have succeeded. Can you make the same argument? I don’t know. I have to say this ‘cause I’ve spent so much time over there, but the other argument that I would hear..when Obama and others talked about drawing down troops from Iraq they would say, “We’ll leave behind a small force of Americans.” Sometimes they’d have a number like 5,000 or 20,000 who would remain in Iraq as advisers and that’s an interesting...it sounds interesting to say that, but the reality is if you just drew down to 5,000 Americans in Iraq and then you started to have say a mass slaughter of Sunnis by Shia and this is occurring say ten miles from a base where Americans live, and these images of absolute horror and civil war are broadcast on the international media, how is it going to look when you have 5,000 Americans living in that neighborhood unable to prevent it from happening and just sort of being on their bases ‘cause that would be the reality? I’m not saying that would necessarily happen but the idea of drawing down to 5,000 troops or whatever number people have is sometimes...I think a lot of Americans hear that and it sounds like a really great idea but I’ve always...whenever I hear that I think how the hell is that going to work? Either you stay for a long time and slowly draw them down or you just pull out at once and let the chips fall where they may.
Question: What should we be doing for our veterans?
Evan Wright: Well, it’s just a perception thing. I think that we tend to view vets in one of two ways. Either they’re heroes and the right wing version is they’re all out there fighting for Mom and apple pie and the left wing version is more convoluted. It’s that they’re all heroes but they’re all victims ‘cause they were all tricked in to signing up and they don’t want to be in Iraq and we should support them by pulling them out. And the truth is some guys feel...and women feel duped in to signing up or they signed up to get college money and now they’re in Iraq getting blown up on bases or by IEDs, but the troops that I’ve covered more are the infantry in both the army and the marines. And those are guys who signed up because they wanted to be warriors and they wanted to serve their country and it’s not- not all of them support the policies in Iraq but in their minds they did not join the military to support a particular policy or a particular President. They signed up to be professional soldiers and do what they’re told to do by their leaders, by the civilian leaders who control the military. So when we say, “Let’s support the troops by pulling them out of this war,” there’s a lot of troops who are-- who kind of say, “Well, how are you supporting us? We’ve been over here. We’ve given our blood, sweat, tears. We’ve lost our brothers over here and now you’re saying just take us home and let’s lose the war.” The-- I’m passing on their viewpoint. I’m not trying to make some right wing argument but there’s a lot of troops who feel this way and so they don’t feel supported when they’re portrayed as victims or when they’re portrayed as these sad sacks fighting a stupid...a futile war that they should be pulled out of. And I don’t know if that makes any sense but I don’t think...even if you think we should pull them out and you think we should end the war, you should...people should recognize that that’s a very devastating thing to tell the troops that have been over there for five years now fighting on the country’s behalf as they see it. It’s not so simple as oh, they’ll all be happy if they come home. A lot of them won’t be. A lot of troops keep reenlisting in- especially in the marine corps. They keep meeting or exceeding their recruitment goals and their reenlistment goals because a lot of troops want to go over there and keep serving until there is a resolution in Iraq.
Recorded on: 7/17/08
Evan Wright explains common misconceptions held by the public and offers his insight regarding American missteps and future implications.
Join Radiolab's Latif Nasser at 1pm ET on Monday as he chats with Malcolm Gladwell live on Big Think.
The Labour Economics study suggests two potential reasons for the increase: corruption and increased capacity.
Cool hand rebuke<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyMTIyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjY1NTYyOH0.0MCPKN3If94mYCNf3mMNrnTvJXjXN_bKLhgk9203EXk/img.jpg?width=917&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=453" id="1627b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6d76421ba1ea0de4b09956b97e80c384" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A chart showing prison population rates (per 100,000 people) in 2018. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
Who profits with for-profit prisons?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="97ac37e6c7f6f22ec130ea2d56871701"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dB78NV2WpWc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The Labour Economics study suggests that privately-run prisons do convicts a few favors at the moment of sentencing. However, proponents of private prisons often point to other benefits when making their case. Specifically, they argue that private prisons reduce operating costs, stimulate innovation in the correctional system, and reduce recidivism—the rate at which released prisoners are rearrested and return to prison.</p><p>In regard to recidivism, the research is mixed. <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0011128799045001002" target="_blank">One study</a> compared roughly 400 former prisoners from Florida, 200 released from private prisons and 200 from state-run facilities. It found the private-prison cohort maintained lower rates of recidivism. However, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1745-9133.2005.00006.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">another Florida study</a> found no significant rate differences. And two other studies—one from <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0011128799045001002" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Oklahoma</a> and another out of <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0734016813478823" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Minnesota</a>, both comparing much larger cohorts than the first Florida study— found that prisoners leaving private prisons had a greater risk of recidivism.</p><p>The research is also inconclusive regarding cost savings. <a href="https://www.hamiltonproject.org/assets/files/economics_of_private_prisons.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A Hamilton Project analysis</a> noted that such comparisons are difficult because private prisons, like all private companies, are not required to release operational details. In comparing what studies were available, the authors estimate the costs to be comparable and that "in practice the primary mechanism for cost saving in private prisons is lower salaries for correctional officers"—about $7,000 less than their public peers. They add that competition-driven innovation is lacking as the three largest firms control nearly the entire market.</p><p>"We aren't saying private prisons are bad," Galinato said. "But states need to be careful with them. If your state has previous and regular issues with corruption, I wouldn't be surprised to see laws being more skewed to give longer sentences, for example. If the goal is to reduce the number of incarcerated individuals, increasing the number of private prisons may not be the way to go."</p>
What exactly does "questions are the new answers" mean?
- Traditionally, intelligence has been viewed as having all the answers. When it comes to being innovative and forward-thinking, it turns out that being able to ask the right questions is an equally valuable skill.
- The difference between the right and wrong questions is not simply in the level of difficulty. In this video, geobiologist Hope Jahren, journalist Warren Berger, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, and investor Tim Ferriss discuss the power of creativity and the merit in asking naive and even "dumb" questions.
- "Very often the dumb question that is sitting right there that no one seems to be asking is the smartest question you can ask," Ferriss says, adding that "not only is it the smartest, most incisive, but if you want to ask it and you're reasonably smart, I guarantee you there are other people who want to ask it but are just embarrassed to do so."
A vertical map might better represent a world dominated by China and determined by shipping routes across the iceless Arctic.
- Europe has dominated cartography for so long that its central place on the world map seems normal.
- However, as the economic centre of gravity shifts east and the climate warms up, tomorrow's map may be very different.
- Focusing on both China and Arctic shipping lanes, this vertical representation could be the world map of the future.
The world, but not as we know it<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU1Nzg1NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTkwMjIyNn0.qmQfwUdjQka8JX6q4KGANagleiuucpWay5ytMenZxUU/img.jpg?width=980" id="b95e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac088ec55c0585a93a9a310faab9a4c7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A Chinese 'vertical world map,' showing the world in a different perspective from the one we're used to.
Image: Prior Probability<p>Europe is tucked away in a corner, an appendage of Asia dwarfed by neighboring Africa. North America is stood on its head, facing the rest of the world from the top of the map — cut off from South America, which cuts a solitary figure at the bottom. Africa is justifiably huge, but equally eccentric. </p><p>The eye scouts elsewhere for a place to land: not the Indian Ocean, which dominates the middle of the map, but some terra firma. Antarctica and Australia are too small, mere stepping stones for the land mass of Asia. Ultimately our gaze is drawn toward China, the lynchpin of this unfamiliar world. </p><p>Managing to leave both poles intact, this "vertical" world map is about as far away as you can get from the classic Mercator projection – which slices up both, giving center stage to a puffed-up Europe. Perhaps this new map will become more familiar soon: It may do more justice to the world of the near future, dominated by China and determined by shipping routes across the iceless Arctic. <br></p>
China's 'ten-dash line'<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU1Nzg1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTI4MzQyNn0.sBe0oFTif4Jef1vWh1kAnUylU_QMPXT5xQjm-5aA3sA/img.jpg?width=980" id="a3b81" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="80fc6e4f5c9c1c978f698be2c8de5484" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
'China without any part left out': includes Taiwan and the islands and atolls in the South China Sea, surrounded by a ten-dash line
Image: Global Times<p>While there's no indication that this map represents the Chinese government's "official" worldview, it is no secret that China has a thing with maps – and more specifically, the country's representation on them. </p><p>In China, the country's current economic success is seen as a redress of the unequal treatment meted out by western superpowers in the 19th century. China's world dominance is a return to a more natural state of world affairs, many feel. Cartographic rectifications are a symbolically significant corollary of that sentiment.</p><p><a href="https://www.citylab.com/equity/2015/12/china-cracks-down-on-politcally-incorrect-maps/421032/" target="_blank">Fines are regularly imposed</a> on companies – domestic and foreign – that fail to represent China to the fullest extent of its external borders, disputed though they may be by others (e.g. India, Taiwan and any of the countries with claims overlapping China's in the South China Sea). But the People's Republic's cartographic obsession doesn't end at China's territory itself. It also includes the country's position on the world map. <br></p>
The Kingdom at the Middle of the World<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU1Nzg2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTkwODEzMX0.SGrAZBH6iJVggFYSaIahzv9GvfEh17y1SwUNINbVicQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="1774c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="99790d80a909d17a948f7c5d463d7d98" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Early Japanese color copy of Ricci's world map
Image: public domain<p>China's name for itself is <em>Zhōngguó</em>, which means 'Central State' or 'Middle Kingdom', reflecting its ancient self-image as the civilized center (<em>Huá</em>) of the world, with wild tribes (<em>Yí</em>) at the edge. That view is not unique to China. Vietnam, for example, at certain times also styled itself as the "central state" (<em>Trung Quóc</em>) – considering the Chinese in turn as the uncouth outsiders.</p><p>It may be surprising to recall, but Europeans themselves once considered their own continent a relative backwater, viewing Jerusalem as the true center of the world. That changed with the Age of Discovery, which placed Europe at the center of an ever-expanding world. Maps reflected that worldview, and largely continue to do so. That's why today's standard world map still has Europe at its center – with China off toward the periphery on the map's right-hand side. </p><p>The most notable feature of the very first major modern world map produced in China, the <em>Kunyu Wanguo Quantu</em> (1602), is that it places China firmly at the center of the world. Produced for the Chinese emperor by Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, it was the first map ever to combine that perspective with modern western knowledge: it was the first Chinese map to show the Americas, for instance. </p><p>That representation may not have taken off elsewhere, but it will be instantly recognizable to Chinese students, as it's the standard format for world maps in China's schools today.<br></p>
America on its head<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMDU1Nzg2My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzQ5NTc0MH0.EqadI2Yp-2dPwi3VccFZelIDK4V9t0ZOfTfHjdB6wVw/img.jpg?width=980" id="97104" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2b66e8de389b3d736bc28e019e445cd0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Upside down you turn me: North America on its head, in Chinese characters
Image: Prior Probability<p>For those used to "classic" Eurocentric world maps, Europe's marginalization may come across as a bit of an upset. America's new position on the horizontal Chinese world map is less jarring: It merely moves from the left- to the right-hand side of the picture. But then there's this vertical world map, which deals a similar blow to the American land mass: divided in two and pushed to the upper and lower edges of the map.</p><p>Unfamiliar? Sure. Shocking? Perhaps. Wrong? Not really. First off, no world map is totally right, since it's mathematically impossible to transfer the surface of a three-dimensional object onto a flat surface without some distortion. And since the world is a globe, where you center that map is a matter of purely subjective choice.<br></p><p>Those choices have historical reasons. Mercator's map was not specifically designed to put an inflated Europe at the center of the world. That was just a side effect; its main purpose was to aid shipping: Straight lines on the map correspond to straight lines sailed on the seas.</p>
By 2050, a completely melted Arctic could enable the Transpolar Passage, shortening trade routes between Asia and Europe and boosting business for Alaskan ports like Nome and Dutch Harbor.
Image: The Maritime Executive<p>The vertical world map, showing the relative proximity of China (and the rest of Asia) to Europe and (even the East Coast of) North America, has a similarly maritime <em>raison d'être</em>, or it will have by mid-century. <a href="https://www.maritime-executive.com/editorials/the-arctic-shipping-route-no-one-s-talking-about" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Experts project</a> that by 2050 (if not sooner), the Arctic will be sufficiently ice-free to enable the so-called Transpolar Passage, i.e. shipping straight across the North Pole. </p><p>That would shave more than three weeks off a traditional sea voyage between Europe and Asia, via the Suez Canal – and even be significantly faster than other northern alternatives like the Northwest Passage (via Canada) or the Northern Sea Route (hugging the Siberian coast). Since ships would not need to go through locks or pass over shallow waters, it would also remove current restrictions on tonnage per ship. <br></p><p>The only country seriously preparing for such a future: China. None of the other Arctic powers is giving the Transpolar route any strategic thought. On the other hand, China's Arctic Policy document, released in January 2018, already matter-of-factly refers to the Transpolar route as the 'Central Passage' – one of several 'Polar Silk Roads' that China seems to want to develop. And they already have the world map to go with it.</p>
A large-scale study from King's College London explores the link between genetics and sun-seeking behaviors.
- There are a number of physical and mental health benefits to sun exposure, such as boosted vitamin D and serotonin levels and stronger bones.
- Addictions are multi-step conditions that, by definition, require exposure to the addictive agent and have also been proven to have a genetic factor. Countless people are exposed to addictive things, but not all become addicted. This is because of the genetic component of addiction.
- This large-scale study explores the link between sun-seeking behaviors and the genetic markers for addiction.
The benefits of sunlight<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyMjI1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNzk0NDUxNH0.lbYbZidJkNXPUcWM6m8cucuzAFOANkqPaIVfJdqkJ4Q/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="d5fcd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f44fcc9a31393c8102803eb50d01a19a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="woman sitting on dock in the sunlight" />
The mental and physical health benefits of sunlight have been heavily researched.
Credit: eldar nurkovic on Shutterstock<p>The benefits of sunlight have been widely discussed for many years. In fact, there are a number of physical and mental health benefits to sun exposure.</p><p><strong>Sunshine (and the lack of) impacts your hormone levels. </strong></p><p>Sunlight (and alternatively, the lack of sunlight) triggers the release of certain hormones in your brain. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase serotonin, which is associated with boosting your mood and helping you feel calm and focused. </p><p>Alternatively, dark lighting triggers melatonin, a hormone that is helpful in allowing you to rest and fall asleep. Without enough sunlight, your serotonin levels can dip - and low serotonin levels have been associated with a higher risk of major depression with seasonal pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder).</p><p><strong>Sunlight can build strong bones. </strong></p><p>Exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation in the sun's rays can interact with your skin, causing it to create vitamin D. <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to NHS</a>, vitamin D helps regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities or bone pain. <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2290997/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2008 study</a> has shown that even 30 minutes in sunlight (while wearing a bathing suit) can boost vitamin D levels. </p><p><strong>Can sunlight actually prevent cancer? </strong></p><p>Although heavy exposure to sunlight has been proven to contribute to certain skin cancers, a moderate amount of sunlight has actually been shown to have preventative benefits.</p><p><a href="https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/3/5/1548.full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to a 2008 study</a> from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, those who live in areas with fewer daylight hours are more likely to have some specific cancers (including but not limited to colon cancer, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer) than those who live in areas with increased daylight hours.</p><p><strong>Additionally, sunlight has been shown to help people with skin conditions such as psoriasis. </strong></p><p><a href="http://www.who.int/uv/faq/uvhealtfac/en/index1.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to the World Health Organization</a>, sun exposure may also be able to help treat skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, jaundice, and acne. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight#benefits" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Some research</a> has also indicated the sun benefits people who struggle with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus, and inflammatory bowel disease. </p>
Can you be addicted to the sun?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyMjI1Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzE5NTMwOX0.pHOWSr3FcIndYkBAVND1UsD8AheTQmxsePKRi3XvYTw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=31%2C0%2C32%2C0&height=700" id="93c87" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="384e08fdcd535ed2b792eef419af9e2c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="hands holding up the sun" />
The large-scale study examines the link between addiction and sunlight, with some surprising results...
Credit: KieferPix on Shutterstock<p>Addictions are multi-step conditions that, by definition, require exposure to the addictive agent. Due to the increase of serotonin (a chemical in the human body <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/serotonin" target="_blank">that has been proven</a> to help reduce depression, regulate anxiety, and maintain bone health), it's natural that being exposed to prolonged periods of sunlight could become somewhat addictive to the human body and mind. We crave things that make us feel good, and sometimes those cravings become something we depend on. This is the very nature of addiction.</p><p>Countless people are exposed to addictive things (substances, medications, and yes, even the sun), but not all become addicted. This is because of the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506170/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">genetic component of addiction</a>. </p><p>A large-scale study from King's College in London examines more than 260,000 people to better understand how sun-seeking behavior in humans can be linked to genes involving addiction, behavior traits, and brain function. </p><p><strong>The study included two phases:</strong></p><p>Phase one suggested genetics play a role in sun-seeking behaviors and phase 2 helped pinpoint what those genetic markers are.</p><p>Phase 1: The researchers studied the detailed health information of 2,500 twins, including their sun-seeking behavior and their genetics. Identical twins in a pair were more likely to have similar sun-seeking behavior than non-identical twins, indicating that genetics plays a role here. </p><p>Phase 2: The team of researchers then were able to identify five key gene markers involved in this sun-seeking behavior from further analysis of 260,000 participants. Some of the genes indicated have been linked to behaviors traits that are associated with risk-taking and addiction (including smoking and alcohol consumption).</p><p><strong>What does this study really prove? </strong></p><p>Some may think it's natural to become addicted to something that makes you feel good. The physical and mental health benefits of the outdoors have been heavily studied...so what does this study really mean? </p><p>First and foremost, it means more research needs to be done to examine the link between human conditions and exposure to sunlight. Senior author Dr. Mario Falchi explains to the <a href="https://www.kcl.ac.uk/news/addicted-to-the-sun-its-in-your-genes" target="_blank">King's College London News Center</a>: "Our results suggest that tackling excessive sun exposure or use of tanning beds might be more challenging than expected, as it is influenced by genetic factors. It is important for the public to be aware of this predisposition, as it could make people more mindful of their behavior and the potential harms of excessive sun exposure."</p><p>Additionally, it could mean alternative treatments, and further research needs to be conducted in terms of how we treat certain conditions that are caused or heavily influenced by human exposure to sunlight. </p>