The physician, geologist and palaeontologist Hanns-Christian Gunga was born in 1954. He is professor for Space Medicine and Extreme Environments at the Charité in Berlin and director of the hospital’s physiological institute. He has worked on many space missions and with many people who live and work under extreme conditions.
TOO HOT DURING THE DAY, TOO COLD AT NIGHT: WHAT OUR BODIES CAN DO - AND WHY THEY’RE UNDER TOO MUCH STRAIN
The human body: humanity’s Achilles heel?
While our bodies are best suited to a mild Mediterranean climate, most people on this planet live in a completely different environment: in the overcrowded, noisy, increasingly hot cities south of the Sahara, in the Middle East, India or Asia. Some people, especially those in industrialised countries, deliberately put their bodies under enormous physical duress, climbing mountains, going freediving, flying into space, jumping off cliffs or from balloons in the Earth’s stratosphere.
How do our bodies cope, and where are their limits? Hanns-Christian Gunga’s book examines the adaptability of the human body from an evolutionary perspective. Using case studies as illuminating examples, he explains what the human body is capable of – and what it’s not – while describing the boundaries of the environmental envelope that can support us. Yet this timely and insightful book also reveals the effects of shift work, loneliness and explosive population growth on the human body and spells out the many risks it is likely to grapple with in the future.
Gunga’s expertly argued and accessible work makes alarmingly clear that human adaptability to extreme environments – including space – operates within narrow physiological and psychological limits, resulting in dramatic biological and social conflicts that will likely be accelerated even further by climate change.