How the obesity epidemic is aggravating global warming
(Issue June 30th - July6th, p. 21)
which is the most ridiculous
To begin with, despite of what the title says, the author does not actually talk about global warming, but about wasting energy. The connection between both is just assumed in the first sentence with 'we know humans are causing [global warming]', and not even once addressed after this. On the other hand, also the connection between wasting energy and obesity is constructed to make the point that you should loose weight to save the earth:
"[...] it is becoming clear that obese people are having a direct impact on the climate. This is happening through their lifestyles and the amount and type of food they eat, and the worse the obesity epidemic gets the greater its impact on global warming."
Well, if one wants to criticize a lifestyle, then one should criticise a lifestyle, but not add several associative leaps after that. Let us start with asking what exactly is a 'waste' of energy? Using energy for purposes that do not necessarily improve our well-being could generally be considered a waste. That goes for breaking a cellphone (consider all the energy needed to produce it), browsing the web the whole day (your home wireless doesn't run on vacuum energy) as well as for unnecessary consumption of food for whose production energy was needed.
However, whether that food is actually eaten or thrown away is completely irrelevant in this context. Also, on an equal footing one can argue that the mere presence of diet products damages the climate: it takes energy to produce and transport them, but the energy gain after consumption is lowered. Is there any reason to waste energy on producing diet coke when one can as well drink water? And while we're at it, is there any reason to go jogging every morning - isn't that just a waste of energy? Come to think about it, civilization itself seems to be a waste of energy.
The article goes on arguing
"[...] his greater bulk and higher metabolic rate will cause him to feel the heat more in the globally warmed summers, and he will be the first to turn on the energy intensive air conditioning."
If one argues that overweight people turn on the AC more often because they sweat more easily, one might want to take into account that underweight (or generally sickly) people tend to turn on the heating more often. People who suffer from back pain, arthritis and shortness of breath might use their car more often (as the article states), but this must not necessarily be a cause of obesity. The only thing one can state is that being healthy and well adapted to the part of the world you live in minimizes the additional energy needed to survive and feel comfortable (how 'needed' relates to 'actually used' is a completely different question).
I am definitely in favor of more sidewalks, of increased awareness for health risks caused by obesity, and I totally agree that we should save energy. But I would appreciate a scientific discussion of these issues, and not a mixed up mesh of several issues all drowned in politcal correctness.
In a similar spirit I read last week several articles claiming "Meat is murder on the environment" or likewise, a 'conclusion' based on a paper "Evaluating environmental impacts of the Japanese beef cow–calf system by the life cycle assessment method" (published in Animal Science Journal 78 (4), 424–432)
"a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent of the amount of CO2 emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres"
Being a vegetarian myself, I could give you a good number of reasons to drop the meat, but nothing you wouldn't find online in some thousand other places, so let me just focus on the issue at hand. If you want to save energy with the food you buy and eat, the most important factor to consider is origin and transportation.
- Your apple from New-Zealand, labeled 'bio' or not, doesn't tunnel to you. In fact you could say since, unlike beef, vegetables and friuts consist mostly of water, the amount of gasoline needed per energy content (joule) of transported food is higher for greens. So, preferably buy stuff that was not transported all around the globe whenever you can.
- If you buy products from countries where slash and burn is still practiced, you're damaging the environment more than if you support your local farmer - even if he's somewhat more expensive than Safeway.
- And, needless to say, don't buy stuff you don't need. Each time you have to throw something away, you are throwing away all the energy that was necessary to produce it. That doesn't only go for food, but for everything else including wrappings.
I want to add that much like cows, human flatulence as well release methane, which is said to contribute to global warming. So maybe we should consider a national anti-fart campaign? Regarding the vegetarian factor, also please note that "The cellulose in vegetables cannot be digested, therefore vegetarians produce more gas than people with a mixed diet." [source]
The bottomline of this writing is: don't construct or publish ridiculous cross-relations that are scientifically doubtful for a catchy headline.
See also: Global Warming