Forget Cancer, Obesity Causes Climate Change
Roughly 18 months ago, I wrote a rejoinder to a rebuke of an advert made by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) in which it had rightly connected obesity to 13 different types of cancer. Earlier this month, CRUK proved it still has its stones and once more brought this fact to the fore. Cue outrage.
The campaign itself, which wants to protect children from junk-food advertising and restrict price promotions on unhealthy food, I actually disagree with. Earlier this year, Transport For London banned ‘junk food’ advertising, a decision which subsequently lead to the absurd situation wherein adverts that referenced foods deemed unhealthy were removed.
Take for instance, this advert below featuring a biscuit: banned. This was one advert amongst many, resulting in thousands of pounds of cost to the tax payer. To keep it short, although I trust the message, I simply don’t trust the powers that be to handle the situation adequately.
But it was last week, when the civil disobedience group Extinction Rebellion (XR) came back from school and took to the streets that I found myself puzzled. Not so long ago, darling of the Democrats Alexandra Ocasio Cortez (AOC) had suggested that it it might be better for the planet is we stop having children. The science, it would seem, backs her up – less people equals less emissions as less energy is needed to move them about and keep them alive. This is a pretty brutal and stark assessment by any measure, but it got me thinking, if more people leads to more climate change, does more of a person lead to more climate change? And if so, why is it that the left champions the body positivity movement yet fails to defend the likes of CRUK in the face of such a sound science?
Haters Gonna Eat
Now, first things first, the body positivity movement in essence a noble affair, it promotes confidence in one’s appearance. We don’t want a planet inhabited by people who cannot look themselves in the mirror – in this sense it is a wonderful thing. However, to return to AOC’s point (one that has been echoed by green politicians before), the celebration of obesity is by and large an anti-green affair. An affair that, as with all things, can get out of hand. When the World Health Organization has repeatedly talked of an obesity pandemic and people are continually claiming that CRUK is fat shaming – it would seem it has.
One quick caveat, I am well aware that it is in fact athletes who consume the most food. However, I am discussing why those who are the most angered by climate change are seemingly OK with a lifestyle that is quite possibly a significant cause of it. We are also not in the midst of a ‘athlete’ crisis – not that I am aware of anyway, let me know if I have made a false start here.
Stop burning coal and start burning calories
That said, now for my first query, does obesity cause climate change? In my search I find a study from 2008 by peer-reviewed science journal The Lancet. In it, the authors, Dr. Phil Edwards and Dr. Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine crunched the numbers and concluded that: “compared with the normal weight population, the obese population consumes 18% more food energy. Additionally, more transportation fuel energy will be used to transport the increased mass of the obese population, which will increase even further if, as is likely, the overweight people in response to their increased body mass choose to walk less and drive more.” Sounds like something straight from the AOC scientific school of thought.
In response, Dr. Paul Shekelle, director of the Southern California Evidence-Based Practice Center for the RAND Corporation stated that, "Obese people don't need to be told that they may contribute a disproportionate share to the global warming problem," before reassuringly adding that, "Even if it is true, which it probably is, I doubt this would have any beneficial effect.”
Edwards and Roberts continued to argue their fat-wa in their more recent book, The Energy Glut, The Politics of Fatness in an Overheating World (2016), adding nuance to their argument and stating that: “If you think that obesity and climate change are unrelated, you are wrong. The human race is getting fatter and the planet is getting hotter, and fossil fuels are the cause of both.”
A more recent report that involved 37 world-leading scientists was published at the beginning of this year. The report, Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems stated that: “Because much of the world's population is inadequately nourished and many environmental systems and processes are pushed beyond safe boundaries by food production, a global transformation of the food system is urgently needed.” Sustainable diets, chock-full of fruits and vegetables are antithetical to those which cause obesity. The report’s conclusion to the question: ‘Can A Healthy Diet Save the Planet?’, is that yes, it can.
The Lady Doesn’t Protest Too Much
So onto my second query, why is it the left so ready to celebrate obesity? Of course there are those who cannot help it due to certain conditions, but they are a minutia of the obese population at large. In the face of such flagrant disregarding of the science, I have a theory, and the theory goes that, as with many things on the left today, it all stems from communism. In this case, the differences between its European and American forms.
Communism in Europe has been and still is much more concerned with class than its American counterpart. Its cousin across the pond has traditionally been much more concerned with consumer culture - seen today as a symptom of politicians and rampant capitalists conniving shamelessly in order to encourage individuals to expand their appetites and consume. It goes back to the old testament: blaming those in the marketplace for placing temptation before us in the form of false idols. Without those who are selling us the temptation, their would be no issue: rid yourself of the idols and you rid yourself of the problem.
But as with most Americanisms, the UK is rarely far behind – and as the Fat Man of Europe, it would seem we already have fairly large behind. In this sense, we can perhaps understand why obesity is nowadays being so celebrated and protected: it is yet another form of victimhood. They are as they are not because of their own actions but because of the actions of a few acting directly against their interests.
As such, they are without power or agency, and thus cannot control their obesity. These oppression brownie points are worth more than gold to those hellbent on pushing social justice upon any place or person they perceive as not paying tribute to their intersectional idols. Last week it is once again CRUK, the next it will be whoever refuses them cake. I reject this idea, and view these people as neither heroes nor victims, but as individuals who can be judged on their own merits and who reside in societies wherein this is rewarded.
Communism: Back From Extinction
So is this the reason groups like Extinction Rebellion ignore one of the biggest problems getting in the way of their cause? It would appear undoubtedly so. From the sharing of articles promoting this bloodstained ideology, to slogans celebrating it at their protests, to various tweets published by the group on a regular basis. There are a few too many instances that point to this being the case.
In a tweet deleted after nine minutes during their occupation of Oxford Circus in April 2019, the group said: “This movement is the best chance we have of bringing down capitalism. Get on board, induction through the day at Parliament Square. You are welcome. You are needed.” On another occasion, 10 May 2019, the group tweeted an article from the Ecologist titled, “Extinction Rebellion and anti-capitalist politics” whilst at the same time describing capitalism as a source of infinite growth and infinite equality. The piece is in response to critique by those of the hard-left who dismay at the group’s perceived lack of support for economical alternatives to capitalism. In the article, the author explains that: ‘These critiques fail to recognise two things: first, the current of anti-capitalist practice and principle that runs through the movement; second, that adopting a strong anti-capitalist stance would be movement suicide.’
In Extremism Rebellion, a recent report on the group by the centre-right think tank, Policy Exchange, unnerves volumes on the background ideology of the group. The report concludes that: ‘In one scenario, capitalism will end because it will bring about the collapse of its own system—and possibly the end of civilised life on earth. Yet the alternative that Extinction Rebellion offers is for human intervention to end capitalism and thus secure its own survival. In both scenarios capitalism ends, but what remains unclear in the second scenario is what it will be replaced by.’ This is of course not proof of communist sympathies, but (if I was a betting man) I imagine I’d bet our planet on this being the case. Why protest at Oxford Circus, the consumer capital of the Capital? In any case, it is rare to find many suffering obesity whilst suffering under communism, so perhaps they’re onto something after all.
So is obesity abetting climate change? Climate climate, as with obesity, is a a complex and multifaceted problem, but scientists and researchers alike seem to suggest that it is indeed a factor. Does this mean we should be angered by when someone is obese? Most certainly not, but we should also expect that individuals are able to face facts when they are presented and ask that other individuals not cynically ignore them for the sake of an intersectional narrative. Those who fail to listen to the hard work done by groups such as CRUK do so at their own peril. Those on the left who fail to point this out do so at the peril of the planet.