Thus ran a headline in the Sun today, a UK newspaper that combines the brevity of USA Today and the inanity of the National Inquirer. So why am I reporting on this silliness? Because other more reputable resources are also reporting on a new paper released in the International Journal of Epidemiology this week.
The actual title, for those who want to get your free copy from the Journal, is "Population adiposity and climate change." This is not a study, so I won't call it one. It is a theoretical analysis.
What this theoretical analysis is analyzing is how fat people have increased the amount of greenhouse gasses due to our insatiable hunger and inability to walk comfortably (and therefore our increased reliance on cars). In doing this it creates 2 hypothetical populations of around 1 billion people each. One has the approximate size diversity of the UK in 1970...the other has the approximate estimate of size diversity in the UK in 2010.
All things being equal, the papers authors posit, a fatter population will eat more and drive cars more. They will cause us to produce more food and use more fuel. Which, of course, has raised the green house emissions and caused climate change...or if it has not caused it, it is certainly a "problem" now. I quote: "We argue that increased population adiposity, because of its contribution to climate change from additional food and transport GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, should be recognized as an environmental problem."
Where to begin? First to say, this is a sad trope that has been beaten to death, and using big words and complicated math and epidemiologic theories is not going to make this more tired.
Second, there is in no way that these hypothetical populations are equivalent to distributions of size diversity, resource availability, or energy expenditure on a global scale. In other words, the ability to generalize this information to reality is severely limited...in a similar way in which the ability to generalize Star Trek to our current reality is severely limited.
Third, the assumptions about the energy consumption and expenditure of "normal," overweight, and obese populations are just that: assumptions....and you know what you say when you assume something. Seriously, though, there are no good scientific measures that consistently show what the average consumption is for someone or it's relationship to energy output. Yes, we know about the calorie, but that assumes a static system in every living person in the population. One thing we should be able to acknowledge is that no individuals system is exactly the same as another.
Fourth, no account (either in change of energy expenditure or in difference of transportation patterns) was made for the changing aspects of the types of neighborhoods these 2 different theoretical populations would have lived in. These people assume that the average person spends 30 minutes driving each day. Where the fuck, I wonder, do these people live? Anyone who lives in the suburbs and commutes in to work knows that a 15 minute drive each way is something of a miracle. Even if you live close, you may have children that need transport or a parent in need of care and moving around.
Fifth, think of the children! These authors didn't. Where are you finding a population of 1 billion that does not have some portion of that being children?
Sixth, how you can expect to have any epidemiological analysis of the effects of greenhouse gasses without acknowledging the doubling of our global population in that same amount of time is beyond me. Indeed, it seems completely unethical to do so.
These six problems are just the few that I've thought of in a few hours time. Given time, and perhaps someone who could interpret the analysis into actual English for me, I could more than likely come up with more.
I am sick of the bashing today. I am sick knowing that people look at me and my friends and family and they believe that we, increasingly, are the enemy. I am sick of being blamed for processes that started on this planet long before our current generations were alive.
The last line in the Sun article is from their in-house medical consultant who warns that antagonizing the "fatties" may not help. Indeed, antagonizing this fatty just makes her madder and madder...which doesn't make her skinnier, but it does make her friends in blogland that much better informed. So keep up the fat baiting and start to ponder how dangerous big mammals are when they get mad!