The Energy Glut: Climate Change and the Politics of Fatness

The Energy Glut: Climate Change and the Politics of Fatness

by Ian Roberts, Phil Edwards


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781848135185
Publisher: Zed Books
Publication date: 10/12/2010
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.06(w) x 7.81(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Ian Roberts is Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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The Energy Glut

Climate Change and the Politics of Fatness

By Ian Roberts, Phil Edwards

Zed Books Ltd

Copyright © 2010 Ian Roberts
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84813-518-5


Fat people and fat populations

'By the way, Peter, who will be doing your interview tonight, is himself obese. He has been struggling with his weight for years.' I am about to be interviewed on a live BBC radio programme, having published a letter in the Lancet medical journal about how bulging Western waistlines are forcing up world food prices and worsening climate change (Edwards and Roberts, 2008). Perhaps because the Lancet letter linked three topical issues, the media picked up the story and spread it around the world like a computer virus. The letter was about weight gain across the whole of society but the news media had clearly decided that obese people were the problem. 'Obese blamed for world's ills' reported the BBC. 'Do you mind me asking if you're fat, Dr Roberts?' asks Peter, the obese interviewer. 'Yes I am', I confidently reply, 'in fact we are all fat: I'm fat, you're fat, the prime minister is fat and the Queen is fat. The whole of our society is fat. Even the thin people are fat.' I was serious and this chapter explains why.

Peter, it would appear, had lost in his struggle with weight. But why was it such a struggle in the first place? Was his problem just a lack of discipline at the dinner table, a penchant for snacking between meals, or a strange aversion to the gym? If he laid out his weekly dietary ration on nutrition guru Gillian McKeith's table of shame, would she have been horrified by the conspicuous absence of flax and oxygen-forming chlorophyll? For decades, fat people have been treated like weak-willed social deviants as though obesity was a personal failing, the inevitable consequence of gluttony and sloth. Some people are fat, others are not. Bad luck the fat ones. You are what you eat, they say. Fat people eat too much, others do not. Fat people don't take enough exercise, others do. This is the popular view of obesity at the beginning of the twenty-first century and it is completely and utterly wrong. This chapter takes a closer look at obesity and examines just who is getting fat and why. It asks whether getting fat is a lifestyle issue – the bodily manifestation of a plethora of consumer choices freely made, as most governments would have us believe – or whether something more insidious is going on. But let's start with the body. What does being fat mean?

The human body is a vehicle perfectly designed for your personal transportation. It will keep running until the day you die. Whether moving or not it requires energy, but provided that you fill it up regularly with enough food it will meet most reasonable transportation demands. It has an important special feature. If the amount of food energy taken in is surplus to requirements, it will store the excess energy as fat. This energy can be called on later if needed, allowing the body to keep running for weeks, even on an empty tank. Body fat accumulates when the amount of energy we eat as food exceeds the amount of energy we use moving around and keeping warm. Fat is stored energy.

Most of our body fat is stockpiled under our skin and around our internal organs as adipose tissue, which is mostly made up of fat cells, also known as adipocytes. Fat cells contain a large droplet of lipid. This lipid, which has the consistency of margarine on a hot day, pushes the nucleus and everything else to the edges of the cell. The lipid droplet plumps up the cell, rather like a silicone implant plumps up a breast, and the bigger the droplet the fuller the cell becomes. As we get fatter, the number of fat cells in our body increases, and the fat cells that we already have expand as the lipid droplets they contain get bigger. Although used as a high-density energy store, there is nothing inert about fat. We could make an analogy between our body fat stores and the groceries on the shelves of a busy supermarket. Even as shoppers take food off the shelves, they remain well stocked, because the food taken off is continually replaced. If we stock up on energy faster than we use it up, we get fatter, and if we use it up faster than we stock up we get thinner. Energy intake need only be slightly higher than energy output for fat to accumulate. Doctors gauge how fat we are by working out our body mass index (BMI), which is our weight in kilograms divided by our height squared (height in metres multiplied by height in metres). BMI as a measure of fatness was invented 160 years ago by Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian mathematician, as a tool to estimate a healthy body weight taking into account how tall a person is. Doctors diagnose 'overweight' if a person's BMI is between 25 and 30, and 'obesity' if it is 30 or more.

More fat people

In recent years, obesity has hit the headlines because the percentage of the population that is obese has skyrocketed. In 1994, 14 per cent of English men were obese. Ten years later the figure was 24 per cent (Foresight, 2007). Nearly one in four men in England is now obese. On the other side of the Atlantic the situation is even worse. In the USA, one-third of the adult population is obese. Obesity is now so common in the Western world that it has ceased to be newsworthy. With nearly a quarter of the population obese, the media has now redirected its spotlight onto the 'severely obese', those with a BMI of 40 or more, and the 'super obese', those with a BMI over 50. Ten years ago, severely obese people were rare creatures and it would have taken a diligent journalist to find them, but in 2004, 1 per cent of the population of England had a BMI over 40. Thanks to a growing number of sensational, although information-lean, health documentaries, with names like Half Ton Mom, The World's Biggest Boy and Fat Doctor, most evenings we can settle in front of the television and watch the private sufferings of the super obese paraded for our entertainment. We can look on aghast as these sad super-sized specimens are extracted from their homes by fire crews with lifting gear, loaded into ambulances and road-freighted to hospital for urgent obesity surgery.

Comparing ourselves with others who are a lot fatter probably makes us feel better. It might also make us feel thinner. Researchers from University College London compared two general population surveys, conducted eight years apart, which collected data on self-perceived weight (Johnson et al., 2008). They wanted to find out whether the media's obsession with the super obese might be giving the wrong impression about how fat one had to be to meet the medical criteria for overweight. They found that whereas the percentage of the population who were overweight (BMI over 25) had risen, the percentage of the population who considered themselves overweight, had actually fallen. In 1999, 81 per cent of overweight people correctly identified themselves as overweight, compared with 75 per cent in 2007. Other studies have shown that the ability of parents to identify correctly when their children are overweight has become worse with time (He and Evans, 2007). Has the media coverage of super obesity backfired? It would appear that as we get fatter we are less likely to think of ourselves as fat because we compare ourselves with the people around us, who are getting fatter too.

Fewer thin people

At the same time, thin people, those with low BMIs, have also been in the news. But this time the problem is that there are so few of them in the general population that those with a very low BMI stand out as being 'abnormal'. In 2000, the British Medical Association (BMA) provoked a flurry of news coverage with a report slamming the media's obsession with 'abnormally thin' fashion models (BBC, 2000). According to the BMA the degree of thinness exhibited by the models was both 'unachievable and biologically inappropriate'. The problem of skinny models resurfaced in 2006 when the Spanish Association of Fashion Designers banned models with a BMI less than 18 from Madrid Fashion Week. The British secretary of state for culture, media and sport Tessa Jowell also wanted to see thin models chased off the catwalk. She applauded the Madrid decision and urged London Fashion Week to do the same.

There is certainly evidence that being thin is becoming harder to achieve. In 1994, 7.4 per cent of English women had a BMI less than 20. Ten years later, the figure was 5.6 per cent. Over the same period, the percentage of women with a BMI under 18.5 fell from 2.2 per cent to 1.7 per cent (Foresight, 2007). It would seem that even the thinnest people in our society are slowly getting fatter. But the evidence that being thin is biologically inappropriate is less convincing. The US Nurses Health Study measured the BMIs and other health-related risk factors of 115,000 nurses and then followed them up for sixteen years (Manson et al., 1995). Lean women (BMI less than 19) had the lowest death rates of all, with death rates increasing steadily as BMI increased. A 2009 report published in the Lancet that examined data on close to 1 million adults found that blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, both major risk factors for heart disease and stroke, increase linearly with increasing BMI starting from very low BMI levels (Whitlock et al., 2009). Although there was a higher mortality rate for the thinnest men and women, the excess was largely due to smoking-related diseases. Obviously some people have a low BMI because they are ill. They may have lung cancer, tuberculosis or perhaps an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa. But for those who do not have a hidden infection or cancer and have good mental health, the evidence that a low BMI is biologically inappropriate is thin to say the least.

Mr and Mrs Average

If we measured the BMI of all the people in a particular country and plotted on a graph how many people there were at each BMI value we would find a wide spread of values. This spread of values is called a distribution. There would be some really skinny people with a very low BMI and some really fat people with a very high BMI, but most people would have a BMI close to the centre of the distribution.

So far we have focused on the ends of the BMI distribution. At the heavy end, we have seen that there are quite a lot of people with a BMI over 30, far fewer with a BMI over 40 and very few huge people with a BMI over 50. The numbers also peter out at the light end of the BMI distribution. At either end of the distribution the number of people with very low or very high BMIs tails off, which is why the ends are often called the lower and upper tails.

The number of very thin people is decreasing and the number of very fat people is increasing, but what about the bulk of the population in between? The best measure of where the majority of people are on the BMI distribution is the average BMI. What's happening to Mr and Mrs Average? Unsurprisingly, they are also getting fatter. Between 1994 and 2004 the average male BMI in England increased from 26.0 to 27.3. This means that an Englishman of average height would have gained about 3 kilos in weight over the ten years. That's about half a stone. Mrs Average is also piling on the pounds. Between 1994 and 2004, the average female BMI rose from 25.8 to 26.9. It seems that everyone is getting fatter. The same trend is evident in the USA where the average BMI has risen from 25 in i960 to 28 in 2002. Wherever you live, whatever your BMI today, it is likely that it would have been lower a decade ago for the same age and height. The media may have taken our eye off the ball. Focusing on the upper and lower tails of the BMI distribution, we have failed to notice that the whole population distribution of BMI is moving upwards. When it comes to putting on weight, there is no them and us. We are all in this together.

Chopstick thin

Dr Ayumi Naito completed her medical training at the Juntendo Medical School in Tokyo, and after practising paediatrics in Japan for several years moved to the UK. She now works in London in a clinic that provides health care for the 20,000 or so Japanese people living in the capital. Well used to study, she had no problem learning English. In fact, for Dr Naito, one of the most difficult things about living in London is buying clothes: 'I have to go shopping in France because I just cannot find my size in this country.' Had she been a fashion model rather than a doctor she would have been banned. Her BMI is just over seventeen.

Whereas one in four Japanese women has a BMI less than 20, the figure for the UK is one in fifteen women (7 per cent). Compared with Japan, the whole female BMI distribution in the UK is shifted upwards, dragging the skinny lower tail of the distribution with it. A BMI of 17 is not at all unusual in Tokyo. It is as rare as hens' teeth in London. Another interesting fact about Japanese women is that they don't appear to get heavier as they get older. British women get steadily fatter with increasing age. The average BMI of a twenty-year-old British woman is 24, but this rises to 28 by age fifty. It seems that living in Britain makes you fat and the longer you live there the fatter you get.

For UK women in the upper tail of the BMI distribution there is no shortage of 'plus size' clothing outlets. Making clothes for this group makes sound business sense. After all, the whole population is getting fatter. Sales can be expected to increase. Not so at the thin end. Skinny women are on the decline in Britain. Middle-aged and older Japanese women living in London have to compete with shopaholic twenty-year-olds for whatever slim wear is left in the shops. Shopping for clothes in Paris makes sound scientific sense. The population distribution of BMI in France is much closer to that of Japan. About 18 per cent of women in France have a BMI less than 28, and so in Paris it is still possible for a Japanese woman to find clothes that will fit.

So some populations are fatter than others. If you took a flight from Tokyo to Atlanta it would slap you across the face that there are few very fat people in Tokyo but truckloads of them in Atlanta. Perhaps the Japanese are just 'naturally slim'. Maybe the difference in BMI distributions between Japan and the USA is due to differences in genetic make-up. One way to check this out is to see what happens to the BMI of Japanese people who emigrate to live in the USA. They would have taken their genetic make-up with them. Do they stay slim or get fat? This question is what researchers at the University of Chicago set out to answer. They measured the BMIs of a random sample of Asian Americans living in the USA (Lauderdale and Rathouz, 2000). They found that US-born Asian Americans had a substantially higher average BMI and were much more likely to be obese than those born in Asia. What's more, for Asian Americans born outside the USA, their chances of being obese was directly related to the number of years they spent living in the USA. For example, compared with Asian American women who had lived in the USA for fifteen years or more, those who had lived in the USA for between five and fifteen years were half as likely to be obese, and the most recent arrivals, who had lived in the USA less than five years, were one-third as likely to be obese. Japanese people are not genetically slim. When they move to the USA they get fat like everyone else living there, and the longer they live there the fatter they get.

Most of the world's population is getting fatter

Increasing body fat is not a problem limited to a particular country. Wherever you happen to be living you can be reasonably sure that the population is getting fatter. Canada is not as fat as the USA but the Canadian BMI distribution is slowly sliding upwards. In 1978, the average BMI in Canada was 25. In 2004 it was 27. China has a relatively low average BMI but it has already started drifting upwards. Between 1989 and 2000, the average BMI of Chinese men increased from 21.3 to 22.4 and that of Chinese women increased from 21.8 to 22.4. It is the same story in Europe, Asia and South America. In 2006, the World Health Organization reported that there were 300 million obese adults living on planet earth and there will be many more in the future. Epidemics that affect the whole world are called pandemics. The USA may be the epicentre, but no country is immune.

There are of course health risks associated with being fat but these do not suddenly appear once your BMI crosses the dreaded 30 threshold. The risk increases steadily as BMI increases. Every five-unit rise in BMI is associated with a 30 per cent increase in the risk of death, with most of the excess coming from heart disease and stroke (Whitlock et al., 2009). When the British Medical Association lashed out against skinny models claiming that a low BMI was biologically inappropriate, it was making a value judgement rather than a scientific statement. Accumulating body fat is like accumulating debt. It is better to be $ 25 in debt than to be $30 in debt, but being only $ 20 in debt is better still. The reason that doctors like arbitrary thresholds is that they treat patients, and they need a way to decide who is a patient and who is not. If your BMI is 29 you do not (yet) have the disease 'obesity' but as soon as it reaches 30 you do. Obesity could be added to a growing list of medically defined diseases, along with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. According to the world-famous epidemiologist Geoffrey Rose 'There is no disease that you either have or don't have except perhaps sudden death and rabies. All other diseases you either have a little or a lot of (quoted in Smith, 2002). This is certainly true of BMI. As the average BMI increases, the average health risk we face increases with it.


Excerpted from The Energy Glut by Ian Roberts, Phil Edwards. Copyright © 2010 Ian Roberts. Excerpted by permission of Zed Books Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The fat planet 1

1 Fat people and fat populations 10

2 The motorization of movement 26

3 Food and the petro-nutritional complex 48

4 Money 66

5 Contract and converge 89

6 The era of the bicycle 101

7 Reclaiming our neighbourhoods 117

8 Reclaim your home 132

9 A better world 147

References 167

Index 176

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Energy Glut: Climate Change and the Politics of Fatness 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
mitchellray on LibraryThing 23 days ago
The author of this book is a former practicing physician who now works in the area of public health research. The purpose of the public health field is to discover the links between the health problems of individuals and the public issues that give rise to those problems. In this book the author lays out the argument that obesity is a political issue rather than an individual one. He shows the correlation between cheap transport and increased population fatness and decreased population fitness. The motorization of society has also contributed to global warming. The solution, according to Roberts, is the decarbonization of society.Roberts provides a plan for accomplishing this solution both at the public and private levels. He acknowledges that implementation of these solutions will not be easy at either level. He does recommend what individuals can do to impact the public arena as well as actions to take to implement personal changes. One of his key recommendations for individuals is to stop driving and start walking or cycling. He urges people to walk to the supermarket rather than drive. This not only provides exercise but reduces the amount of food purchased since it needs to be carried home. Many people, especially in suburban and rural areas, will find this suggestion impractical because of the distance to food stores. However, everyone can implement Roberts¿s recommendation to only buy food that one can imagine being grown in a field. This will reduce the amount of fat and sugar in the average diet and help slim down the population.Roberts makes a cogent argument for the link between fuel and fat. He cites evidence that the populations in developed countries have been getting heavier and correlates this trend with increased fossil fuel consumption. He provides systematic solutions that he recognizes will not be easy to implement but are necessary for personal and planetary health. Perhaps the most interesting and significant aspect of this book is that it transforms obesity from a personal concern into a planetary issue. Roberts shows us how we can help save the planet while improving our own fitness.
benjaminjudge on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I tended to agree with the basic premise of this book but I still found myself incredibly irritated by it. Yes, weight is a political issue, but I find the idea that being overweight is SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT (specifically the petrochemical industry) a little hard to swallow. Roberts is largely preaching to the converted and playing to the crowd. I find a lot of this sort of argument (the 'it's not your fault, it's society' argument) incredibly patronising because it implies that (unlike the author) most people are just too stupid to make their own decisions. If you are a Marxist you will love this book. I am a socialist. I hate it.
Ellesee on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I agree in most ways with the author's assessment of the connection between the petrochemical-transportation-food complex and rising levels of fatness and obesity. I am one of those people who has never had an easy time of keeping weight off and I refuse to fall into the trap of self-loathing or self-blame. I do not overeat. I have spent many years observing what others eat and know that my caloric intake is no different. Yet, I have a hard time exercising since it is so boring. The only time I was "fit" in the physical sense was when I lived in Japan and ate my fill of their diet--and rode a bicycle EVERYWHERE. I did not own a car. However, the structure of Japanese cities is such that cycling or walking is "do-able." Nothing is farther than a few kilometers away. In the US, that is not the case and owning a car to get around is next to mandatory--especially when jobs are hard to come by close to home.I agree with Roberts that there must be a drastic change in the way we move and get around. However, I GOT IT THE FIRST TIME! He spends an inordinate amount of the book simply restating what he laid claim to previously, and after a while the repetition just got annoying. I also question how "democratic" the reality of his idea of Contraction and Convergence would play out in our corporate-owned/controlled global economy, especially when the mindset is to sock it to the poor, working and middle classes so that the wealthy can "have it all". It would be ideal if the weathiest had to pay the poorest for the carbon they produce, but I don't think this will be the practice. Instead, the wealthy will simply cloister themselves in gated (or perhaps bubbled) communities where they can live out their lives safely while the rest of use grow fatter on our all-petrol diet and breath chunky air that is polluted by the very same people who live so well.I'd like to see some of Roberts' vision become a reality, but I'm very cynical about getting most Americans to re-create their lifestyles in order to get rid of their SUVs. The most I think we can hope for is a shift toward smarter cars, like hybrids, electric cars and such. It's unrealistic to trade in the automobile for a bicycle when so many of us must travel long distances just to buy food. Much of what Roberts proposes necessitates a complete restructuring of urban infrastructure and community neighborhoods--and I just don't see the possibility of this occurring in the near future--especially in an economic atmosphere of more austerity, increasing poverty and joblessness and mortgage failures.
buchowl on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Interesting theory on how public health and the petro industry (transportation and agribusiness combined) are linked. The author, a trauma doctor, began his research into this subject after witnessing how increases in car usage caused an increase in traffic accidents/fatalities (particularly when pedestrians were involved). While this may seem like a no-brainer, the hidden impact was that people moved less physically due to the car usage; not because the mechanized transport was easier but because it became much more dangerous to be outside and moving. This then starts a vicious cycle of more cars, more access for cars,and less human powered movement. Add to this mix the energy/calorie dense foods that agribusiness provides and the cycle completes itself with obesity and its accompanying health problems. Ian Roberts maintains that this is not a self-discipline issue but rather a political one. Humans are meant to move/have a right to move and calorie rich foods provide the fuel to do so - remove one part of this equation and the balance of health tips. Roberts also maintains there has been a concerted effort to put people into this position and then to blame them for failing to balance the equation themselves. His solution for this problem is for people to take back the streets by returning to more human powered transport with bicycles being the main form of transport.Roberts builds his argument on a sound premise - the recent deaths of Marie Wooten (Auburn University dean of sciences/math) and Jigme Norbu (nephew of the Dali Lama) are evidence of the problem. This book saddened me; while the argument and solution are sound and viable, the implementation would require a complete reconstruction of American culture. Never mind the effect the solution would have on the economy (severe and profound), the effect on the American psyche would be the more formidable hurdle. Until cars are no longer the method to "keep score" a change will not be possible. And until the public wakes up to the fact that everyone is complicit in the "obesity epidemic" and stops conveniently placing the blame on the victim (who, more often than not, is poor), the solution will be nothing but a dream.Important book, interesting reading, great take on the problem. There was no bio on the author included (I would have liked to check his credentials) but, in this case the references spoke for themselves.
MrJgyFly on LibraryThing 23 days ago
Roberts' manifesto on the over-consumption of energy and its correlation to physical health is certainly compelling and eye-opening; however, it suffers from serious flaws and fails to present a practical solution to the problem.The engaging parts of this book are ripe with statistical correlations of the use of fossil fuels in cars linked with life-threatening behaviors, such as human inertia and car accidents. The chapters that go in depth about car accidents are particularly fascinating. Roberts has done a lot of homework in this field and presents plenty of examples of the adolescent death by vehicle rates increasing as global car usage increases. This sounds pretty obvious, but the picture is painted for us complete with corrupt political systems blaming the victim pretty consistently, and pointing toward statistically ineffective driver education programs as a solution.If the entire book was about this single aspect of the subject, I'd be satisfied. Perhaps Roberts could have come up with some practical solutions had this been the case. Unfortunately, his solution involves an overhaul of the entire modern world, forcing virtually all global citizens to turn toward cycling to make their commutes. If this happens, jobs would be more centralized and people wouldn't have to make long commutes.Don't get me wrong--if I could ride a bike to work, I would. I'd even do it if my job was within five miles of my house, but it's not. Additionally, I go from one job on the east side of Pittsburgh, to another one on the west side, on an almost daily basis. Also, I'm a certified teacher. If everyone deciding to cycle to work brought jobs "to them" rather than vice versa, I'd probably still be out of luck, because only so many schools can service a local area.Roberts even suggests a sin tax be placed on gasoline, much like the one placed on cigarettes. According to him, every time we fill up our gas tank, we make the decision continue a gruesome cycle of road deaths.I understand that when I start my truck down the road I stand a chance of killing someone. I also understand that when I light up a cigarette, I stand a chance of developing life-threatening ailments in my future. The difference is that I don't need to smoke a cigarette in order to survive financially. Do I have a choice in filling up my tank? Sure, I don't have to do it. Unless, that is, I want to keep my jobs and survive financially.The worst part about this book is that I can see gaping holes that Roberts could have filled with more practical solutions than the nonsense he presents. Why not strengthen the public transportation system in a manner that works side-by-side with cyclists? I'll cycle to work if a bus can take me part of the way there. I might never use my car again if it takes up the lengthy part of my trip. Wouldn't it be possible to create certain kinds of buses that help transport bicycles?Perhaps this is a ludicrous idea as well. Would it work? Probably not. But it's a lot more foreseeable than Roberts' nonsense. The only way I see Roberts' so-called solutions ever being put into place is if the use of fossil fuels is so depleted and the world is in such a state of anarchy that this is forced into place. There isn't a butterfly's chance in hell that the industrialized side of the world would ever allow something like this to work as a practical alternative to the laziness of everyday life. Would it be nice if it did? Sure, it would. But, as they say, wish in one hand and you know what to do in the other. See which fills up first.If you're looking for something to solve global warming, don't look here if you want real world solutions. That being said, the book is not completely lost on the world. If you liked Freakonomics, the statistical correlations presented here can be quite fascinating (there are a lot more than what I've made light of previously). If you decide to read it for that, ignore the "solutions" as best as you can.
jaimjane on LibraryThing 23 days ago
I enjoy reading books about our current state of obesity, theories on how it occurs, and the authors opinions on what can be done. Even though I don't expect to agree with everything said, there is always good information that can be gleaned and mulled over. Energy Glut was no exception. Roberts has compiled some data showing that it is not overeating, but overdependence on cars and other types of mass transit that keeps us overweight. In other words, the no-exercise theory. It had some merit. He did go off on one tangent that had little to do with the main premise but was nonetheless fascinating. It was about the number of cars on the road and road deaths, especially those of children. HIs research went so far as to prove that when gas prices go up, the number of child road deaths go up. It is definitely a topic worth exploring in more detail. This is an interesting, well thought out book by an author who genuinely cares about people.
jxn on LibraryThing 23 days ago
The book makes an excellent point, namely that there is a nice commmon link between the problems facing our health and safety and global ecology at large. That link is how we use energy and how we (in many ways don't) use our rather efficient bodies. The idea is helpful, even for a short book, I found it got a little long. The general claims seem to be largely correct, but many of the examples are partially irrelevant or uselessly obvious and many of the vignettes are used as real evidence when they are in fact a weak emotional appeal, and some of the inferences don't follow clearly from the decontextualized data. All in all, these bits make the book feel much weaker, and I wouldn't feel comfortable lending it out to global warming dis-believer or anyone afraid of public transport. I would have recommended either a shorter work that simply strongly hints at the major link mentioned above, or a longer work with clearer data and less jabber. It's not a bad read, but you might get as much or more out of Unsafe At Any Speed and a few pamphlets about exercise and energy expenditure.