Obesity and Global Warming: A Catch-22?

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What to do, what to do. The do-gooders of the world fret over global warming, and they fret about obesity. What goes unnoticed in these campaigns for justice in health and the environment is that six billion overweight people might keep a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere.

In fact, the more overweight people there are (and the more overweight they are), the better off the planet may be.

(Note: I am sorry for the moralizing word "over"weight. There is, of course, no truth about anything, there are only differences. But "over"weight is commonly accepted, and one man can only do so much. Besides, an article about the need for "massive" people just does not have the same ring).

Consider the following statistics. If all six billion people on the face of the earth were to gain just one pound, that is six billion pounds. If all six billion people gain ten pounds, that is sixty billion pounds of human body matter.

Before you fear that this weight gain will throw the planet out of orbit, please consider that the weight gained by the hungry humans would be weight taken from the earth, in the form of food, and thus not weight added to the earth which might throw the planet into the sun. (This paragraph is particularly directed at Al Gore, whose execrable book, Earth in the Balance, takes a rather imbalanced approach to "science.")

How much carbon is in the average pound of average human body matter? Supposing that human beings are composed of water, bone, muscle, and fat, plus organ tissues (veins, livers, etc.), plus hair, an average figure should be available.

Perhaps governments should also mandate very long hair – hair just above the ground, so that no one trips and requires money for medical care – to trap yet more carbon. Very long fingernails might be required for persons who do not require the use of their hands at work, and for persons in comas. Extra-long toenails might be considered for persons in comas, and the carbon in the leather and cotton that would otherwise go into shoes and socks can stay locked up in cows and cotton plants. For that matter, perhaps all animals should be made as fat as possible.

Human beings, however, will do the most good for the earth, due to the fact that when we all weigh 700 pounds or so, we will require larger amounts of clothing, thus trapping yet more carbon. The cholesterol lining human arteries must also contain at least some carbon, and is thus beneficial to the earth.

At this point, an environmentalist might complain that all these heavyweight men, women, and cattle will require more food, and that this will necessitate the chopping down of more trees for more farmland, which will put more carbon in the atmosphere, heat up the earth even further, and burn us all to a crisp, perhaps exterminating life on earth.

Well, so what? If, as Peter Singer claims, "a dog is a rat is a pig is a boy" (I paraphrase), and human life is not worth anything beyond a rat, who cares if we are all so much cinder floating in space? Why care about the rats, for that matter? Surely, no matter how hot mankind makes the atmosphere, global warming cannot actually cause the planet to explode into asteroids. The earth will still be here to be here. And that is what environmentalism is all about.

If the do-gooders of the globe are serious about preventing global warming, they should follow their own logic, and at least study whether a planet of government-mandated 700-pound people might not save us all from global warming. On the other hand, perhaps, if we are all dangerously overweight, we might suck too much carbon out of the atmosphere, somehow extinguishing animal life in the process. Doesn’t anyone care? I’m going out for a couple of cheeseburgers.

Mr. Dieteman is an attorney in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a PhD candidate in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.

© 2001 David Dieteman

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