Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Civilization and its Discontents

The World Health Organization reports that the prevalence of diabetes world-wide has increased 422 million adults, which is an astonishing 8.5% of the population, essentially doubling since 1980. We tend to think of this as a disease of the rich countries,  but WHO says it's worldwide. Oh yeah -- more than 1/3 of adults on the planet are overweight.

Has the human population suddenly turned gluttonous and lazy? Obviously not. This is actually an environmental catastrophe. More and more people have sedentary jobs, and where people aren't starving due to conflict and social collapse, the world is awash in cheap calories. To a large extent this is a product of technological change for which we can't blame anybody in particular. However, it is also true that much of the world's food now consists of manufactured items that are scientifically engineered to induce overconsumption of low quality calories. Sugary soft drinks, sweet and salty snack foods, prepared cuisine -- they are all developed and tested in laboratories to hijack the neuro-endocrine systems that regulate our appetite.

There is no moral distinction between the merchants of soda and the merchants of tobacco. They are selling death, to satisfy their greed. This must stop.

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