Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Obesity is no longer the fault of the individual

That's the conclusion of a study that has seen one government minister describe obesity as a bigger threat than climate change (see here). Of course, the two issues are inexorably linked - obseity is caused by our increasingly sedentary yet fast-paced lifestyles, bought about by a lack of exercise and time for cooking meals properly from scratch, typically through longer working hours, but also by a lack of individual will.

I understand why the report has said what it has - the parallels to climate change are all-too obvious, with references to us sleepwalking into a crisis married with comments that it can no longer be seen as the individual's responsibility due to the scale of the crisis.

On the other hand, it's just one more example of how disconnected from reality we've become. It's one of those stealth things, but watching a programme marking the 20th anniversary of the biggest storm to hit Britain in 300 years last night, I was suddenly painfully aware of how much things have changed in that intervening period. Back then there was no Internet, no multi-channel TV and our carbon footprints were far less than they are now. We worked less hours, spent more time on pursuits that occasionally involved exercise and saw burger and chips as the occasional treat rather than the cornerstone of our diet.

The fact is, society is beginning to crumble. The growth in anti-social behaviour and negative freedom is starting to resemble a slide into anarchy. Ironically, the steps the government must take to combat this crisis could kick-start a move away from the hell we seem desperate to descend into. If people become less selfish and more responsible as a result of this wake-up call, maybe there is hope for us all yet.

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