Saturday, October 09, 2010

Obesity: personal or structural?

Ross Gittins puts the boot into GDP as a measure of economic well-being once again, this time by pointing out that obesity is win-win-win for GDP. He reviews a book that argues that the sudden and dramatic surge in obesity since the 1980s shows that it is a structural problem with the way we organise our society rather than a few individuals who lack self-control.

The relationship between individual moderation and social structures is complex. Like the debate between light and deep green, this problem doesn't have a simple answer. Of course it is both-and, rather than either-or, but where does the emphasis lie, and so where ought the weight of our attention and exertion rest?


gbroughto said...

3 quick thoughts:

1. that why we belong to communities - they (should) enable both

2. vocation... God will call people to different spheres of action and we should recognise and celebrate the differing call of God in others, instead of being suspicious / denigrating those who see things differently

3. seasons and rhythms: my life is beginning to reveal interesting patterns of concern & action that move between both

Matheson said...

This I thought was extremely useful:

Egger and Swinburn say the trouble with humans is their tendency to overshoot by trying to maximise, rather than optimise, good things such as economic growth and plentiful food.

byron smith said...

Geoff - all good thoughts there. The relationship between mediate entities (communities: from congregations, to neighbourhoods, to online groups, to media sources, to corporations) that lie between the individual and society are crucial in shaping both poles. Paying attention to the nature and possibilities of these groups is important.

Matheson - I was also struck by that sentence. The difference between optimise and maximise is largely obscured in a "big is best" growth mentality. At a personal physiological level, we're aware that obesity is not optimum. Perhaps our social structures are also obese.

byron smith said...

Advertising junk food in schools. Makes about as much sense as letting tobacco companies sponsor school fun runs.

byron smith said...

Monbiot: Alzheimer's seems to have a connexion to obesity.