Loud-mouthed liberal feminist. Anarchist knitter. Tequila-drinking artsy-smartsy fat chick. Bluesy folk-rock singer-songwriter. Rebel with too many causes. Quirky eclectic pagan poet. Paradoxical intuitive smartass. Sarcastic brainiac insomniac. You know, for starters.


Newsflash: Fat People Are Killing the Planet

Okay, so everybody and their sibling has already debunked and mocked this ridiculous bullshit, but I have to take a quick crack at the version that popped up in my feed reader this morning. The intersection of fat activism and environmentalism holds a special place in my heart, because I think the problems to which they relate can be traced to connected root causes (consumer culture and unrestrained capitalism, in case you were wondering).

So, first, the bullhockey from "HealthDay News:"
Watching your weight does more than protect your health. It also may help fight climate change.

First sentence, first bullshit assumption! Weight has fuck all to do with health. People of all sizes have health problems.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine say that because food production is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, a lean population, such as in Vietnam, consumes about 20 percent less food and produces fewer greenhouse gases than a population in which 40 percent of people are obese, a rate close to that of the United States.

All right, let's just start with the name of this school: Hygiene and Tropical Medicine? I swear, that sounds like a punchline all by itself!

More to the point, though, what they're saying is that the more people eat, the more greenhouse gases produced. Um, actually, no. The more food produced by industrial means, the more greenhouse gases produced. Whether it is eaten or not is beside the point, not only from an environmental perspective, but also from the manufacturer's perspective. I mean, the interconnected parts of the industrial ag world reinforce each other - how many food additives and preservatives were invented as a way to use corn byproducts? The answer is MOST OF THEM. That doesn't happen in a vacuum, it happens within a system involving government subsidies and Big Ag corporations - all looking to make money. They don't care about food, or health, or the environment....they care about profit. Which is not related to what or how much people eat...but profit-seeking measures do tend to directly support habits that piss all over the environment.

Yes, I absolutely agree that food production is a major contributor to greenhouse gases. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: industrial food is toxic on every level imaginable. Vast monocrop farming operations using petrochemical fertilizers destroy soil fertility, pollute waterways, and lock in a cycle of needing more petrochemicals to keep up crop yields from soil that lacks nutrients and the microorganisms that keep healthy soil producing healthy crops. CAFOs are hideously inhumane to the livestock they confine - not to mention they, too, pollute the landscape and waterways, with disastrous results. Oh, and the food is not all that great, either.

But let's look a little more closely at the comparison here: Vietnam is not so much full of skinny people as it is lacking in widespread industrial agriculture. In fact, I'm guessing (since Vietnam's agriculture is only 20% of its GDP, and that's mostly cashews and rice) they probably don't have anything like the food industry we have here in the States. I'm guessing that might account for the smaller environmental footprint, more than the comparative smallness of Vietnam's collective ass.

But wait! There's more total asshattery:
"When it comes to food consumption, moving about in a heavy body is like driving around in a gas guzzler," the researchers said. "The heavier our bodies become, the harder and more unpleasant it is to move about in them, and the more dependent we become on our cars. Staying slim is good for health and for the environment."

This statement makes me so blindingly furious, I had to take a deep breath and stop myself from screaming at the office.

First of all, the meme that fat people eat more than thin people is total crap. I'm not digging up studies or stats, I'm just gonna cite some anecdata - most people know a thin person who eats twice hir weight in bon-bons at every meal...and some big fat fatty who's always eating half a lettuce leaf on the Diet of the Month. The size of a person has fuck all to do with how much or what they eat. Human beings are not all built and wired the same way, and people of identical size (if you could find two such people) might eat similar quantities of food....or they might not. There is NO WAY to know.

Second of all, though I can certainly acknowledge that there are some weights at which movement can be problematic (and with these types of disability, I smell a chicken/egg scenario), I do not find it to be true that the bigger I get, the harder it is to move around and the more dependent I become on a car. I weigh well over 300 pounds (yeah, I said it), and I don't even own a car - my primary form of transport is my feet (with a little help from the much-greener-than-a-car CTA). I also have no trouble dancing around like a maniac, or trying out all kinds of physical activity. Any issues I do have with mobility come not from my giant fat ass, but from the tailbone I broke five years ago that still bothers me sometimes (only time I find movement "unpleasant"). Which, I guess, is sort of located in the vicinity of my giant fat ass....but I think you see my point.

I don't have to point out the correlation of higher BMIs and lower income, lower income with lack of car ownership and use of mass transit, and use of mass transit with *lower* environmental impact...do I?

Also, moving around in a heavy body is NOT like driving around in a gas guzzler, actually. If we buy the idea that fat people have low metabolisms (which I don't exactly buy, and believe varies greatly from person to person), then it's more like driving around in a hybrid - because low metabolisms are *more* efficient, not less. I swear, do these alleged academics actually think about the logic of what they say before opening their mouths??

Finally, there's this:
"We need to be doing a lot more to reverse the global trend toward fatness and recognize it as a key factor in the battle to reduce emissions and slow climate change," they said.

Actually, you know what would be more effective in reducing emissions and slowing climate change? Let me bullet point this, so it's easy for researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to understand.

  • Dismantle industrial agriculture. Stop monocrop operations, petrochemical fertilizer/pesticide usage, CAFOs, etc. Encourage local farming, kitchen gardens, urban agriculture, etc.

  • Create mass transit systems that work. Which means systems that actually get people where they need to go, and makes it reasonable for people to live without cars. See also: walkable neighborhoods, bike paths, and the death of far-flung car-based suburbs.

  • Switch to renewable energy sources. Like hydro, geothermal, solar & wind power, that don't rely on fossil fuels or pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And we're talking a meaningful switch here, not just a few token windmills. Also, nuclear doesn't count.

  • End consumer culture. I struggle with this, but it's important. No more "disposable" anything. Cheap plastic crap is not an option. Planned obsolescence is out of the question. More and more "stuff" means more and more greenhouse gases created during production and manufacture, more and more land laid to waste with pollution and dried-up resources, and more and more landfills producing groundwater contamination and even more greenhouse gases.

There are lots more ways to effect environmental change on a large scale, but these are the ones I think would make the most difference in the shortest time. And not one of these things involves weight loss.

Listen, I understand how fat people are a convenient and semi-logical symbol of the excess that has led the planet to the current environmental crisis. I get how that makes sense and is easily understood shorthand. But you know what? It's fucking lazy not to find a better approach, particularly since this one isn't even grounded in reality. If every fat person in the world went on a diet (or at least the comparative few who aren't *already* dieting, anyway), what would happen? Would the air get cleaner? Would the planet stop warming up? Would the polar ice caps start growing again? NO. Diets, at least as the jagoffs who promote diet culture mean them, mean gym memberships (where exercise means a machine powered by electricity) and diet food (generally produced by - you guessed it - Industrial Ag). Setting aside the fact that they don't actually work in the long term (except inasmuch as the point is making diet companies lots of money), diets are not the cure for global warming. Diets are part of the profit-driven system that created it.

Furthermore, this whole "fat people cause global warming" idea isn't just wrong, it contributes to a culture that demeans and oppresses fat people. It's part of why, statistically, fat people (and people who think they're fat, often) have higher rates of depression, make less money, have worse chances of getting jobs and housing, receive shoddy healthcare, and can be charged as if they were two people when flying. At the end of the day, fat people are *people* and deserve the same human rights as anyone else...which they don't get when stereotypes and assumptions and pure misinformation like the drivel above are so pervasive. It's bullshit, and it's wrong.

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