Friday, December 12, 2008

Like babies, obesity often starts in the backseat of a car

Interesting article on the lesser-discussed of the two major health scourges we have a lot of here: teen pregnancy and obesity.

People are always willing to gas endlessly about teen pregnancy, but obesity doesn't get as much attention. What's worth noting is that Salem and Marion County, two governments that really get hammered by high public obesity rates (through health care costs), do so much to promote obesity. They do this by relentlessly promoting auto culture.

(As just one example of our structural obsession with promoting cars, note that, by law, you have to build a room for a car into every house built in Salem, and you have to pour a driveway, even if you have no intention of ever having a car. Oddly, there's no such law that requires a homebuilder to provide sensible solar orientation or to take advantage of the free energy that shines down on the home, or to reserve suitable space for a vegetable garden. Why is that?)

It should be noted that obesity isn't entirely new. There have always been some genetically predisposed people, people whose bodies make them obese on very little food. This, however, is a very small fraction of us.

What is new, mainly since WWII, is the culture of obesity, which is exactly the same as the culture of the automobile.

Governments have decided that the central organizing principle of society is and should be providing automobility for all those who can afford it--or who are willing to try to afford it, while doing without decent housing, health care, and eduction.

Like babies so often do, for most people, obesity starts in the backseat of cars. The vast majority of us who are obese (and I include myself since I oscillate between 40 and 50 pounds over the top of my recommended weight) are that way because we live sedentary lives that involve lots of travel in cars.

And a big part of why we live sedentary lives is that our city and county planners and elected officials think that the only time we deserve consideration is when we're in a car.

In the mind of planners, when we're on foot or a bike, we're an "alternative" to God's proper mode of transport, the car. If you cut across the city and county government departments (police, public works, community development, etc.), you'd find that the care, feeding, monitoring, and storage of cars is the prime obsession of government today, and that it permeates every department.

In the name of encouraging "growth" we do indeed encourage growth--both the sprawl that helps make the city almost entirely unusable by those not in a motorized wheelchair called a car and the sprawl around our waists.

Most telling is that Salem just defeated a levy to allow the bus system to keep operating in its limited way on Saturdays, while passing a much more expensive bond to pour even more money into streets and sprawl.

Support Oregon Food Bank - with just a click!

Erstwhile Portland blogger Jack Bogdanski runs a "buck a hit" day for charity every year where he donates $1 for each unique visitor to hit hit blog that day. This year it's gotten a whole lot better:

This year, a benefactor of this blog who is both prosperous and generous has offered to take us back to our high-rollin' roots. He'll give $1 to the Oregon Food Bank for every hit on this blog next Wednesday, up to $5,000! And so rather than quit counting the hits at 1,000, this year we'll keep going to five times that number, with a new dollar going to the food bank for every unique visit. (We use SiteMeter for the "official" count.)

This wonderful new development means that we'll need lots of extra visits beyond the number from a typical day on this blog. Assuming that we're not showing photos of Sarah Palin's torso, our readership on a typical weekday usually comes in at around 3,000 unique visits, and so the laws of inertia aren't going to get us to 5,000 without some serious help from strangers. We're back to the olden days, where having new folks show up all day really will make a difference. Please help us get out the word and get readers in here that day -- next Wednesday, December 17.

So this is your opportunity to do a lot of good with a little bit of effort -- make sure to click over to next Weds!

Even though he's Portland, the Oregon Food Bank helps all over, including here in Marion County, where we have a lot of people living on the very margins and who are going to need a lot of help in the months to come.