Off at a tangent

My mum sent me this quote from Norman Dixon’s 1987 book, Our Own Worst Enemy…

“It has been estimated that in the United States alone there are about 125,000 tons of surplus adipose tissue. Sliced off the bodies to which it clings and rendered down, it might make enough bars of soap to wash everyone in the world several times over (particularly since many of the bodies would now be much smaller). It would provide sufficient energy to light several major cities or send a rocket to Venus.”

Adipose tissue is fat to you and me. Based on today’s US population that represents about 1/2 a kilo per person. So, 23 years later do you think the situation has got better or worse? No prizes for guessing! 🙂 And how bad do you think it is when you add the rest of the world in? This article from 2006 suggest that there are now more overweight and obese people in the world then there are people starving (a really positive statistic in a lot of ways)…and that China has gone from basically no overweight people to 25% overweight or obese since 1989, a change that is mirrored throughout Asia and the Middle East. And the change is down to the adoption of a Westernised diets as standards of living have increased. The figures are even worse here!

Now you might think I am going down the health route on this one but no, my rant is all about the effects of economic growth. I keep hearing that we have to keep the world’s economy growing but I wonder how often people actually stop to ask why? I think we all know the positives, well we are certainly told about them often enough…but what about the not-so-positive effects? In the little burgh of Mandurah, where I live, there is a constant theme of growth and development….we need to approve this building development or that building development to cater for the population we expect to have in 2030 or whenever. In fact a new 12 storey development has just been approved for the middle of town. But isn’t that kinda circular? If we don’t have the houses people won’t come and live here! And say they didn’t…what would actually happen? Would Mandurah disappear down a hole or something? Or could it survive quite happily as the city of about 70,000 people that it currently is….and be lived in by people who wanted to live in a city of, say, 70,000 people?

Just to clarify, I am not anti growth…lots of great things I enjoy have come from economic growth…but I am anti ‘growth for the sake of growth’. With the challenges (climate, GFC, increased stress, ever growing gap between the rich and the poor etc etc) facing us at the moment I think it is mebbe time for us to be a little more circumspect. I’m just saying! 🙂


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