If there is one thing that I can state without fear of contradiction, it is my observation that sometimes it’s what you learn by accident while researching something else that can often be truly enlightening. I can think of no better example to illustrate my point than a study entitled A Macroeconomic Analysis of Obesity.
The above study was prepared by Pere Gomis-Porqueras, of the University of Miami’s Department of Economics and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’ own Adrian Peralta-Alva, who inform us that the purpose of their study was to”… understand the underlying causes of the rapid increase in obesity rates over recent decades.”
For those that are not comfortable in the Academic dialect of Bureaucratese, please allow me to translate:
“We wanted to figure out why more people are getting fat.”
Although obesity has long been suspected as being caused by a disparity between the number of calories consumed and the number of calories burned, this observation does not deter these intrepid investigators, who boldly state that:
“… we propose a dynamic general equilibrium model to derive the quantitative implications of a decline in the relative (monetary and time) cost of food prepared away from home on the caloric intake of the average American adult over the last forty years.”
That snippet translates as:
“People are getting fatter because they are too lazy to cook at home and would rather put on a few pounds of Big Macs or Pizza Hut take-out than waste their “valuable time” eating something that might actually be good for them. Besides, they can’t use their cell phones to order from home.”
The remainder of this groundbreaking study consists of 30 pages of very impressive rhetoric interspaced with equally-impressive mathematical formulae that prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that sometimes you can sneak a stupid waste of time past those whose job it is to spot such nonsense.
Under “normal” conditions (if such an animal as “normal” has existed), the above study would be hard to top. Since “normal” is a condition widely held to be nonexistent, it is only logical of you to expect that the work of Drs. Gomis-Porqueras and Peralta-Alva would eventually be relegated to lining the cat box.
A headline on the cover of the February, 2009, issue of the once politically-neutral Scientific American announces that, beginning on page 72, you can learn “How Eating Meat Contributes to Global Warming.” (You can symbolically save a tree by reading the online version at this link).
The study quoted in this article was completed in 2006 and is a product of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the same group whose parent organization brought us such 20th Century milestones as the Korean War, genocide in Rwanda, and a list of ethnic cleansings that are too numerous to mention.
Among the interesting tidbits of information included in the article, we find out that this organization has determined that::
“Beef consumption is rising rapidly, both as population increases and as people eat more meat.”
(It may come as a shock to the U.N, but the average person would expect beef consumption to rise rapidly if people were eating more of it than, say, mushrooms or some other edible fungus).
“…cows emit between 2.5 and 4.7 ounces of methane for each pound of beef they produce. Because methane has roughly 23 times the global-warming potential of CO2, those emissions are the equivalent of releasing between 3.6 and 6.8 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere for each pound of beef produced.”
(Wow! If cows are producing that much methane, it seems like the logical course of action is to slaughter those 4-legged methane monsters as soon as possible. Not only would we be protecting the environment but we would get better quality cuts of beef).
“Pound for pound, beef production generates greenhouse gases that contribute more than 13 times as much to global warming as do the gases emitted from producing chicken. For potatoes, the multiplier is 57.”
(There you have it! To conquer global warming, all we need do is mandate that everyone eat more Kentucky Fried Chicken with French Fries. Not only do we save the planet, but we also get to tell Al Gore where he can stick his greenhouse gasses. After that, we can round up all the PETA kooks and ship them off to the Soylent Green factory).
And so on and so on and so on.
In closing, please allow me to share a quotation that seems to cover today’s subjects quite well:
“There’s nothing more dangerous than a resourceful idiot.”