What’s wrong with us?
Human civilisation is truly at a pinnacle in many ways, the things we have achieved and the strides we have made in technology, medicine, construction and engineering are mind-bogglingly amazing. We can fly people out to space, build offices and hotels hundreds of meters high and perform amazingly complex medical operations. Over the last few hundred years, we have come out of the dark ages and largely fixed all the things that used to kill people – high infant mortality, infectious diseases, predators large and small, and rampant wars on every continent. We now live in times of technology, peace and prosperity (and population!) on a scale the human race has never known before.
And yet, for all our wonder and all we have achieved, something is wrong. In my opinion, something seems to be very wrong.
The biggest disease on the planet now is over-consumption. Folks are eating too much, food has become a leisure activity, hundreds of millions of people are literally addicted to eating sweet, tasty, desirable foods. People are eating their way to a global obesity epidemic (while millions in developing nations still starve), eating their way to a diabetes epidemic and eating their way to increasing rates of heart disease and cancer. Inactivity is arguably a global pandemic, and malnutrition is on the increase among the overweight faster than the underweight.
We now have devices that enable people to have a tube from their stomach out to an external pipe, so that they can overeat, then flush a third of their food directly into the toilet. What on Earth is wrong with us?
According to that article…the ‘most effective treatment for obesity is gastric bypass surgery’ – that’s a sad state of affairs, highlighting the massive problem we have. High-calorie, low-nutrient foods are a legal drug…where cocaine and heroin may only affect a small percentage of the population, sweet foods and junk foods are a ‘mass market addiction’ and in the UK alone we have gone from a situation where 1.5% of the population were obese in 1963, to 28% of the adult population obese 50 years later in 2013.
This is a sickness that risks engulfing the planet, where over-eating could rapidly become the leading global cause of death. Some argue it already is.
There are far more obese people on Earth than underweight people.
In a world when 0.8bn people are hungry, and a staggering 1.9bn people are obese, it’s time we openly face the fact that we are, as a species, on our way to a situation where we are eating ourselves to destruction. This is utter madness, and the problem continues to accelerate year after year.
The wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth, which one might expect to be a global pioneer in thought leadership and future prosperity, is buried in debt like no nation ever before, split by racial tension (despite a comparatively low population density, and exceptionally high living standards) and wracked with violence and gun crime on a frightening scale. While the US owes trillions of dollars to foreign governments, the nation has more of its population imprisoned than almost any other developed nation on Earth and has gun crime that is totally out of control, by far the highest rates of gun-related death in the developed world.
As a society, we seem to be drowning in anger and hatred, racial, sexual and religious bigotry. Sadly, this is hardly new. Men have fought wars over religion for thousands of years…should we not have somehow evolved at this point in time? I mean, if I wanna live in my house and pray to my God, that should be cool with my neighbour…he can live in his house and pray to his God, and that’s cool with me.
If my skin is pinky-white in winter, and sort of creamy-brown in summer, that’s great, in all honesty I don’t care what colour your skin is, it makes no difference to me. I just assume you’re a nice person, like me, and you want to live and raise your children in a safe and beautiful world, like I do. Is that so hard for folks to grasp? If you are a man and you want to marry another man, or if you’re a woman and you want to marry another woman, that’s just fine by me. So long as we all agree that the nasty folks out there – rapists, child molesters and paedophiles – are the baddies, then I don’t think we have anything to worry about.
See, folks are all out there shooting up bars because of sexual bigotry, or blowing up night clubs because of racial and religious hatred, and folks are out there fighting and arguing over whose God is best, right, or worthy, yet I thought all major religions teach a message of tolerance, love and understanding.
And while these tragedies are very sad, and completely unnecessary, while all this is going on, too many folks are missing the big things.
As a society, on a global basis, we are eating ourselves to malnutrition and death.
As a species, we are damaging and destroying our own environment. We are slowly burning down our own house.
Instead of fighting amongst ourselves over religion, sexual orientation, race or colour, folks need to get their shit together and start working together to face these two serious global threats. You might think conflict in the Middle East and gun crime in the United States are big issues today, but these problems are a drop in the ocean by comparison to the major health and environmental problems that are growing year after year.
Example. In 2015, a little over 13 thousand people in the United Stated were killed by guns. That’s a lot, for sure, and that’s a very sad number.
By comparison, 480,000 people died from smoking, 300,000 from obesity and 88,000 from alcohol-related ill health.
Some folks think ‘the cost of living’ is high now, and when elections roll around they vote for whichever political party says it might drop taxes by 1% or whichever party promises not to raise taxes.
Yet all too often, in order to meet their manifesto promises, these elected governments then slash investments in green technology, slash tax breaks on renewable energy initiatives and fail to mandate environmental measures going forward.
If you think “keeping my taxes low” is important now, I suggest you go back and read the Stern Review from 2007, commissioned by the UK govt to understand the real long term threat of climate change.
If we don’t invest 1% to 2% of GDP now to build a sustainable-energy future and reduce carbon missions ASAP, the reality could be anything between 5% to 20% loss of GDP in the future paying for the damage we are now doing.
Maybe percentages and GDP talk doesn’t mean much to you, so let me put it in plain English.
Cut back on your luxury foreign holidays, your big fancy car, and your widescreen TV’s a little now, otherwise your children will spend most of their adult lives living in the deepest financial depression you can possibly imagine. Decades of misery awaits. Most of their adult lives.
Did that get your attention?
Want it worse?
If we just ignore all this eco stuff and keep going, where are we going to end up later in this century? Fossil fuels all run out? If top soil erosion continues? Deforestation continues? Ocean fish stocks depletion continues?
Well let’s see. Trees make oxygen. So let’s cut them all down and burn them and see how that works out.
You can’t breathe money.
And food grows in soil, so when the soil is all gone, that’ll be the end of us.
I guess you could try eating your foreign holiday or your fancy car or your widescreen TV.
The reality is, folks are out there squabbling over their human rights, or hating on gay people and shooting up night clubs, or bombing Paris or Istanbul in the name of religion, but if we don’t address these bigger issues, we’re heading for much, much bigger problems.
Take your mind forward 40 or 50 years from now. OK that might take you to what you expect to be the end of your time, but what about your children and grandchildren?
Drug costs are bankrupting our health service, while more than half the drugs are being prescribed to treat entirely preventable health conditions.
What do you think the wars of the future will be fought over? When there are 10 billion people, and less fertile productive topsoil than we have today, less fish in the sea, fewer trees and reduced productive grasslands – what are people going to eat?
If we don’t do something about this now, we are cursing our own children for a lifetime.
World war three won’t be fought over cold war politics or religion, it will be a fight for land, for productive land, for food. It will be a cull to reduce the numbers, and no one, and no country, will be able to escape it.
It’s time to put arguments of race, religion and sexuality aside. You worship your God and I’ll worship mine. You love your friends and family and I’ll love mine. And let’s embrace, as brothers and sisters, and unite to tackle the real issues facing our species in the 21st century.
We need unity, tolerance, patience, understanding and kindness. We need to embrace technology for how it can help us, we need to work together, countries, religions, cultures, to control population growth, to tackle the global obesity epidemic, the reality of what sugar and junk food is doing to us and our children, and we need to put green energy initiatives at the centre of the global political agenda right now.
These two issues are by far the biggest threats the human race faces in the 21st century, and it’s time to start taking them very seriously, right now.