Francesca is very late to the party on this one, but wants to share with you, in case you have missed it, the Slate article about Wall-E, the movie by Pixar:
Wall-E is an innovative and visually stunning film, but the “satire” it draws is simple-minded. It plays off the easy analogy between obesity and ecological catastrophe, pushing the notion that Western culture has sickened both our bodies and our planet with the same disease of affluence. According to this lazy logic, a fat body stands in for a distended culture: We gain weight and the Earth suffers. If only society could get off its big, fat ass and go on a diet!
But the metaphor only works if you believe familiar myths about the overweight: They’re weak-willed, indolent, and stupid. Sure enough, that’s how Pixar depicts the future of humanity. The people in Wall-E drink “cupcakes-in-a-cup,” they never exercise, and if they happen to fall off their hovering chairs, they thrash around like babies until a robot helps them up. They watch TV all day long and can barely read.
It ought to go without saying that this stereotype of the “obese lifestyle” is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA. (Your height is similarly heritable.) That is to say, it may not matter that much whether you eat salads or drink “cupcakes-in-a-cup,” whether you bike everywhere or fly around in a Barcalounger. If you have a propensity to become obese, there’s only so much that can be done about it.
Despite all this, there’s an endless appetite for stories linking obesity and environmental collapse. Pounds of fat and pounds of carbon are routinely made to seem interchangeable. Two months ago, the Washington Post compared childhood obesity to global warming. Last year, an AP story called “Fighting Fat and Climate Change” claimed that we could cut annual CO2-emissions by 64 million tons if every American just got out of his car to walk for half an hour a day. (The nation would also burn 10.5 trillion calories!) The New York Times has reported that obese Americans make air travel less efficient, and that our extra pounds cost us 1 billion gallons of gasoline per year. And we didn’t just figure this out, either: During the oil crisis of the 1970s, a pair of economists calculated that we could save 1.3 billion gallons by getting all overweight Americans to “optimum body weight.”
These calculations show the obesity-ecology metaphor run amok. Like other spurious estimates of the “cost of obesity,” they leave out important, mitigating variables. (Fat people tend to have shorter life spans, for example, thus reducing their lifetime carbon footprint.) It’s pure fantasy to say that overweight Americans are causing global warming and misleading even to suggest that the two phenomena are related. After all, obesity is most prevalent among the poorest Americans, who almost by definition consume less than the skinny elite. Many live in dense neighborhoods and rely on public transportation. And the fattest people in the nation are not, as a group, the same folks you’d find driving Hummers or jetting back and forth between New York and L.A.
Once again, Francesca notes the correlation between weight and class – the real reason that fat people suffer discrimination in Western society. :-(
Thank you to our internet friend Leah for sending us the link!