So I’m guessing that most of you have seen, read, or heard vicious rumors of various articles based on the study The Weight of Nations: an Estimation of Adult Human Biomass. You know, articles with titles like ‘Armaglutton’ and ‘Obesity Could Lead to the End of the Human Race.’
The thing is, the entire study is based on guesswork via estimation with a dash of delicious fear mongering on the side.
First, the authors assume that fat people eat more, use more, and are harder to move around than thin people. They also assume that height is not a factor that has any significant effect on BMI when it is actually one of the factors used in calculating BMI. Then they fill in the blanks in various statistics from various countries using rough guesstimates based on other countries’ statistics in those same areas.
Then they compare what the world would be like if every country had the same rough BMI distribution as Japan… and then if the distribution were like the US.
Guess what? If the average world BMI distribution resembles the USA more than Japan, there are more larger people… and that means we’re going to use up everything much, much faster than if we would all just turn Japanese and get smaller.
Of course this also ignores the fact that Japan has a far less ethnically diverse population than the US, and that different ethnic groups are more or less generally inclined to higher BMIs. It also ignores dozens of scientifically reputable studies that have entirely failed to show any predictable difference between what and how fat and thin people eat. It assumes that fat people are using up the fossil fuels faster than thin people. I know the plural of anecdote isn’t data, but I walk most places and I know a lot of other fat people who ride bikes, take public transport, or use really energy-efficient cars. Has anyone ever looked seriously into how many fat people don’t own or rarely use cars? Because if they did, then I missed the study. My guess, the one I am readily admitting I’m making a random stab in the dark about, is that fat people are using fossil fuels at a roughly equal rate overall as thin people.
I’m not even a scientist and I know that my guess is at best a hypothesis. I learned that big ol’ word in about fourth grade science when they taught me that guesstimates based on rounding up some things, rounding down others, and taking a stab in the dark do not add up to scientific conclusions.
Oh, and while we’re at it, suck it news organizations that took this study, calculated out the most dire possibilities that could be teased from the least substantiated aspects of it, and ran the results as hard news.
Because you know what isn’t news? The fact that someone else has a random theory that fat people are destroying the earth.