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A NEW GLOBAL THREAT?
Obesity in a World of Hunger

This article was sent to me with the request that I publish it. I agreed with the proviso that I would accompany it with a counterpoint essay. My essay follows the one by Johann Christoph Arnold.


Obesity in a World of Hunger
by Johann Christoph Arnold
September 4, 2006

Much has been said about obesity becoming a deadly national and global epidemic. It is being called an international scourge that is engulfing the entire world, as big a threat as global warming and terrorism. Especially frightening is the fact that it is skyrocketing among children, making them prone to diseases that could shave years off their lives. For the first time in history, children in this generation could die before their parents. But the harm done to individuals is being ignored; countries like Australia, Britain and the United States merely think of the effect on their economies, which is being measured at billions of dollars.

The plague of obesity, especially in children, did not happen overnight. It is the bitter harvest of decades of catering to ourselves instead of serving others. It is the fruit of a sedentary lifestyle focused on television and computers rather than the great outdoors. It is the destructive result of stressing academics, rather than the sandbox, already in kindergarten.

Ask any doctor and you will find out how huge the obesity problem is. It can only be solved if we all work and pray together. The Bible says, "The sins of the fathers shall visit children to the third and the fourth generations." Sadly, it is our children who will pay the price.

Not everyone in the world is obese. There are still millions of people starving in Africa and other continents. Having traveled in Africa, I am still haunted by the many children I saw in Lagos, Nigeria, with potbellies because of malnutrition.

In the end, obesity is primarily a problem in First World countries, where we have become a sick society. Yet we are afraid to face the root of this illness. Instead we give it band-aid solutions, such as banning vending machines in schools. Nobody is asking about the spiritual aspects of this problem.

Obesity is actually only a symptom of a much bigger problem confronting our nation. Our whole society is collapsing because of fear, violence and the breakdown of the family. When God is forgotten, all evils become permissible. Globalization also plays a big role. Large corporations like McDonald's and Pizza Hut have become the American way of life, driving out smaller restaurants that offered healthier foods.

Yes, we in America have it good. We are enjoying decades of wealth and prosperity. But it is not making us happy, because we have lost the most precious aspect of civilization--a sense of community, which leads people together and not apart.

We would do well to read the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. It tells how Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat cows and seven lean cows. Joseph told him that seven years of plenty were coming, during which he should gather and store all the grain he could. These seven years of plenty were to be followed by seven years of famine. During the famine, he would then be able to help his country.

Let us not be lulled to sleep: the famine is coming. God will not be mocked. The time of over-indulgence will be gone before we know it. We need to build a community, in which people are treated like human beings. We must share our riches with the many who are starving. When we discover that our riches do not belong to us, but rather to God and to all the people on the globe, then our nation will become strong again.


Point Counterpoint
Richard Harter
October 5, 2006

Why is there obesity in a world of hunger. The Farm Bureau puts out a little pamphlet giving the percentage of disposable income spent on food. Their numbers are:

United States 10%
Finland 16%
France 18%
New Zealand 20%
Australia 21%
United Kingdom 22%
Israel 26%
South Africa 28%
Mexico 33%
India 51%
What does this table tell us? It tells us the obvious; obesity is a problem in those parts of the world where food is relatively cheap. People like to eat; it is a natural thing to do. When food is cheap and plentiful they eat more than when it is expensive. If we had a magic sensor in our heads that told us to stop eating when we have consumed enough calories there wouldn't be a problem. It turns out that we do have one, but it doesn't work very well.

But why do some countries have cheap food and others expensive food. The answer is energy. Doing things - growing food, building, manufacturing - requires energy. In effect, energy use translates into disposable income. The United States uses about 25% of the world's use of energy. As a result Americans have high incomes and cheap food. What makes the obesity problem worse in the US is that not only do we have cheap food, but that our many gadgets means that we aren't as physically active.

Is obesity the consequence of a sick society; is the answer getting back to God and restoring a sense of community? In this case religion is a meaningless and irrelevant nostrum. It turns out that obesity is worse among the Godly than it is in the population at large. The Godly are just as susceptible to the blandishments of high fructose corn syrup as the rest of us.

I think I might agree that our society is sick, though not in the way Arnold argues. There is something wrong when companies knowingly make things that are unhealthy, when they run obfuscation campaigns to hide that knowledge, and unscrupulously target the vulnerable. Greed is an ancient sin, however, and one seemingly immune to the nostrums of religion.

Arnold refers to things like banning soft drinks in schools as a band-aid. Here he is precisely wrong. Putting soft drink machines in schools and making deals with the junk food vendors was an evil thing to do. It was done for money by school boards and school administrators. They sold the bodies of the young to save the taxpayers money.

Arnold ends with a warning of an oncoming famine. There may well be one, but if it comes it will not be from God's wrath. Rather it will be because we violated a commandment of Nature: Thou shalt not fossil fuel for energy lest thee remake the world into a desert.


This page was last updated October 5, 2006.
Copyright © 2006 by Johann Christoph Arnold

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Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck Capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2006!