A NEW GLOBAL THREAT?
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
This page was last updated October 5, 2006.
Copyright © 2006 by Johann Christoph Arnold