New Ways to Feel Good About Yourself
By John D. Turner
1 Sep 2007

“A fool and their money are soon parted” - anonymous

I was reading an article which stated that Mississippi has cracked the 30% obesity level; that is, over 30% of the population of Mississippi is officially categorized as obese. Whether this includes their pets or not (a matter of some concern over in the United Kingdom apparently) was not stated. And it isn’t just Mississippi. Alabama and West Virginia are hot on their heels, while Texas checked in at number 10.

Apparently, quite a few of these folks in Texas live here in San Antonio, which has been in Men’s Fitness magazine’s top ten fattest cities listing every year since 2001 until last year, when we dropped to number 12. Still that’s better than Dallas and Houston (the number one fattest in the country in 2002 and 2005), which along with San Antonio, were the only Texas cities to make the top 25 in 2006. In the fattest category that is; Austin poped in at number 23 in the same magazine’s Top 25 Fittest Cities listing.

We must have eaten a lot of tacos since then however, since the 2007 ratings vault San Antonio from 12th back up to 2nd, with Houston Dallas, and El Paso dropping to 6, 7, and 8 respectively. In fact, in 2007, Texas holds the distinction of having more cities in the top 25 fattest than any other state.

Who empowered Men’s Fitness to be the “fat police”, and what are the criteria for their evaluations? I’m not sure. But a visual examination seems to confirm to me that we do have a lot of San Antonians who are not missing very many meals.

Cut to the global warming “problem”.

On the way home I was listening to the radio, where John Edwards, Democrat running for president, presented his latest solution for solving the “Global Warming” problem, which he claims to be seriously worried about. All will be well, says Mr. Edwards, if we make some minor changes to our lifestyles. One thing that he would push, should we be foolish enough to elect him president, is to eliminate the SUV, which is, of course, the root cause of all our problems. This of course, in keeping with his “two Americas” scenario, would be his solution for “poor” America. We don’t “need” those gas-guzzlers anyway.

For those in “rich” America, such as John Edwards, the solution is not a change of lifestyle, but instead to purchase “carbon offsets” to make up for the fact that they have to have one or more SUVs, apartment complex-sized homes, and the ability to fly around in private jet aircraft. It’s a hard life, but someone has to be rich after all. Aren’t we lucky that John Edwards volunteered to bear that cross for us?

Of course, “poor” people don’t use less resources than rich people do out of altruism, or because they are trying to “save the earth”. They would use more if they could afford to do so, because it would raise their standard of living and benefit them personally. There are a lot more poor people than rich, however, so as a group they make up the majority of the resource use, even though their individual “carbon footprint” is low.

Rich people, on the other hand, aren’t willing to reduce their standard of living and live like poor people – that’s why they worked hard to become rich in the first place, so they could enjoy “the good life”. So rich people, who feel guilty (or are made to feel guilty) about their “carbon footprint”, assuage their guilt by buying “carbon offsets”. It works like this.

The average carbon footprint for a company in a particular business is X tons of carbon per year. Company A produces X+1000 tons of carbon per year. Company B, through whatever means, manages to get through the year producing X-1000 tons of carbon. Company B therefore has a “surplus” or “carbon credit” that they can then sell to Company A to offset Company A’s “carbon deficit”. They do so, and the result is that Company B makes a little money, Company A pays a little money, and the transaction generates a net zero carbon balance between the two companies. In reality, nothing changes except a redistribution of money from Company A to Company B. But both companies can feel good about themselves, because even though they have actually done nothing to reduce CO2 emissions, they are in a “carbon neutral” state and have fulfilled their obligations to “save the earth”.

Individuals can do the same thing. If you want to have a 30,000 square foot home and use 15 times the electricity that a “normal” American uses, you can, as long as you find a way to “offset” the outsized “carbon footprint” such a house requires. And it is simple to do so. You can calculate how much carbon dioxide (CO2) would be released to produce the extra electricity you require. And it is well known that trees remove CO2 from the atmosphere. So simply plant enough trees to offset the extra CO2 you caused to be released (or pay enough money to someone to ensure that the requisite number of trees are planted – no need to actually dirty your hands with this work yourself) and you can still enjoy your pampered lifestyle without any feelings of guilt. You are helping to save the planet after all!

Call it a “carbon tax” if you like.

Back to the obesity problem.

So I got to thinking; just as there are rich people in the world, and poor people in the world, there are fat people in the world and there are skinny people in the world.

So why not invent a “fat offset”, modeled on the “carbon offset”? That way, I can eat all I want, and get as fat as I want, and still feel good and virtuous about myself by purchasing “fat credits”.

There are plenty of skinny people in the world. Just look at North Korea – as malnourished as their population is, they could probably make “fat credits” a major export! Suppose that a person in Pyongyang was 20 pounds underweight, and put that fat credit up for sale on the international market. Imagine that fat credits were selling for $10/pound. Further imagine that I am 20 pounds overweight. For $200, I could buy 20 pounds of fat offset from the market. I would pay my $200 (not very much here in the United States).

The person in Pyongyang would get the $200 (quite a bit of money there), and, like the carbon offset, the net result would be a zero fat balance and a redistribution of wealth. The person in Pyongyang would be rewarded for his or her government starving them (that’s why such liberal worker’s paradise’s are called “progressive”; they are, among other altruistic pursuits, saving their citizens from the scourge of becoming fat, with the associated health problems), and I can happily munch down pizza and soda and not worry about my “fat footprint”, having purchased the requisite “fat offsets”. Everybody wins, everyone is happy.

Of course, as with the global warming problem, we really can’t make this option, as attractive is it is, available to everyone. As the more astute among you may have noticed, we really haven’t changed anything; just as company A and company B are still emitting the same amounts of CO2, I am still fat, and the guy in Pyongyang is still skinny. This means that just as buying and selling carbon offsets doesn’t really do much for “global warming”, buying and selling “fat offsets” won’t really solve the health care crisis caused by obese people here in the Untied States. In order to really solve the problem, someone will have to lose weight, just as to really lower CO2 emissions, someone will really have to emit less.

Still, I’m sure there are enough affluent fat people (excuse me, caloricly-challenged individuals) out there who would pay that I could make quite a bit of money off selling “fat credits”. And those who can’t afford it will just have to give up their Cheeto’s and change their lifestyles.

Two America’s, you know.