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Sick Planet and Sick People

By James Sloan, Albury

I was walking down Kiewa Street the other day; a friend in his car gave me a toot and a wave.  He was on his way to work.  The distance from his home is about 1.5 kilometres.  He was driving a very large 4WD.  There was no one else in the vehicle.  Like many people in Albury, this is his daily routine.  How much energy did he used to drive such a monster a short distance? About 0.5kg of carbon sent into the atmosphere. Another friend drives a Toyota Land Cruiser about 250 metres to get his morning coffee.

Two of the major problems in Australia are our high dependence on a carbon fuel and the dramatic rise in obesity.  Leaving aside the few “flat earthers” (about 50% seem to live in Australia and the other 50% in USA), most people realise our actions are damaging the planet.  Our inaction is damaging ourselves.

Although there has been some significant progress in our understanding of climate, most do nothing about it.  Australians do not use public transport very much.  Relatively few of us cycle or walk to work. We do not recycle much and we use a lot of water. We regularly don’t turn unnecessary lights off. Whatever we might glibly espouse, we don’t seem very interested in reducing domestic energy consumption.

The latest OECD figures put Australian households as the worst polluters per head in the world.  But this is at a time when Australians purport to be “very concerned” about environmental issues.

At the same time, if we are honest with ourselves, we are a fat population.  At least 50% of the adult population is over-weight. It is estimated 1.5 million children under the age of 18 are over-weight or obese and increasing at an accelerating rate.

All of us are getting less exercise while at the same time we are consuming more and more polluting resources. Our lifestyles are making both us and the planet sick. It is no coincidence the countries with the greatest per capita pollution (USA, Australia and Canada) also happen to have the some of the highest levels of obesity.

In future articles in Living Lightly I will venture a few opinions on why we have this dual problem and what we might do as individuals and a community to tackle it.