I’ve often wondered how social activists can defend obesity while also promoting environmental sustainability. The fact is, fat people aren’t just putting a strain on their waistbands, but also on our ecosystem. Fat Acceptance simply is not reconcilable with environmental sustainability.

It’s no secret that obesity causes a myriad of health problems, including higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke to name only a few. There are plenty of good reasons to lose weight, but few think about the environmental impact.

According to findings based on eleven studies in the Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology, 70% to 80% of environmental degradation comes from three major categories.

  • Transportation, especially cars and planes.
  • Food production, meat and dairy in particular.
  • Energy production for heating, cooling and running household appliances.

Transportation

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Have you ever carried a fat girl on your shoulders? I hope not. It requires substantially more energy than carrying a thin one. It’s simple physics. Over time, the energy required to haul all that extra blubber quickly adds up. Automobiles and airplanes are no exception.

A 2004 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that for every ten pounds gained by the average American, airlines had to burn 350 million more gallons of fuel to carry the extra weight. That fuel introduced an estimated 3.8 million extra tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

In automobiles, fuel efficiency drops dramatically as the engine has to pull more weight. The lighter you are, the less gas you will burn, the less pollution you’ll emit, and the more money you’ll ultimately save. Further, consuming more calories requires extra fossil fuels to create and transport those foods. Obese persons also wear much larger clothing, which requires more energy and resources to both make and transport.

Food Production

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Do I really need to explain this one? According to a 2010 report on environmental impact, agriculture, and meat and dairy production in particular, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

In the United States, two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese. By some estimates, the average American consumes about 4,000 calories per day, twice what is needed. Many of these calories come from meat and dairy. Even more come from government-subsidized corn, which is used to sweeten nearly every processed food.

Energy Production

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Social activists are correct, fat people are hot. In the summer, body fat has a thermal effect similar to wearing a blanket over the body. Obesity gives the sensation of feeling warmer when exposed to summer temperatures. Because of this, fat people are less likely to spend time active outdoors, preferring air conditioning to keep them cool. In the winter they are warmer, but this can be compensated for by wearing warm clothing.

Research suggests there’s a clear link between obesity and watching television, at least for children. Surprisingly, watching television isn’t necessarily making children fat. Rather, fat kids just watch more television. This translates into heavier energy use at home.

Conclusion

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Fat people simply require more energy, which translates into a much larger carbon footprint. Many social activists promote obesity as an acceptable alternative lifestyle. However, for the sake of our planet’s future, we can only hope they see the error of their ways weighs.

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