Views & Reviews Review

Fat of the land

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 21 December 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c7140
  1. Richard Smith, director, UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, London

Obesity and global warming have the same causes, argues this book. Richard Smith is persuaded to look at the damage done by oil

As I read this apocalyptic book I thought of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods and having his liver pecked out every day by an eagle and of Icarus flying too close to the sun and falling to earth. Then I reread Ted Hughes’s magnificent translation of Ovid’s poem about Phaethon asking his father, the sun, to let him drive “the chariot of the sun.” He couldn’t control it, and the chariot fell, with the result that the “earth began to burn . . . all crops were instant fuel . . . noble cities were rendered to black stumps of burnt stone.” The ancients understood better than us the importance of keeping in balance with nature.

Ian Roberts, with Phil Edwards, has written a modern version of these ancient tales, and their thesis is that our addiction to oil has led not only to global warming but also to the global pandemic of obesity. The scientifically based argument is convincing but sadly hasn’t reached politicians …

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