I came across an interesting post at Sociological Images which explores the fairly recent shifting of environmentalist marketing strategies to equating a “healthy” Earth with a “thinner” Earth. Whereas pulling up a search of images for “sick Earth” usually gave (and for now still gives) the impression that illness meant (means) being infected with some sort of virus or disease; now it seems that campaigns such as “Fight Global Warning” want potential environmentalists to associate an un-well planet with an Earth that is too fat. Because we all know that Thin automatically Equals Health, right? Naturally.
This use of the obesity metaphor to represent a “sick” earth is an example of just how pervasive this idea is; that fatness equals the epitome of Not Doing the Best for Your Health: of being lazy and complacent, perhaps ill-informed, and above all: Not Well. Some interesting bits from Stentnor’s post:
The important thing to keep in mind is that the idea of ecological health involves conceptualizing the ecosystem, or even the entire planet, as a mega-organism — and in particular, a mega-human-body — for which health consists of an approximation to a particular ideal state.
An important element to the conceptualization of obestity [sic] as the archetype of ill health is the way it’s tied to ideas of personal responsibility. While genetics and social conditions play a huge role in determining who gets fat, our discourse about obesity promotes the idea that on the one hand you can control your own weight, and on the other fat people can be blamed for their condition… Obviously this sort of thinking long predates the ecological-health-as-thinness metaphor, but there’s a synergy between them in terms of the emphasis on the small scope of personal control within a larger issue. (Link and emphasis are mine)
I guess this move towards seeing a thinner planet metaphor as the perfect representation of a healthier planet shouldn’t be shocking what with the push to equate fat humans with all the ills of the world. We’re already equated with the undesirable result of not being animal-saving vegetarians. What with us fatties working so hard (by not working hard ENOUGH, of course) to destroy the ozone, nay, destroy the Earth itself even, it’s no wonder that in the minds of those hoping to market the tasks of being more healthy-habit (ie: Earth Friendly) conscious; a fantastically sneaky way to do that is to insinuate that to behave otherwise would be no better than those darned Fat People out there who either don’t know any better or just don’t care that they are Willfully Ruining Their Health via Bad Behaviors (you know, because everybody knows that all aspects of your personal health are merely reflections of your adherence to a predetermined set of “good” morally acceptable behaviors and not at all linked to sheer dumb luck). Of course that is all assuming that Fat People don’t just up and devour the world anyways and save everyone the trouble of worrying if their carbon footprint makes the Earth’s arse look too big.
But perhaps, like many of us in the world who have been through those Carb diets and other iterations of the Eat Less, Move More mantras; those hoping to link the actions which are undesirable for the health of the planet with people’s guilty fear over becoming fat (and by extension making their PLANET fat as a result of their actions or lack thereof) may be discouraged to discover that guilt will not help in making this planet thinner. I mean healthier. Right.