Sick Earth = Fat Earth

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.


11 thoughts on “Sick Earth = Fat Earth

  1. But…but…but…if the earth suddenly became skinny, would it orbit properly? Would millions upon millions of people fall through the hole in the ozone layer when there’s nowhere for them to be?

    I like my earth large and round. I equate that will, you know, having enough room for all of us and fulfilling its natural purpose of orbiting the sun the way it’s supposed to.

    Mmmrrf. Need coffee.

    • Well I also wonder if the Earth, whose resources are already being depleted so rapidly, would be able to sustain as much life as it currently holds if it did get thinner! Having the nutrients (natural fuels, foods, waters) to sustain your orbit and your populations might be pretty vital. At least as far as us peoples might be concerned!

  2. wow.. are we powerful or what !

    If you’re fat AND a narcissist, this would be great news.

    For normal people, this just equals more of the same. Hatred for anyone not fitting the “ideal”… whatever that is. It changes too mcuh to keep track, other than being “less”.

  3. I am appalled by the nutrition-centric folks I know who blame everything on “bad” food. They blame everything from mental illness to wearing eyeglasses on what you eat. It’s become a religion.

    • hafidha it does seem to bring some people to a fervor reminiscent of an extremist religious zeal to wax on about how certain foods or portions of them are destroying everything!

      • It’s a purist thing. Just how some people blame spiritual impurity for the misfortunes in their lives, there are people who believe “you are what you eat” literally and figure if you’re eating “junk food” you ARE junk, and if you’re eating pure, organic, etc. food you are living on some higher metaphysical plane. This didn’t bother me for the longest time until I saw the evangelical qualities of this mindset. I’ve witnessed people turning on their own friends, deeming them “not healthy enough.” What the hell …

        • That sort of demonizing “bad” qualities/behaviors is what turns me away from groups such as PETA as well. The sad thing is that a lot of good messages (vegetables have good nutrients, reduced carbon footprints can be good) get lost in the frantic fervor and horribly shame-tinted messages being sent out!

  4. As a fat an unhealthy person, I look for people like myself. It’s my own brand of confirmation bias.

    But I don’t see fat as the majority when I walk around in public. And most of the people I meet are not unhealthy.

    Sadly, I’m sure people meet me and think everything they hear in the news is true.

    Because all it takes is one example to confirm a belief.

    • Well it only takes one example to confirm a belief of something bad about people. Others and even myself can clamor all they (we?) want that we have or are eating the damnable veggies and working out and yet still fat AND healthy; and it does nothing to sway someone still seeking, as you said, their confirmation bias. And the real point is that down at the base of it all; people’s “health behaviors” are none of anyone elses’ damned business either! Maybe that deserves its own post soon! 🙂

  5. Just wondering if you would care to credit the person whose saying you use at the top of the page.

    The correct quote is “I’m in shape! Round is a shape!” The person who originally said it was named Elaine Briggs. It was posted on a webpage as part of a Web Page Design Class project.
    She has since remarried and is now Elaine Hearne (a.k.a. me).
    It seems a lot of people can relate to those words, and I’m glad. But it would be nice to get some credit for them — especially since I now see T-shirts with my saying on them 🙂

    • Elaine I am happy to give you credit here but I did see this phrase in a Garfield comic many years before the internet really took off as “I am in shape. Round is a shape”. But by all means if me crediting you here is helpful to you in some way then I do so with pleasure. Congrats on your marriage as well.

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