We are having cooler temperatures than usual this winter, but this is not new for my wise 90-year-old, active, next-door neighbour, who has always lived here and has experienced these cooler winters before. He still shovels the snow in his driveway whenever he has to.
However, the journalists reporting the weather in the CBC “Morning Show,” although appreciated for the good job they do in many respects, in some others need to be more mindful of the negative impact that some of their messages may have on their audience. Every morning during a recent week, parallel to the outpouring of concerns related to the increased number of overweight people in the province, they display signs of weather “terrorism,” scaring people from walking outdoors and being active because of the “horrible cold” message they repeated.
Thanks to technology and all the benefits it has brought to our quality of life, we are conditioned from an early age to think in terms of unlimited entitlements. Everything has to be controlled to work best for us. A few decades ago, even many elderly people believed that science and technology should keep death away. There are still frozen bodies somewhere in U.S. waiting to be resuscitated when the technology to cure the malaise that killed them is made available.
However, people these days are learning that the idea that there is a “magic pill” for any problem likely to appear in our lives is a fantasy. Unfortunately, people are more likely to learn this lesson the hard way.
The reason is simple. We are not the rational decision makers that modern thinking made us believe. In fact, in critical social science and humanities there is a movement known as post-modernism, which questions some assumptions from modern thinking, such as the idea of an objective reality being the same for all. For post-modern thinkers, there is reality, but how we see that reality depends on our cultural background and everyday experience.
The most important contribution of this movement is the questioning of the idea that through the use of reason and logic and with the help of science and technology, human beings will easily change themselves and their societies for the better. A post-modern perspective will question this faith in science and technology as instruments of human progress.
So, no matter how much research shows that obesity is not good for our health, if we are conditioned from our birth to enjoy the pleasures of highly processed (tasty) food, it does not matter how many carrots and greens health promoters encourage people to eat. McDonald’s and other tasty, fast-processed food are far more appealing and will likely be consumed regardless. The reasons for this are clear. While science and technology can be used for good, they can also be used for greedy, profit-driven purposes. It’s up to the consumer to choose between satisfying his/her creature comforts, or considering health advice. We know which choice is most often made.
That is why, not only the government, but all citizens should make efforts to provide a positive environment in terms of quality of resources, so the healthy choice, becomes the easy choice, as the new generation’s health is at stake. It is not a matter of saying “Don’t drink Coca-Cola.” Coca-Cola is already saying that. Just watch their latest You Tube commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHhCP5ad-zM. They know that while the voice is telling that even Diet Coke is very bad for your health, the fact that they are showing happy, slim, active, attractive people associated with their products will likely lure people to drink more. They have highly educated and skilled professionals in human psychology working to guarantee their market share.
Returning to the “Morning Show” and the news about the increasing number of obese people here, weather terrorism does not encourage people to walk or be active outdoors, as this takes people outside their comfort zone.
Another Newfoundland friend always says that there is no bad weather — only inadequate gear. I would like to hear CBC informing the public about research evidence showing processed food companies being part of the reason for the increased obesity problem. With a better level of awareness about this link, the government could then be encouraged to take action, as they did in such a timely manner with the tobacco industry.
Martha Traverso-Yepez is a faculty
member in the division of community health and humanities at MUN.