Fat or starving? Two very different predictions of the future


No one can predict the future, but that doesn't stop people from trying - especially people with an agenda.

Nevada has seen its share of crystal balls over the years. By now Lake Mead was supposed to be dry. And, at the same time, Las Vegas was going to be a mini-Manhattan, with high-rise residential towers all over the valley. Neither prediction came true.

Now Nevada has been warned that, despite having the seventh-slimmest population in the union, it's at risk being half-obese in less than 20 years. A report issued Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation warns that such a high rate of obesity will bring enormous health care costs resulting from diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer. The projections are based on surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tracked the weight of individuals between 1999 and 2010.

But if you listen to other experts, a lot of us could be starving come 2030. Various public and private organizations have warned that the crop-damaging drought of this summer is the new normal because of climate change. Shrinking crop yields, coupled with rising populations - especially in developing nations - will send food prices soaring even higher and force everyone to consume less. Some academics have predicted that in the future wars will be fought over food.

Already, pilot programs in place at schools around the country provide students with backpacks full of food to take home each weekend, ostensibly so they don't go hungry.

Which prediction is more likely to come true? Neither. Yes, obesity is a health problem. Yes, many families struggle to put food on their table. But forecasts based on old data and current assumptions inevitably neglect to consider advancements in research and technology that reduce costs, increase production, build wealth and change our lives in ways we couldn't imagine. Throughout history, these advancements have made doomsayers look foolish, from Thomas Robert Malthus in the 1800s to Paul Ehrlich in the 1980s.

No one can predict the future. Our destinies are not pre-ordained. Whether you become obese, go hungry or lead a normal, healthy life is largely in your control, no matter what anyone else says.

 

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