Thursday, May 29, 2008

When Satire Hits Close to the Truth

This is a piece of satire from The Onion, but it does raise a pretty serious issue:

A report on growing disparities in the concentration of U.S. aluminum-can wealth, released Tuesday by the Department of Commerce, revealed that 66 percent of the nation's recyclable assets are now held by the poorest 1 percent of the population.

According to the sobering report, the disproportionate distribution of soda-can wealth is greater than ever before, and has become one of the worst instances of economic inequality in the nation's history. Data showed that over-salvaging of cans by a small and elite group of can-horders has created a steadily growing and possibly unbridgeable gap between the rich and the mega-poor.

"Although our nation's upper middle class actually consumes the most beverages, a staggering percentage of these cans wind up in the hands of a very few," said economist Cynthia Pierce, who worked as a consultant on the three-year, $14 million government study. "It's a troubling trend. And as a tiny fraction of the population continues to maintain its stranglehold on redeemable can wealth, it's a trend that shows no sign of slowing."

According to Pierce, the study points to a distinct economic advantage for the most can-affluent—those who possess the resources necessary to collect, transport, separate, and accumulate more and more cans than the rest of the population.

The new economic reality for people is this: recycling things they scavenge is keeping a lot of people alive right now. Homes are being stripped of materials if they are abandoned on under construction. Copper pipes are being stolen at an alarming rate.

One "Free Republic" reader noticed that, in San Francisco, residents are seeing their recycling areas raided by people who are desperate. In areas where people can drop off their recycling, the materials are quickly taken by people to recycling centers. [you don't need to click the link to go read how nasty the freepers are about desperate people in desperate times, but that's up to the reader.]

Recycling bottles and cans is a fairly prominent environmental issue--various groups lobby the states to affect the policies in place and try to improve the process.

Anecdotally, it has been noticed in several areas that people are walking along the road more, that vehicles are stalling in rush hour traffic more often and this could be due to the increasing price of gas. Bicycle sales have risen and more and more people are living in their cars. Economic troubles have driven many people underground.

Do rising fuel and food prices mean better health?

Cuba’s economic crisis in the 1990s had a silver lining, scientists are reporting: a decrease in the rates of obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke.

And no wonder. Average calorie consumption dropped more than a third, to 1,863 calories a day in 2002 from 2,899 in 1989. Cubans also exercised more, giving up cars for walking and bicycling.

Using national vital statistics and other sources, the researchers gathered data on energy intake, body weight and physical activity in Cuba from 1980 to 2005. In Cienfuegos, a large city on the southern coast, obesity rates decreased to less than 7 percent in 1995 from more than 14 percent in 1991. As more food became available, obesity increased to about 12 percent again by 2002.

Nationwide, coronary heart disease mortality declined 35 percent from 1997 to 2002. Diabetes mortality was down to less than 10 per 100,000 in 2003 from 19 per 100,000 in 1988. The death rate from all causes declined to 4.7 per thousand in 2002 from 5.9 per thousand in 1982.

“No one is recommending an economic crisis as a health measure,” said Dr. Manuel Franco of the department of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins. “What we are saying is that changes at the population level designed to reduce caloric intake and increase physical activity might be best suited to prevent obesity and its related conditions.”

The way things are going in this country, look for us to see similar effects. Many more Americans are getting more exercise and eating less just trying to survive.

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