Thursday, March 20, 2014

Policy Follies

My experience has made me skeptical. I believe that’s a requirement for scientists and “herd quitters.” After all, the opposite of skeptical is gullible.

When sustainability comes up, I’m usually left wondering who’s defined the criteria. It frequently seems that profitability isn’t part of these discussions, for example. But there’s no sustainability without profit. After all, there are easier ways than farming to not make money!

A definition I am most comfortable with describes sustainability as “ … meet[ing] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland Report, October 1987, World Commission on Environment and Development). Human nutrition must be considered one of the present needs, but the deplorable state of our conventional wisdom regarding a “healthy diet” strongly suggests it hasn’t been accurately considered.

As I’ve learned the sordid history of how we’ve gotten into the current mess regarding diet, health and human nutrition, I’ve been struck by similarities with other current controversies, like Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Climate Change (aka “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”). Some folks are far more certain of their positions than the data warrant, it seems to me. Talk of “consensus” (a concept of little relevance to science), and crises that demand immediate action despite adequate understanding of the crises, its causes, or the impact of the proposed actions are common features.

So imagine my reaction when I came across this story: ObamaAdministration to Insert Global Warming Activism into Dietary GuidelinesMandated by Congress. Apparently, last week at a closed-door meeting, environmental activists within the U.S. government met to plan changes to the nation’s dietary guidelines to promote foods that they believe have “a smaller carbon footprint.” The good news may be that the dietary guidelines themselves are becoming increasingly discredited, so either no one will listen, or it will take down the anti-carbon activists by association. One can only hope.

For a good introduction to how we got the dietary guidelines, I recommend Denise Minger's book, Death by Food Pyramid: How Shoddy Science, Sketchy Politics andShady Special Interests Have Ruined Our Health. If you’d like to read a critique of the latest edition of the dietary guidelines, read my friend Adele Hite’s journal article In the face ofcontradictory evidence: report of the Dietary Guidelines for AmericansCommittee (her blog is well worth reading, too). If you’d like to learn about issues related to climate change, I recommend Anthony Watt’s blog.

No comments:

Post a Comment