Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Save the Planet - Starve the Children

You get more of what you measure; this is a common management mantra - the implication being, of course, that you should measure the most important data. So what happens when you measure silly data?

You get more silliness, of course. Like the UK professors who want to reduce UK carbon emissions by starving the UK's children:

Public-health researchers in London have come up with a new plan to save the planet: wealthy westerners should all reduce by several inches in height by starving their children. This would not only save food, but make people much lighter, meaning that cars and buses would use less fuel.

The new insight comes from Professor Ian Roberts and Dr Phil Edwards of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. According to the two men:

A lean population, such as that seen in Vietnam, will consume almost 20% less food and produce fewer greenhouse gases than a population in which 40% of people are obese (close to that seen in the USA today) ... a lean population of 1 billion people would emit between 0.4 and 1.0 gigatonnes less carbon dioxide equivalents per year compared with a fat one.
You in the back there, with the pitchfork - put it down, please. These are Extremely Smart Researchers, who trying to Save The World™. Can't make an omlet without breaking some children eggs, and all that.

My first reaction was "this cannot possibly be reported correctly." Initially, the report itself seemed innocuous - nothing about comparisons of UK and Vietnamese body weights. The press misquoting the poor scientists? Not really - this was from the scientist's press release.

This study is built on multiple false premises. The first is that mankind's carbon dioxide emission is causing global warming. This is highly suspect at best, and there's a good chance that there's scientific fraud at its core. The second is that this particular study uses lousy metrics (BMI). Even assuming that our carbon dioxide were in fact the problem, BMI does not measure fatness. It essentially measures height, since the weight is divided by the square of the height. The Register disects this in an instant:

It's not hard to show how stupid this is. Take a normal healthy adult male standing 5'10" and weighing 12 stone - BMI 24, "healthy" - and scale him up in all dimensions by 7 per cent. He is a slightly larger, exact copy of his smaller self; an almost identical physical specimen.

But he stands 6'3", and because human beings are three-dimensional rather than two-dimensional as the BMI requires them to be, he weighs nearly 15 stone - for a BMI of 26. Suddenly he is "overweight", though he is an exact scale model of a "healthy" person.

But let's ignore the flawed first premises and shoddy data, and look at the poverty of reasoning and (dare we say it) compassion that is on display? Suppose the scientists were right. Their press release compares the size of people in the UK to the size of people in Vietnam. Reducing the size of those in the west towards the developing world's mean would in fact offer up the benefits of reduced public transport energy requirements.

What's the undiscussed impact of their plan? Malnutrition. Children who are malnourished don't grow as large, but their brains don't develop the same as if they were well fed.

It would be easier to dismiss this as an outlier if it were the first time that environmentalists have promoted policies that would harm or kill children. It's not.


This, children, is how Dr. Mengele got his start. Or eugenics. Some must suffer now because it will All Be So Much Better Later. All will be for the best, in the best of all possibly worlds. We had to starve the children to save the children.

Environmentalism has emerged as a ferocious latter-day Moloch. The ancient Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily described Carthage's altar to Baal Moloch:
There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus [Baal] extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire.
The statist left's (as opposed of what remnants of libertarian left) reckless pursuit of the New Jereusalem is fixin' to get a lot of folks killed. Sadly, if history is any guide, it will be "women and children first."

But these people are nicer - and smarter - than we are, so it's all OK.

If you think that I was harsh on the study, click through and read what El Reg has to say about it. They look into what the government of Vietnam has to say about malnutrition there, and it's ugly.


none said...

Rminds me of the Superfriends episode where the mad doctor shrinks all the humans to 1 inch tall to save the planet.

TOTWTYTR said...

If we hung a bunch of these professors and their enabling politicians, it would reduce THEIR carbon foot print.

Just saying, you know?