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The United States of Excess: Gluttony and the Dark Side of American Exceptionalism

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Compared to other wealthy countries, America stands out as a gluttonous over-consumer of both food and fuel. The United States boasts an obesity prevalence double the industrial world average, and per capita carbon emissions twice the average for Europe. Still worse, the policy steps taken by America in response to obesity and climate change have so far been the weakest in Compared to other wealthy countries, America stands out as a gluttonous over-consumer of both food and fuel. The United States boasts an obesity prevalence double the industrial world average, and per capita carbon emissions twice the average for Europe. Still worse, the policy steps taken by America in response to obesity and climate change have so far been the weakest in the industrial world. These aspects of America's exceptionalism are nothing to be proud of. Is it possible that America is hard-wired to consume too much food and fuel? Unfortunately, yes, says Robert Paarlberg in The United States of Excess. America's excess is driven in each case by its distinct endowment of material and demographic resources, its unusually weak national political institutions, and a unique political culture that celebrates both individual freedoms over social responsibility, and free markets over governmental authority. America's over-consumption is shown to be over-determined. Because of these powerful underlying circumstances, America's strongest policy response, both to climate change and obesity, will be adaptation rather than mitigation. As the damaging consequences of climate change become manifest, America will not impose adequate measures to reduce fossil fuel consumption, attempting instead to protect itself from storms and sea-level rise through costly infrastructure upgrades. In response to the damaging health consequences of obesity, America will opt for medical interventions and physical accommodations, rather than the policy measures that would be needed to induce better diets or more exercise. These adaptation responses will generate serious equity problems, both at home and abroad. Responding to obesity with medical interventions will fall short for those in America most prone to obesity - racial minorities and the poor - since these groups have never enjoyed adequate access to quality health care. Responding to climate change by building more resilient infrastructures at home, while allowing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to continue their increase, will impose greater climate disruption on poor tropical countries, which are far less capable of self-protection. Awareness of these inequities must be the starting point toward altering America's current path. Links


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Compared to other wealthy countries, America stands out as a gluttonous over-consumer of both food and fuel. The United States boasts an obesity prevalence double the industrial world average, and per capita carbon emissions twice the average for Europe. Still worse, the policy steps taken by America in response to obesity and climate change have so far been the weakest in Compared to other wealthy countries, America stands out as a gluttonous over-consumer of both food and fuel. The United States boasts an obesity prevalence double the industrial world average, and per capita carbon emissions twice the average for Europe. Still worse, the policy steps taken by America in response to obesity and climate change have so far been the weakest in the industrial world. These aspects of America's exceptionalism are nothing to be proud of. Is it possible that America is hard-wired to consume too much food and fuel? Unfortunately, yes, says Robert Paarlberg in The United States of Excess. America's excess is driven in each case by its distinct endowment of material and demographic resources, its unusually weak national political institutions, and a unique political culture that celebrates both individual freedoms over social responsibility, and free markets over governmental authority. America's over-consumption is shown to be over-determined. Because of these powerful underlying circumstances, America's strongest policy response, both to climate change and obesity, will be adaptation rather than mitigation. As the damaging consequences of climate change become manifest, America will not impose adequate measures to reduce fossil fuel consumption, attempting instead to protect itself from storms and sea-level rise through costly infrastructure upgrades. In response to the damaging health consequences of obesity, America will opt for medical interventions and physical accommodations, rather than the policy measures that would be needed to induce better diets or more exercise. These adaptation responses will generate serious equity problems, both at home and abroad. Responding to obesity with medical interventions will fall short for those in America most prone to obesity - racial minorities and the poor - since these groups have never enjoyed adequate access to quality health care. Responding to climate change by building more resilient infrastructures at home, while allowing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 to continue their increase, will impose greater climate disruption on poor tropical countries, which are far less capable of self-protection. Awareness of these inequities must be the starting point toward altering America's current path. Links

30 review for The United States of Excess: Gluttony and the Dark Side of American Exceptionalism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jana Giles

    If you want a book written for the lay reader, but backed by statistics and research, that explains why the US leads the world in terms of consumption of fossil fuels as well as obesity, this is an excellent choice. Easy to read, clear, concise, and effective.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cate

    The United States of America-- We do whatever we want and we don't care what you think about it!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Organicbyte

    Wow, this book dives into two topics I would have never linked together. Food and Fuel, their over-consumption by American's, and the resulting negative effects. Where this book is truly interesting is presenting analysis of how we got to where we are, how exceptionalism has lead to over-consumption, and why it is so hard to make change in these areas. As an example, American's value individual freedom over social democracy. We value personal responsibility and tend to mistrust of government. Bei Wow, this book dives into two topics I would have never linked together. Food and Fuel, their over-consumption by American's, and the resulting negative effects. Where this book is truly interesting is presenting analysis of how we got to where we are, how exceptionalism has lead to over-consumption, and why it is so hard to make change in these areas. As an example, American's value individual freedom over social democracy. We value personal responsibility and tend to mistrust of government. Being different from the European perspective, how did we develop this viewpoint? How did this help promote the fossil fuel economy and the obesity epidemic? Why is it hard for America to solve these over-consumption issues? History, politics, natural resources, economics, culture, religion, all these are explored. This books is not just an opinion rant, it is very analytical with backup data and references (there are 30 pages just for the reference). Of course, many people may not agree with underlying theme of the book. If you are a climate denier, think fat people are just lazy, or feel American Exceptionalism is only good, don't read this book. If you are concerned or curious about fossil fuels and food/health policy, this provide a valuable understanding about how America is so unique in these areas.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melek

    While this book was written in an informative way, I'm not satisfied with the information it possessed. It gives lots of important and interesting (for me) information about the USA itself, I enjoyed reading it (hence the rating), yet it is not very spot on. Apart from that, it is well-written and interesting. Doesn't abandon the important parts altogether for the sake of keeping it short. Overall, 4/5.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'll be honest: I didn't read the whole thing, but Paarlberg's opening argument served its purpose: to convince me of calories and precious resources that America wastes, at prodigious rates, everyday. It is a dangerous course for humanity and I hope that we will right our course somehow, though Paarlberg is not optimistic that we will: "Conclusions such as these, which point to flaws in national character, are painful to reach but impossible to avoid."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Bearse

    Let me save you some time. Here's the book in a nutshell: Gluttony is an all-American quality. We overeat. We are obese and unhealthy. We consume too much energy. We are a greedy and hedonistic society. End of story. Why it takes thousands of words to say the same thing - over and over - is beyond me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chris Quinn

    Review to come.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Great collection of recent statistics especially regarding energy and nutrition with comparative global norms

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Reasonably interesting look at why the US has such trouble dealing with climate change and obesity

  10. 4 out of 5

    Teri L.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kate

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Scheer

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erik Loomis

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kathely

  15. 4 out of 5

    Brooke Beard

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert P Naeye

  17. 5 out of 5

    Dave Richmond

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sana

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  20. 4 out of 5

    Justin Powell

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steven Scheer

  22. 5 out of 5

    John Carmichael

    read for OSHER class

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jack Oughton

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan C Thwaites, Jr

  25. 5 out of 5

    Desi Vial

  26. 4 out of 5

    Frank

  27. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

  28. 4 out of 5

    Crystelle Bohna

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marie Loerzel

  30. 4 out of 5

    SP

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