Commentary

Olden days

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Lars at work/Craig Medred photo

The difference between hunting for your dinner and shopping for it is writ in the reminder of how easy life in the modern Western world.

It is so easy most just take it for granted:

Crawl out of a warm bed in the morning. Take a hot shower. Get dressed. Hop in the SUV. Hit the coffee drive-through. Head for the office. Slide into a seat in a comfortable, temperature-controlled office.

There are still people who work in the cold and wet, but 60 percent of workers today steer a desk, once blue-collar jobs like farming are rapidly automating, and even where the work is hard, it isn’t as hard as it once was.

Who swings a hammer on a construction site anymore if a nail-gun is handy, and a nail-gun is usually handy.

Our bodies tell a story about how long this evolution has been going on.

Voxeu.org – the research organ for the Europe-based Centre for Economic Policy Research – in 2010 reported that the weight of U.S. “18-year-old men increased by some 13 kilograms (28.5 pounds) during the course of the Twentieth Century but half of that increase took place among those born before World War II. Hence, these data indicate that a considerable increase in weight had already taken place by the time the first (U.S.) national survey was taken in 1959-1962.”

The policy group was responding to the first reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of an American epidemic of obesity.

“The official view propagated by the Centre (six) for Disease Control is that in the U.S. the epidemic appeared rather suddenly in the 1980s,” wrote University of Munich professor John Komlos and colleague Mark Brabec. “We believe this view is misleading.”

They based their conclusions on old records of weights and heights for cadets at U.S. military academies. The cadets were getting taller and heavier long before the CDC noted the expanding size of Americans, they said.

The taller part has been linked to better nutrition. The heavier part is tied to stuffing more calories of food into our bodies than our largely sedentary bodies can burn. They convert the excess calories to fat.

Supersize me

Whenever the exact start of this, all sources agree too many Americans have now supersized themselves.

“Obesity hasn’t doubled. It’s nearly tripled in the United States over the last fifty years,” USA Facts, an organization that tracks demographics and government, reported only a month ago.

It was tracking the latest data from the CDC portraying a nation the eats too much and engages in physical work too little because we can, because grabbing food (forget our history as hunter/gatherers and accept that we’re now grabbers) is easy; because our prevalent forms of entertainment and intellectual engagement (like whatever form of computer you are now reading) encourage us to spend huge amounts of time sitting; and because those fossil fuels many believe are now threatening our life on the planet made so many things easier.

Where once we walked, we now drive even if that might not be in our best interests in the long term. Residents of drive cities have lifespans as much as 20 years shorter than walk cities, according to Dan Buettner, a journalist, author and founder of Blue Zones,  an organization dedicated to trying to bring non-motorized movement back to communities to lower healthcare costs, improve individual health and productivity, and lower stress levels.

What Buettner proposes is to alter behavior by going to back to the future to get people up and moving.

“It is absolute delusion to think that we can convince 330 million Americans—three quarters of whom have already admitted they are not doing enough physical activity—to start exercising more,” he told the website Quartzy. “We have been trying this for 70 years and we still have 70 percent of Americans who are obese or overweight. It is not working.

“If you’re walking more than about 45 minutes a day, you’re getting 90 percent of the physical activity value of training for a marathon. So when you are addressing populations, you want to make it easy for them.”

Walking is what the hunter-gatherers from which we sprang had to do to stay alive. They had to use their legs on a regular basis to get to where they could find food. They had to carry with them the basics of survival to set up a camp wherever they stopped.

It was not easy.

A man thinks about this sort of thing a couple hours into a slogging around in a marsh behind a Labrador retriever who likes to practice waterfowl hunting as a form of upland bird shooting. A man thinks about it more (not to mention the extra pounds he could afford to lose) wallowing home through thigh-deep water with a backpack full of fat mallards with the wind blowing the rain sideways and the best of gear unable to keep out all the moisture.

A pimple on the continuum

It wasn’t all that long ago that even in this country people had to do this sort of thing just to survive. The modern American lifestyle is a tiny blip in time. Homo sapiens date back 300,000 to 350,000 years.

And most of the things we think of as normal has appeared in the last 200 years.

It took us at least 299,800 years to get from the cave to the first Ford Model T rolling off the assembly line, more than 299,900 before TV become common in American homes, more than 299,950 before the TRS-80 (commonly called the “Trash 80”) revolutionized American newsroom by allowing journalists to transmit stories via phone lines in the lead up to the beginning of the internet that first wired together a whole world of information and then took it wireless.

And today?

Today the things gadgets do for us are endless: Steer your car down the freeway. Turn your lights, appliances and other electronic devices on and off at the sound of your voice. Allow you to shop stores around the world from the comfort of your living room.

For those in jobs that allow them to work from home, about all they physically need to do these days is walk to the door to pick up the food and other goods delivered in response to their online orders and make occasional use of the bathroom.

It is simply mindboggling how the world has changed since crude oil began to replace whale oil in the 1850s – less than 200 years ago.

The shift saved the whales from extinction, but more than that it fueled the start of big technological changes that just kept building upon each other until we got to where we are now:

In a place where a hunter miles from the nearest telephone line can take a photo with a palm-size computer that began its evolution as a cellular phone and then transmit that photo across the continent with the push of a button.

But one thing hasn’t changed. The sense of fulfillment at having put dinner on the table probably isn’t much different now than it was then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25 replies »

  1. By way of getting back to the topic of Craig’s article, (my poorly phrased snark at the Byron, two-Steve’s, etc. continuing political argument in all these posts regardless of the topic) one factor that should be mentioned is that we are living much longer these days than even our parents, let alone our grandparents.

    When I started work out of college at a large computer company in 1960, the mandatory retirement age was 65 when you went on Social Security as is now generally the case. However, according to the company statistics at that time, the average pension payout period was only two and one half years! In other words the average retiree lived only to the age of 67.5 years!

    Today the average retiree is living anywhere from 10 to 20 years beyond retirement. This is mainly due to the advance of medicines, especially heart and blood pressure meds as well as antibiotics.

    As Craig points out, this doesn’t mean we are in better shape, but an aging body is naturally going to lose muscle mass, have balance problems, lose vision acuity, etc. I can certainly relate to all of these!

    To repeat a quote attributed to various people from Maye West to Mickey Mantle, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!”

    • you’ve just identified one of biggest problems facing Social Security and Medicare. people retire and then they go on living and living and living. the system was set up with the idea that most of them would die pretty quickly after leaving the job.

      the problem has only been compounded by modern medicine’s ability to mitigate some of the problems that lead to post-65 mortalities and public health campaigns like the war on tobacco. the people who quit smoking add at least another five years to their lifespan and up to a decade or more if they were heavy smokers.

      • Absolutely correct, Craig! So why is it so hard to get congress to move the Social Security date up a couple of years? Also companies (including the one I worked for mentioned above) pushed for “early retirement” to reduce head count. Something wrong with the system here. The added lifespan should be a period of experienced productivity as well as enjoyment.

  2. I did not read anything political into Craig’s article. I thought it was a great perspective on our changing times, my favorite quote: “walk from the kitchen to the front door to pick up dinner” (or something like that). Clearly, times have changed, and what does that mean? I think Craig is spot on with his writing, plus, he actually knows how to harvest, clean and cook wild fish and game. Not just unwrap it from the store.

  3. Me thinks Medred has been reading ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari. One of the best books I’ve ever read and will reread several times. Same class as Moby Dick.

  4. Sure seems like living hand to mouth and working to keep dry and warm on a daily basis would have been much more stressful than punching the clock from 9-5. But then I suppose back in those days humans were more consumed with merely surviving to waste time thinking about all the evils of the world and what was happening in every town to every person.

    It sure is a rewarding feeling to put meat and vegetables on my table and feed the ones I love, I cherish the ability to harvest my own food.

  5. Great article. ‘Grabbers’ fits us to the T. I use and teach GPS for a living. GPS’ing a trail is now too much work. We sit and digitize what the satellite image reveals. Can’t say I don’t fall into the trap. Hell, I can scan an area with lasers and sit and take notes while the machine creates topos better than walking as a rodman.

  6. I apologize upfront. Off topic, well sorta, and for Steve Stine. You were baptized in Liberal water. Forget it is Brietbart and read this article. Tell me where you see the Clinton’s, Biden’s, Obama’s, RINO’s, and then Trump. Tell me if you can recognize the likes of Bernie, Obama, Harris, Booker, Warren, etc.. (Commies, Socialists, Marxists).
    https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2019/10/12/virgil-weve-seen-this-movie-before-how-communist-china-is-following-nazi-germanys-playbook-against-america/

      • Come on Jack, Democrat funded OWS, ANTIFA flying Communist flags while Hong Kong protestors fly American flags for FREEDOM FROM OPPRESSION. Of course Patriots would and should be offended. You’re offended, right? So, when you say “divisive”, you mean standing up for the Constitution against those that are against it? I can see division there but, it is necessary for the survival of our Republic to squash this “leftist” cancer.

      • I left out combating the insane “leftist” as well:
        “LONDON (Reuters) – Almost 400 scientists have endorsed a civil disobedience campaign aimed at forcing governments to take rapid action to tackle climate change, warning that failure could inflict “incalculable human suffering.”

      • Bryan,
        I was baptized in very conservative waters for sure, but I swam long and hard to break free from the rigid Dogma of the tide on the Right.
        The bigger story is how can China censor what NBA executives have to say?
        Are Americans loosing their first Ammendment rights when not allowed to protest against China or Israel’s actions?
        We are seeing that younger generations from foreign countries communicate online and the “states” are not happy with the debunking of lies.

        “..a Houston Rockets executive unwittingly exposed an issue that may have been too much for the National Basketball Association:
        support for protesters in Hong Kong, which infuriated China.”

        “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” read an image posted on Twitter by Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Rockets.
        It was quickly deleted.”

        https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/07/sports/basketball/nba-china-hong-kong.html

      • Steve O,
        There are many examples of online censorship of FB and YouTube that exemplify this, but our government will say they are private corporations.
        One concrete example is the anti BDS legislation in Congress and sweeping across states.
        The crafting of both laws in unison work in a “symbiotic” relationship.

        “The bill essentially declares that, if states want to pass measures targeting companies that boycott Israel, nothing in federal law prohibits the states from doing that.
        Rather, the main legal argument against anti-BDS laws, which are on the books in more than half the states, is that they violate the Constitution.
        The American Civil Liberties Union and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University have been arguing that the state laws unconstitutionally target the freedom of speech and association of companies that choose to engage in boycotts.”

        I could see similar laws for China and Saudi Arabia as we move forward in the digital age of “Globalism”…also know as the NWO back in the nineties…

        https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-02-06/anti-bds-bill-approved-by-senate-avoids-first-amendment-questions

      • Sorry, for these off topic ramblings but, this can be daunting. A lot of Rights will be suppressed.

        In China, a three-digit number between 350 and 950 can determine whether a person’s loan application is approved, whether they can travel outside the nation’s borders, and even whether they’re able to land a date for Friday night.

        That number is their social credit score, and they earn it through a system China began implementing in 2014.

        Under the social credit system, if a Chinese citizen does something authorities deem “good” — paying bills on time, for example, or donating blood regularly — their score might increase. Conversely, if they do something “bad,” such as criticize the government or walk their dog without a leash, their score might drop.

        Many Americans might find the power of China’s social credit system astonishing. But a newly published Fast Company story argues that people in the U.S. are already beholden to a similar system — it’s just established and enforced by private companies instead of the government (UBER, Airbnb, Life Insurance, etc..)

      • Steve,

        I’m not sure why you mentioned private companies censoring, since that is not a 1st Amendment issue…remember you were the one who said Americans were losing their 1st Amendment Rights.

        The Tax Reform Act of 1976 was the first law in the US preventing companies from participating in the Arab League boycott by removing tax benefits, it faced similar Constitutional concerns and passed them all. All these anti-bds bills do is ensure US tax dollars are not spent on punishing a US ally. The businesses, if there are any, are free to bds all they want they just shouldn’t expect government money to be complicit with their antisemitic ways.

        I thought you were opposed to Citizens United, so now you think companies should have 1st Amendment Rights? Interesting.

  7. Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until the robotic “partners” who are 1,000x smarter and stronger than you than you come onto the scene. Maybe your fat, slobby body will be completely replaced except your soul. Your memories will be uploaded into a database, your body replaced by a cyborg, your memories will then be downloaded into this pre-programed, compliant machine. There will be nothing you cannot fix, change, or know. You will see a mouse at 300yds. You will change your “frame” as you would buying a new car. You will be a slave to the government. But hey, since you no longer eat steak, at least you can save the planet now from cow farts. Welcome to Hell!

      • Bryan,
        With all due respect, your babble is so one dimensional.
        Surely there must be a creative molecule, a small portion of your brain that says “How or why does that work.”

      • Dave, with all due respect, you do not find your body and mind being replaced by a computer/robot as “creative”? I do have a tendancy to prattle though. For this I am sorry.

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