What Rising Gas Prices Mean for the Obesity Epidemic

There's a striking correlation between driving and obesity. Could a future with fewer cars help reverse one of our most pressing health crises?

We're eating bigger portions of highly processed foods, all the time, on every street corner. But what about the other factors that correspond with increasing rates of obesity, like driving, on average, 37 miles every day?

Last week, The Economist revisited a recent study from the journal Transport Policy (PDF), and put together this chart. The study's authors suggest that if every licensed driver in the United States drove 36 miles per day, one less mile than the current average, we'd have five million fewer obese adults by 2017.

While the two lines above represent a correlation and don't conclusively say driving causes obesity, the research highlights one of the many environmental factors that contribute to the obesity problem. Clearly, health is not simply a matter of diet and exercise. (But it's not just a matter of driving, either. Even wild animals and household pets appear to be putting on the pounds.)

If there really will be 10 million fewer cars by 2012, as Jeff Rubin predicted (PDF), could we reverse one of the most pressing health crises in America? Dr. Charles Courtemanche, an economist at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, ran the numbers. He writes in the journal Economic Inquiry that increasing gas prices by one dollar could cut obesity rates 10 percent over seven years and save an estimated $11 billion. He concludes:

[T]here may be a “silver lining” to the large spike in gasoline prices that has occurred in recent years in the United States: we may experience a modest reduction in obesity, or at least a slowdown in its growth.


Perhaps this is one crash diet worth trying.

via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

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For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

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via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

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The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

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