The Energy Glut : The Politics of Fatness in an Overheating World, Paperback

The Energy Glut : The Politics of Fatness in an Overheating World Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (6 ratings)


World-wide, over a billion adults are overweight and 300 million are officially 'obese', more than 3,000 people die every day on the world's roads and global warming and war threaten our survival as a species.

The Energy Glut tells the story of energy and how our abuse of fossil fuel energy links all of these public issues as manifestations of the same fundamental planetary malaise.

This exciting new book argues that the pulse of fossil fuel energy released from the ground after the discovery of oil not only started the process of catastrophic climate change, but also propelled the average human weight distribution upwards.

The author presents a frightening vision of humans besieged by a food industry that uses sophisticated marketing techniques to sell mountains of energy-dense food to those who are 'functionally paralysed', with fewer opportunities to move our bodies than ever before.

We see why the accumulation of body fat is a political, not a personal, problem. This insightful new work offers and appraises for the reader a set of personal and political de-carbonising strategies, but to 'tread more lightly on our world' we first need to make sense of the systemic processes, and The Energy Glut takes expert first steps in this direction.




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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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Review by

I enjoy reading books about our current state of obesity, theories on how it occurs, and the authors opinions on what can be done. Even though I don't expect to agree with everything said, there is always good information that can be gleaned and mulled over. Energy Glut was no exception. Roberts has compiled some data showing that it is not overeating, but overdependence on cars and other types of mass transit that keeps us overweight. In other words, the no-exercise theory. It had some merit. He did go off on one tangent that had little to do with the main premise but was nonetheless fascinating. It was about the number of cars on the road and road deaths, especially those of children. HIs research went so far as to prove that when gas prices go up, the number of child road deaths go up. It is definitely a topic worth exploring in more detail. This is an interesting, well thought out book by an author who genuinely cares about people.

Review by

I tended to agree with the basic premise of this book but I still found myself incredibly irritated by it. Yes, weight is a political issue, but I find the idea that being overweight is SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT (specifically the petrochemical industry) a little hard to swallow. Roberts is largely preaching to the converted and playing to the crowd. I find a lot of this sort of argument (the 'it's not your fault, it's society' argument) incredibly patronising because it implies that (unlike the author) most people are just too stupid to make their own decisions. If you are a Marxist you will love this book. I am a socialist. I hate it.

Review by

I agree in most ways with the author's assessment of the connection between the petrochemical-transportation-food complex and rising levels of fatness and obesity. I am one of those people who has never had an easy time of keeping weight off and I refuse to fall into the trap of self-loathing or self-blame. I do not overeat. I have spent many years observing what others eat and know that my caloric intake is no different. Yet, I have a hard time exercising since it is so boring. The only time I was "fit" in the physical sense was when I lived in Japan and ate my fill of their diet--and rode a bicycle EVERYWHERE. I did not own a car. However, the structure of Japanese cities is such that cycling or walking is "do-able." Nothing is farther than a few kilometers away. In the US, that is not the case and owning a car to get around is next to mandatory--especially when jobs are hard to come by close to home.I agree with Roberts that there must be a drastic change in the way we move and get around. However, I GOT IT THE FIRST TIME! He spends an inordinate amount of the book simply restating what he laid claim to previously, and after a while the repetition just got annoying. I also question how "democratic" the reality of his idea of Contraction and Convergence would play out in our corporate-owned/controlled global economy, especially when the mindset is to sock it to the poor, working and middle classes so that the wealthy can "have it all". It would be ideal if the weathiest had to pay the poorest for the carbon they produce, but I don't think this will be the practice. Instead, the wealthy will simply cloister themselves in gated (or perhaps bubbled) communities where they can live out their lives safely while the rest of use grow fatter on our all-petrol diet and breath chunky air that is polluted by the very same people who live so well.I'd like to see some of Roberts' vision become a reality, but I'm very cynical about getting most Americans to re-create their lifestyles in order to get rid of their SUVs. The most I think we can hope for is a shift toward smarter cars, like hybrids, electric cars and such. It's unrealistic to trade in the automobile for a bicycle when so many of us must travel long distances just to buy food. Much of what Roberts proposes necessitates a complete restructuring of urban infrastructure and community neighborhoods--and I just don't see the possibility of this occurring in the near future--especially in an economic atmosphere of more austerity, increasing poverty and joblessness and mortgage failures.

Review by

The author of this book is a former practicing physician who now works in the area of public health research. The purpose of the public health field is to discover the links between the health problems of individuals and the public issues that give rise to those problems. In this book the author lays out the argument that obesity is a political issue rather than an individual one. He shows the correlation between cheap transport and increased population fatness and decreased population fitness. The motorization of society has also contributed to global warming. The solution, according to Roberts, is the decarbonization of society.Roberts provides a plan for accomplishing this solution both at the public and private levels. He acknowledges that implementation of these solutions will not be easy at either level. He does recommend what individuals can do to impact the public arena as well as actions to take to implement personal changes. One of his key recommendations for individuals is to stop driving and start walking or cycling. He urges people to walk to the supermarket rather than drive. This not only provides exercise but reduces the amount of food purchased since it needs to be carried home. Many people, especially in suburban and rural areas, will find this suggestion impractical because of the distance to food stores. However, everyone can implement Roberts’s recommendation to only buy food that one can imagine being grown in a field. This will reduce the amount of fat and sugar in the average diet and help slim down the population.Roberts makes a cogent argument for the link between fuel and fat. He cites evidence that the populations in developed countries have been getting heavier and correlates this trend with increased fossil fuel consumption. He provides systematic solutions that he recognizes will not be easy to implement but are necessary for personal and planetary health. Perhaps the most interesting and significant aspect of this book is that it transforms obesity from a personal concern into a planetary issue. Roberts shows us how we can help save the planet while improving our own fitness.

Review by

Interesting theory on how public health and the petro industry (transportation and agribusiness combined) are linked. The author, a trauma doctor, began his research into this subject after witnessing how increases in car usage caused an increase in traffic accidents/fatalities (particularly when pedestrians were involved). While this may seem like a no-brainer, the hidden impact was that people moved less physically due to the car usage; not because the mechanized transport was easier but because it became much more dangerous to be outside and moving. This then starts a vicious cycle of more cars, more access for cars,and less human powered movement. Add to this mix the energy/calorie dense foods that agribusiness provides and the cycle completes itself with obesity and its accompanying health problems. Ian Roberts maintains that this is not a self-discipline issue but rather a political one. Humans are meant to move/have a right to move and calorie rich foods provide the fuel to do so - remove one part of this equation and the balance of health tips. Roberts also maintains there has been a concerted effort to put people into this position and then to blame them for failing to balance the equation themselves. His solution for this problem is for people to take back the streets by returning to more human powered transport with bicycles being the main form of transport.Roberts builds his argument on a sound premise - the recent deaths of Marie Wooten (Auburn University dean of sciences/math) and Jigme Norbu (nephew of the Dali Lama) are evidence of the problem. This book saddened me; while the argument and solution are sound and viable, the implementation would require a complete reconstruction of American culture. Never mind the effect the solution would have on the economy (severe and profound), the effect on the American psyche would be the more formidable hurdle. Until cars are no longer the method to "keep score" a change will not be possible. And until the public wakes up to the fact that everyone is complicit in the "obesity epidemic" and stops conveniently placing the blame on the victim (who, more often than not, is poor), the solution will be nothing but a dream.Important book, interesting reading, great take on the problem. There was no bio on the author included (I would have liked to check his credentials) but, in this case the references spoke for themselves.

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