Phase 3 Discussion Board
The article that I have selected is "A framework for vulnerability analysis in sustainability science," by Turner et al. (2003). The authors advocate for a system that allows scientists to fully understand "the consequences of changes taking place in the structure and function of the biosphere." The authors argue that current vulnerability assessments are insufficient, and move the discussion towards an enhanced framework.
Sustainability science is defined as "an emerging field of research dealing with the interactions between natural and social systems, and with how those interactions affect the challenge of sustainability: meeting the needs of present and future generations while substantially reducing poverty and conserving the planet's life support systems" so this paper fits in with key elements of that definition. First, the paper reflects the need to understand the planet's life support systems in a complex way. The interactions between elements of these systems are complex, but understand the interdependencies is critical to predicting future outcomes and finding solutions to either mitigate the negative consequences or to avoid them altogether.
The paper builds on the basic vulnerability framework that focuses on hazard-exposure-sensitivity-impacts as a pathway to understanding vulnerability. The authors build complexity into this model to more accurately reflect the real world vulnerabilities that sustainability science seeks to understand. The authors elaborate on the underlying thinking behind sustainability science and vulnerability analysis as well, in order to simply complexity.
Overall, the authors have based their work specifically on sustainability science, and therefore they have a clear understanding of the idea of sustainability science and its underlying aims. They are working towards models within the framework of sustainability science that will help make the science more useful in dealing with the challenges that we will face in the 21st century. The authors do this with clarity, and a well-structured paper that explains their methodology and the rationale behind it.
Phase 3, Discussion Board 3
The NHLBI report on obesity uses the body mass index (BMI) as a measure of obesity and overweightness, setting levels that essentially define obesity in terms of weight of the individual relative to their expected weight given their height and age. The measure is crude, and has come under critique, but is still the one that is recommended for use by health care practitioners (NHLBI, 1998). In obvious self-contradiction, obesity is described both as a disease and as a condition where "energy intake exceeds energy expenditure over a prolonged period of time" (Wilding, 2001).
Given the definition of obesity, it is clearly neither a disease nor something caused at the societal level, but rather the end product of a series of individual choices. One may argue that the prevalence of food and the necessity of driving in most communities makes it easier to become obese, but there is no lack of information about proper diet and exercise options, and this again returns the issue to one of individual decision-making. This choice is enabled at times by a view that obesity is a disease or handicap, something out of control of the individual, a view that lets the individual feel that their obesity was predestined or out of control. Yes, there are issues with things like a lack of healthy food options in poor communities, but those are crutches. Immigrant communities often eat healthy in impoverished circumstances by virtue of maintaining their traditional diets. Just because a choice is difficult, does not mean that it isn't a choice.
The natural science perspective holds that one's environment is a factor -- where eating options are poor, obesity is easier. Ultimately, I don't buy this argument. Fast food and junk is available in every community in the United States; some people choose to avoid it. I have seen where immigrant communities with little money have no real obesity issues because they choose not to eat the fat-laden junk food -- environment might matter in terms of permissiveness but that's about it. The sociological argument places the blame on "society"...
That's even sillier -- society is not an entity that can be held responsible, so then you have a problem where nobody is responsible, which is awfully convenient.
From an economic perspective, people make choices in terms of their spending money, and there is little doubt that junk food provides the most calories per dollar. The problem of course is that one need not choose the most calories per dollar, but the optimal diet per dollar, which is not the same thing. Seeking the most calories per dollar is self-destructive no matter how much money you have, because invariably even for the poorest people that will be more calories than they need.
My research is about social issues, not about individual choices. I am far from a scholar on obesity, but we all make our own choices in life, and even the definition of obesity makes it clear that it is a condition born of personal choice. Just because there are influencers doesn't mean you have to follow them -- we have free will.
Phase 3, Discussion Board 3
I love the opening sentence: "Obesity is a broad area." Is it also a heavy subject? Perhaps I am biting off more than I can chew?
I definitely struggle to understand the relationship between sustainability science and obesity, as the former is concerned with human survival, and the latter is not related to that, but to quality of life for affected individuals. Obesity is not a certainty of human existence in the same way that the necessity of food and water systems is. In a tangential way, we can examine the relationship between the mainstream agribusiness system and sustainability, as there seems to be significant problems there.
Obesity is a concern for companies to the extent that obesity has significant health costs, and companies want to minimize such costs (health insurance, lost time due to sickness). Most companies do not really have a good plan, though some will encourage workers with fitness center memberships or some other token effort. Current efforts from companies, however, are pretty poor on the issue of obesity -- there is no scholarly research on corporate response to obesity, which highlights a lack of action.
Corporations respond to economic considerations -- managers seek to maximize shareholder wealth. Obesity comes with a high cost, both medical costs and reduced productivity (Ludwig & Pollack, 2009), which should have the attention of business much more than it does. While many organizations see obesity as a cost of doing business -- in particular those companies operating in the fatter areas of the U.S. -- a few companies are tackling the issue more aggressively. They must, ahem, weigh the cost of obesity with the cost of obesity prevention for their employees. Where companies encourage bicycle commuting, healthy eating options, provide gyms and offer other such solutions, they are seeking to lower the cost of obesity to their business. This is how companies will be encouraged to take more action, when they find that they can lower their costs through prevention, and that having an obese workforce is not an inevitability at all.
Phase 3, Individual Project
I found the 2011/2012 Coca-Cola Sustainability Report. I chose this company because, let's face it, soda is a major contributor to obesity by virtue of it offering nothing of value to consumers except empty calories. Coca-Cola's sustainability report highlights many issues where the company is taking action: percentage of products that are lower in saturated fat, trans fats, sodium and added sugars. The company specifically discusses obesity in this section. They argue that they provide different beverage options, not just junk, and that they market their products responsibly. They also argue that they promote active, healthy living. For example, Coca-Cola sponsors 280 different physical activity and nutrition education programs -- no dollar level was noted but they provide details on many of these programs, which range from sponsorships and encouraging sport.
To be fair, the company does do a few things, but certainly not enough to negate its overall impact. Most of the company's products have zero nutritional value and are very unhealthy. They market these products to children and adults alike, and as such the only way Coca-Cola could really encourage sustainability on the issue of obesity is to go out of business. But they aren't going to do that. A few programs here and there are basically greenwashing the company's legacy of obesity. The CEO knows this, and I cannot imagine what the point of arguing with the CEO of Coca-Cola would be on this subject. The head of the AMA, on the other hand, should be pressured to take a firmer stand on soda. Half of all Americans consumer soda daily, and these beverage target minorities and underprivileged communities (Ogden, et al., 2011).
I don't really see how obesity can be characterized as an opportunity -- it is a drag on the economy and a drag on the quality of life of almost all…
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