Monthly Archives: March 2012

Climate Change, Fatphobia, and Junk Science

Debbie says:

It’s climate change! It’s junk science! It’s fatphobia! It’s all three at once! “New Theory: CO2 makes you fat:

It all started with a Danish scientist, Lars-Georg Hersoug, who made an astonishing discovery: “both fat and thin people taking part in the studies over a 22-year period had put on weight – and the increase was proportionately the same.”

Hmmm, do you suppose it could, just possibly, be because they were all 22 years older at the end of the study than they were at the beginning? And that weight gain is characteristic of aging? No, of course it couldn’t be that simple! You can tell just how sophisticated Hersoug is about weight science by his next comment: “The normal theory is that fat people get fatter because they don’t move as much as they should.”

No, Dr. Hersoug, that’s the simplistic theory. In more complicated models, there are many factors, and one of them is change in metabolism as people age.

Actually looking at the graphs in the article, I honestly can’t tell if they represent the same people 22 years later or a new group of people, but the text does seem to imply that it’s the same people. And the 1974 and 1996 graph are suspiciously identical: genuine data graphs don’t look like that.

But wait, there’s more. It turns out that “all” animals gain weight even under controlled laboratory conditions (someone should tell my cat, who never gains an ounce under completely unlimited feeding conditions). Never believe a scientific article that tells you that the same thing happened to “all” of 20,000 subjects.

By now, of course, we are steeped in the most literal fatphobia: fear that people are getting fatter without any evidence whatsoever either that this is happening (it is, but by nothing like the amounts that most people think it is) or that it’s a problem (it’s probably not).

At this point, the actual theorizing gets interesting. It appears that in theory, a type of neuropeptide hormones known as orexins are affected by the acidity level of blood. The orexins regulate sleep and appetite, so it is in fact possible that higher acid levels in the blood (which can be caused by breathing more carbon dioxide) increase appetite. I would love to see some real studies on this, but not by Dr. Hersoug, because …

… to “prove” this interesting hypothesis, he and two other Danish researchers did a really exciting study with six participants! They exposed them to increased CO2 for seven hours! And after the study, the three guys who had had more CO2 ate a whole six percent more than the three guys who had normal CO2 levels.

Convinced? I didn’t think so.

If all of that weren’t enough, the article goes on to (I’m not joking, and neither are they) claim that the CO2 in beer might be responsible for beer bellies and the part of the article about Hersoug ends (as all articles about weight gain are required to end) with Hersoug proclaiming “the faith sentence,” in this case that exercise and eating fruits and vegetables are the best things you can do to counter the effects of CO2 on your body.

I’m all for exercise, and fruits and vegetables. And I do recommend the rest of the article, which raises some different questions about Hersoug’s findings than the ones I saw. But, of course, the article says nothing about what we could do as a society to counteract and minimize the effects of climate change, or to counteract and minimize prejudice and misconceptions about fat people. Let’s not expect too much.

It will all be fine. Hersoug and crew have an exciting new plan: they’re going to do some tests on rats!

Thanks to Jae for the pointer.

Cid Pearlman: San Francisco International Arts Festival

Laurie says:

My daughter Cid Pearlman is currently in Estonia.  We had a good visit before she left in the early AM last week.

I am back in Tallinn, Estonia, and it’s a bright, clear day in Old Town. I’m here with funding from the U.S. Embassy/Estonia to create a new work for next summer’s Hiiumaa Dance Festival. Tonight I begin rehearsing with five terrific dancers – mostly former students from Tallinn University.

While I am in Estonia I will also rehearse with a different group of dancers for our upcoming From Estonia With Love California tour in May. It’s a crazy wonderful life.



They will be performing:

What We Do In Winter (excerpt here), it features dancers from Estonia and the United States, performing to an original score. Pearlman’s long time collaborator, composer Jonathan Segel (Camper Van Beethoven), with costumes by Estonian scenographer Pille Kose. Starting as strangers—foreign bodies in the same room—this international collaboration reflects on the process of getting to know each other during the long, dark Estonian winter.

She spent the academic year (2009-2010) in Estonia on a Fulbright scholarship.

As her web site says:

…teaching at Tallinn University and collaborating with Estonian dance artists. During her year in Northern Europe, she fell in love with Estonia in all its complexity. One of the highlights was working with an extraordinary group of dancers—three Estonians and two Americans: Tiina Mölder, Rain Saukas, Helen Reitsnik, Alexis Steeves and David King. Together, they experimented with performance and embodiment, thinking about how to create environments in which the dancers could be wholly themselves, while simultaneously working with the choreography that they created. Out of these experiments came This Is What We Do in Winter.

I watched  the creation of this work from a distance and it is amazing.

There are early bird tickets available until the end of March for the performances at the San Francisco International Arts Festival May 19 & 20thsl . They will also perform in Santa Cruz at Motion at the Mill May 17-18, at UCLA, May 24, and at Live Arts Los Angeles, May 25. Works by her colleagues from Estonia will be included on the SC and LA programs. In Santa Cruz only, audience favorite “catch-as-catch-can” (2006) will performed by members of Flex dance company.

…even-more-intimate layers of meaning are found in many of the works by artistic director Cid Pearlman, praised for her ‘shimmering intelligence’… The LA Times

Check it out. I just got my tickets.