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Trough of the Apocalypse

September 19, 2013

Over the past six months I’ve had to do some pretty extensive research into Canadian, and Nova Scotian youth obesity issues, and I have had to look at Canada’s “addiction issues” and Nova Scotia’s Addiction Services Program.

As you might expect, given the poverty rates here in the Maritimes (some of the highest in the country), and the fact that most of Nova Scotia is pure car culture – in that you need a car to live or work almost everywhere here – the stats are pretty grim. Not that this lets the rest of the country off the hook. 75% of us are overweight. Everyone’s got their own personal addiction issue(s).

In fact, Nova Scotia is one of the better provinces for trying to deal with its addiction issues. Third best in the country actually.

Which sounds great until you actually look at the report cards and see that Nova Scotia’s grade is a whopping 52%. On the bright side, as I said, this is the 3rd best report card in the country. But no province got to 60%, and 52% is, in fact, a D-.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. I mention obesity, and addiction not just because they afflict almost all of us now (75% of us are overweight, almost all of us have an addiction problem of one form or another – whether it’s too much caffeine, food additives (saturated fat), pills, alcohol, drugs, inertia), but because today, Statistics Canada released a study which is the final piece of this tri-vector.

In the most extensive study done to date, it is no surprise that the data reveals that we have a serious mental health crisis happening in Canada. Our culture is moving faster and faster and faster, all the while – financially – more and more of us are statistically falling further and further behind. Every day we are told that the environment is fucked, and we know that we can’t stop ourselves from continuing to fuck Nature some more! And to deal with this pile of shit, we entertain ourselves almost continuously, from the moment we get up, until we fall asleep (which, we also know, we are not getting enough of either).

China has recently opened addiction clinics to deal with video game and cell phone addictions. We consume 100 times the sugar and 100 times the coffee per capita than we did 100 years ago.  

And as our culture has moved further to the political right, we have continuously cut funding to recreation programs, mental health support, and addiction services, and to the institutions who work with and house our most mentally distressed population.

80% of our prisoners have been diagnosed with mental health problems. (We simply moved them from one institution to another.) Antidepressants are the number one prescription drugs consumed by adults (but opioids are closing in fast!), while pot is the number one drug consumed by the under-thirty crowd. It is far cheaper to eat the food-like products at MacDonald’s (where the hamburgers are 12% beef) than it is to eat a healthy dinner.

So we have unprecedented obesity, addiction, and mental health problems.

At what point do we decide that maybe there is something wrong with our culture? At what point do we start to take these statistics seriously – that we are fatter, more addicted, and more stressed out than we have ever been?

What is truly sad – what is the great lie we tell ourselves – is that there is nothing we can do.

What bullshit. The United Nations noted last week in a global study of the happiest people, that one of the common denominators happy people have, one of the common traits they identified to their happiness, was riding a bike to work.

Imagine that?   

We know, that if everyone walked for an hour a day, it would reduce our healthcare costs by about a third in the first year alone. Do you know how much money that is? Billions! (That could go to supporting more green energy, bike lanes, green spaces, parklands, swimming pools, rec programs…)

Governments jump all over gambling and liquor sales as ways to make money. What they don’t tell you is how much that service actually costs the provinces. The Nova Scotia government sold $250 million worth of booze last year – and they are quick to tell you, that the money was used to fund community programs, and hospitals, and schools, and senior programs, and such. But what is less known is that the Nova Scotia government also spend $450 million last year on alcohol related problems. Health costs, lost work time, family violence, and crime.

The government made $160 million on gambling, and spent $300 mil on gambling-related problems.

Do you see now where the D- comes from.

So how do we turn the Titanic around? How do we deal with the enormous social and cultural inertia that is building up?

Well, in one sense the answer to that is quite easy. We create enormous incentives and opportunities for change.

Health clubs would be as plentiful as schools, and absolutely free to use. All urban planning would be bike friendly, walking oriented, with great tracts of green space. Solar panels and all forms of green energy would be 100% tax deductible. (Think this is too expensive for the government to do? A recent study illustrated that the cost of the war in Iraq would have put solar panels on every home in America – and would cut American energy requirements (which are mostly oil and coal) by about $165 billion a year. And there would be a 50% reduction in the creation of green house gases.) How about we stop giving government subsidies to the oil industry, the pharmaceutical companies, and the banks (the three richest groups of power in the world) and give that money, instead, to the burgeoning organic food industry?

The list of easy things we could do is actually endless.

But we are constantly told that there is nothing we can do. Or, that the problem is too large to fix.

As a culture we are feasting at the Trough of the Apocalypse – that we’re all going straight to hell, and there is nothing we can do about it.

It’s a gigantic bullshit lie that we tell to ourselves, and to each other.

Quantum physics tells us that we create the world we want to live in. That our collective thoughts make our collective reality. Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, and Muhammad all said the same thing: that we could create the kingdom of heaven right here on earth if we so chose.

So why don’t we?

What’s stopping us?

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