Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Trans(Fat) America: While I was writing about the collective yawn response of politicians—and the American public—to the threat of global warming, Nicholas Kristoff in The New York Times was making a similar point about the threat of trans-fat in our diet.

"There are certain kinds of risks—say, fears of Saddam Hussein—that galvanize us to mobilize an army and devote $1 trillion to confront the challenge. Meanwhile, we do nothing about threats that are much more likely to kill us,” says Kristoff, who goes on to make the point that other countries have demanded either increased transparency in food labeling or actual changes in products in order to combat the threat.

“There are a lot of risks that we can’t do much about. Brain tumors, for example. Or plane crashes. Or foreign leaders who are absolutely determined to produce nuclear weapons. But trans fats kill more Americans than any of those, and they’re very easy to protect against.”

The big difference between trans-fats and climate change, it seems to me, is that individuals can take responsibility for the amount of trans-fats they consumer. Even in a relatively opaque environment, people can educate themselves about the trans-fat content of certain foods and choose to avoid them if they wish. If other people choose to ignore the problem, that’s not going to inflict any serious consequences (higher spending on healthcare aside) on those who are more responsible.

But there’s nothing individuals can do about climate change. I can reduce my personal carbon footprint, but unless governments act—reducing carbon emissions, encouraging more nuclear power plants—my actions are not going to make any difference.

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