Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Climate change causes obesity

in children? 

A colleague sent me a link to a research paper  in a journal devoted to climate issues and asked me what I thought of the study. I have not been able to read it because it is behind a paywall but I was able to read the conclusion. 

This said, in rather dramatic fashion, that climate change was a major cause of childhood obesity. It went on to say that it was simply getting too hot for children to play outside.

Really? While I was  pedalling out in some decidedly cool (but not really  cold) air  yesterday I thought about this - and I find it difficult to believe.

As a child I spent more time outside than inside. My siblings did too. All the children we knew were the same. If the weather was fine and it was light then we were expected to be outside. What is more we were expected to be outside entertaining ourselves unsupervised. We played in our back yards and gardens when small and graduated to each others yards and the streets around us. 

Adults undoubtedly kept an eye on us from a distance as they went about their business but they didn't interfere. On the very rare occasions we needed help then one of us would go and find it. We made up our games, climbed trees and made tree houses, broke the occasional window with a ball (and had to pay for the damage with our pocket money), and ran street races on our trikes, bikes, and scooters. If  it got really hot then we ended up in the shade of trees playing with marbles and "knucklebones" or reading books and comics. We drank water by cupping our grubby hands under the garden tap and occasionally had the special treat of cordial given us by a mother who was feeling sympathetic about the heat. There was no television, no internet, no screen time of any sort except for those lucky enough to be allowed to go to "Saturday afternoon pictures". For those several hundred children in the district would pile into the local picture theatre for a program that was designed to keep children coming back. It had a cartoon, a short documentary, the episode of a serial, and the main feature - often "cowboys and Indians". My brother and I were only allowed to go once - quite possibly because there was no other adult available to "mind" us. 

I suppose there must have been some inactive and overweight children but they were few and far between. It certainly wasn't an epidemic and it certainly wasn't the weather which caused the problem.

I doubt it is the weather now. It is much more likely to be that children are not allowed to play in their own yards unsupervised and that they spend far more time in sedentary occupations. It has more to do with parents being "time-poor" because they both work and there is nobody at home to watch out. I was the only adult at home in our short street for a short while yesterday. That's rare but it does happen and it would not be conducive to allowing children to roam unsupervised. 

I think it is also likely that it has something to do with parents being afraid of being reported for abuse and neglect and any number of other things. They are afraid of perverts who might be roaming the streets and that their child is not learning the essential skill of kicking the football and being on the winning team. There are no longer enough adults willing to take on the work of running Cubs and Brownies, Scouts and Guides, marching girls, and cadets. Those that do face the constant risk of being accused of sexual misconduct - sometimes from those children who are smart enough to realise that   this is a good way to get back at someone who has simply disciplined them. 

When the local council was renewing the "play" area in a nearby park there was a suggestion that perhaps it could be turned into an "adventure" playground. The suggestion was turned down. It was considered too dangerous. Children might get hurt.

It seems to me they are getting hurt anyway.


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