To me there is nothing that more exemplifies the out of control consumer culture than the popularity of foods that directly negatively impact our health, even in small quantities. And there is nothing that represents that better than soft drinks. I find the word soft to be a misnomer because there is nothing soft about the effect these products have on our personal health, our out of control expenditures on health care, and the environment that is damaged in the production of such non food items. Marketed recently as "smart choices" by the food industry, a program now discredited and exposed as a sham, junk food is still subsidized in the farm bill and is therefore cheaper than real food. This is a disgrace. Let's look at just one example, bottled drinks.
Soda pop and all the other derivatives, such as fruit drinks, high energy drinks, bottled tea, vitamin drinks, athletic performance drinks, and any other concoction that is essentially a vehicle for selling sugar and or high fructose corn syrup are not food and shouldn't be treated as food.
Marketed in ever larger "single" serving sizes, 33.8 fluid ounces of a typical soda contains 28 teaspoons of sugar! A study from UCLA center for health policy research indicates that, regardless of ethnicity or income, adults who drink one or more soda a day are 27% more likely to be obese or overweight. On average, Americans drink 50 gallons of soda/person/year. Granted some of that is diet soda but there are plenty of studies indicating that most of the chemical poisons used to artificially sweeten these brews have health impacts of their own.
These products are patently unhealthy, much like alcoholic drinks (now being marketed like soft drinks) and tobacco. Look around you, how many overweight people do you see? We tax those products to help pay for the damage they cause to society, why not tax junk food? A good place to start would be soda pop.
The costs to society of obesity and diabetes brought on by excessive consumption of sugary foods is staggering! There is even evidence to suggest that obesity worsens global warming; the products that cause it are produced by industrial agriculture almost exclusively with it's huge carbon footprint, heavy people use more energy in transportation and heating and cooling costs, etc.... I'm not trying to vilify fat people here. There are those, industry hacks mostly, who say we should leave this problem up to personal choice. It is obvious that isn't working. And anyway, taxing doesn't remove the products from the market, the true limitation on personal choice, it merely ties the true costs of the product to the product itself.
Industry fights this at every turn, whether it is the "externalities" of environmental devastation, reduced ecosystem services, impacts on infrastructure, or health care costs. The corporate interests have been feeding at the public trough for too long, profiting at the expense of the commons, or as Paul Hawken says " stealing from the future, selling it in the present, and calling it GDP." But it is worse than that, they are stealing from the present, ruining lives and the economy, all for short term gain. Why do we continue to let those with a vested interest, getting rich off our misery, control policy?
It is high time the beverage industry pays it's fair share of the health costs it causes, a soda tax of a penny an ounce would provide upwards of $150,000,000,000 (that's billion) over the next ten years. This could be earmarked to support the health care costs of the obese and diabetic. Many health policy experts support this idea.
Check out the NPR story on this, it's where I got the figures for this post.
Were you raised on soda, can't seem to quit? I like a sweet acidic drink now and again, here is my solution (pun intended);
4 drops of stevia, a splash of local fruit juice, a splash of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, some ice, and top up with filtered rain water. MMmm good!
What have you done today to lower your impact?
We are washing away the foundations of our existence on every front. It is high time we move from crashing about on the planet like a bull in china shop and find a way to go forward with intent. We must find systems of living based on sustainability. The systems and tools exist, it is up to each of us to adopt them.
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