I was fully committed to watching the rest of Weight of the Nation despite my disappointment with the first two episodes. This turned out to be a good thing, as episodes 3 and 4 are much stronger than episodes 1 and 2.
Episode 3 — Children in Crisis — looks at what’s happening to the kids. And it ain’t pretty.
Episode 4 — Challenges — starts off weak with a rehashing of obesity’s link to America’s lifestyle diseases. But it takes a turn in a better direction with a long look at evolutionary biology and the role that our ancestral past plays in terms of our eating behavior. It then spends a chunk of time looking at the problem with our current agricultural policy and specifically the subsidies that make corn and soy such profitable crops.
On the whole though, Michele Simon gets it pretty much right. Weight of the Nation:
distracts us with the usual scare tactics, dances around the hard political issues, and leaves the viewer with the misguided impression that if we all just worked harder in our own communities, we could fix this mess.
Michele argues that the series’ focus on obesity distracts from the real problem: our totally whacked food system.
I agree. I think the concept of the tragedy of the commons is relevant here. Too many players are unable (or unwilling) to act in a way that benefits the community longer-term when it means acting against their self-interest in the short term.
We’re supposed to keep the economy afloat by consuming and not interfering with the business of the business, but we’re also supposed to exercise discipline and self-restraint in ways that are equally kind to capitalism.
Unfortunately, policy change is [pick your metaphor] a Herculean, Sisyphean, or Don Quixote-like ’tilting at windmills’ task. It may well happen (and maybe in my lifetime), but probably not before things have gotten a lot worse.
In the interim, local community projects (I like the one Robb Wolf is doing in Reno) may well be our best hope for making a dent in the health, not weight, of the nation.