In medicine (my occupation), drug reps cleverly use many cognitive techniques to try a peddle their wares. I am sure there is a name for this cognitive jujitsu, but let me call it “Lonely Numbers”. “Lonely Numbers” are numbers which are given without any important comparison. For example, a drug rep may say, “Our drug reduces incontinence by 1/3”. See how lonely that “1/3” is? You se, the reps conveniently don’t tell you, for instance, that losing 20 pounds of fat or cutting your coffee to 1 cup a day does the same thing. Instead, they want you to spend $90 per month on the drug — or worse, they expect someone else (through “insurance”) to pay for your choice to stay fat and stoked on caffeine.
Another example: Several blogs have recently posted about this National Geographic project called “The Human Footprint” which is trying to impress the reader with the gross consumptive nature of humans. The picture to the right is meant to illustrate how much bread an “average American” gobbles up per year. Gee, we are such pigs! But wait! How about some comparison with other amazing biological facts:
- Bats eat 1/3 their body weight in insects each night. Think of the horror of that consumptionism.
- Grasshoppers eat their own weight in food in 16 hours — oh the destruction. Imagine if humans ate anywhere near those volumes!
Consumption Ain’t Bad
I am not playing down the call to reflect on how we consume, but I am offering relative perspective. For instance: imagine if the human population were 1/6 of what it is today — which is what it was in 1850. Well, this sort of consumptionism wouldn’t matter with that population. It is not the consumptionism that is the problem — all organism do it — it is when the organism destroys its available living space. Because the fact is: Nature is all about consumption.
My Egg Consumption
The National Geographic site tries to make me feel guilty for eating eggs with a calculator that saying “You’d need almost 57 hens laying eggs for one year for your lifetime’s consumption!” So what? Then they say “19,826 eggs weigh 1.3 tons — that about the curb weight of a Mini Cooper.” Again, so what? Remember, give those “lonely numbers” friends, and a lot of silly propaganda evaporates pretty quickly. (BTW, we raise our own chickens for eggs)