As if the planet were not already under enough stress, now we learn that more than 30% of the people in 9 southern states here in the US are clinically obese. This is up from 25% just three years ago. Meanwhile, over 25% of the people in 38 states nationwide are obese. In 28 of these states, people are fatter today than they were a year ago.
Gravity exercises constant pressure on the earth; to this we must now add additional pressure from millions of lumbering fat people. As global warming inevitably raises the level of the oceans, so too shall global fattening lower the level of the land. Not good.
Animals, at least those in the wild, don’t become obese. A person may think an animal looks fat, but that’s simply a mistake in percep-tion. Sea lions may appear pretty obese, but in truth these creatures are built that way for a reason: to thrive in waters cold enough to freeze to death a human being in less than five minutes. Bears in winter go into the den “fat” so they don’t have to get up and eat for six months; when they emerge in the spring, they’re pretty darn gaunt. And grumpy. A mallard may seem to be carrying a lot of weight there in the chest: well, you try flying 3000 miles, under your own power, and then tell me how much poundage you’d like up there.
Ever notice that those motorized carts in grocery stores are these days occupied less by disabled people than by people so obese that they really ought to think twice about purchasing all those groceries? Animals are not able to avail themselves of these sorts of “fat carts.” An obese rabbit can’t crank up a fat cart to flee faster into the brush; s/he just becomes dinner. Just as an obese hawk will go without dinner.
While animals do not become obese, they do sometimes attempt to engage in activities that are a bit much for their weight. One night I watched a raccoon break the top off a small fig tree. The tree wasn’t very high; about three feet. The coon was methodically clambering around the thing; then, when it attempted to perch on the top, the crown just snapped. The raccoon seemed pretty embarrassed.
Less embarrassed were the pigeons that snapped branches off the mulberry tree, there at the Old Place. For years the mulberries were strictly the province of the foxes. Well, okay, the scrub jays would also hop in there among the foxes, scolding and screaming, but the jays, having to both pluck berries and avoid the foxes, were pretty nimble. Not the pigeons. They’d crack two to three branches a day. It’s not that they were fat. They just didn’t care.
I wasn’t happy, when the foxes stopped showing up to dine off the tree. At first I feared some plague had carried them off, or that the county’s sleepless meth cooks had decided to diversify into fur-trapping. But my friend Woodrow learned that a certain type of berry bush that is manna to foxes had, in recent springs, blossomed in unprecedented profusion. These bushes grow at a higher elevation; the foxes simply moved to where the food is. Leaving behind their former mulberry bounty for those branch-snapping birds.
Animals domesticated by humans will of course become obese. Turkeys, as an example, have been bred to be truly cruelly obese. The wild turkeys running around up here at the New Place look nothing like those bloat boats you see on the dinner table. They’re fast, sleek, and they take no guff from cats.
Zooed animals can get fat. Witness the sea lion pictured above. Dude is carrying an abnormal load of poundage.
Pampered pets can easily become as obese as their “owners.” A local cat vet, a number of years ago, boarded for some months a fine fellow named “Sherman” (as in the tank, not as in the purportedly “insane” general) because his people could just not keep his whiskers out of the food dish. The place was his version of a “fat farm.”
As for dogs . . . well . . . I can’t even think about fat dogs. Much less write about them. Because I no longer drink. : /