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July 28, 2008 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2008-07-28

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Monday, July 28, 2008
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard Sc.
AAbor, MI 48109
Unsigned editorials reflectlthe official positionof the Daily's editorialboard. All other
signed articles and illustrationsrepresent solely the views of their authors.
Oil overhaul
Policy changes key to handling crisis
Unless you've been living under a rock - or on a
continent where mass transit is actually available
to you - you haven't been able to escape skyrock-
eting gas prices. There's been a lot of talk in recent weeks
about whom to blame and where to drill to curb the cri-
sis, but this attention is misguided. As long as oil demand
exists, the state's fuel market will always rest in the hands
of big business. Real solutions to fuel security, then, don't
lie in oil shales or under wildlife refuges; they lie in the
power of policymakers to change the way we consume.


The evolution of eating

As humans, we evolved in an
environment where non-pro-
cessed foods made up our entire
diet. But these days, the things
we eat rarely resemble the foods
of our ancestors. For our prede-
cessors, foods like fats and sugars
were limited, and so it became
adaptive to crave these things.
But today, these previously rare
commodities have become the
rule, not the exception when
it comes to what we eat. And
that shift is largely thanks to an
unlikely source; farmers may
have had a hand in changing what
we grow, but the real writers of
modern society's menu have been
the policymakers.
In the 1970s, the U.S. Farm
Bill, which shapes most of our
agricultural policy, underwent a
major overhaul. New provisions
incentivized producing only a
handful of commodity crops
even when market prices were
low. That ready supply was then
sold to processing companies and
industrial cattle farms.
Corn is the highest yielding
and, consequently, the most har-
vested of these commodity crops.
About half of all corn produced
goes to food processing com-
panies where it is broken down

into simple parts, namely high
fructose corn syrup. The syrup
is then resold as sweeteners and
other food additives.
The other half of corn goes to
feedlots for farm animals. Like
humans, cows aren't adapted to
consume a diet composed exclu-
sively of corn. As a result, the
meat produced is high in satu-
rated fats and low in omega-3
fatty acids - nutrient ratios that
our ancestors would never have
encountered in wild game.
Commodity crops are also pro-
cessed directly or indirectly (i.e.
by extraction from animals) to
yield inexpensive sources of con-
centrated fats and oils. The over-
all result is that Americans today
are free to satisfy their once-
adaptive cravings for fats and
sugars to an extreme unknown
to our ancestors. An epidemic in
obesity has followed as a natural
It is possible that for the first
time in American history our
generation will have a shorter
life expectancy than our par-
ents. Diabetes, cancer and stroke
- diseases all strongly influenced
by diet - are on the rise, resulting
in increased health care costs for
society. Today, half of all obesity-

related medical costs are paid by
Medicare and Medicaid, publicly
funded systems. And most of this
can be blamed on the U.S. Farm
Bill, which is responsible for
the novel foraging environment
Americans now encounter every-
day at the grocery store.
The worst part is that even if
we wantedtowe couldn'tchange
our ways. Today, only 4 per-
cent of U.S. farmland is used for
growing fruits and vegetables.
If everyone suddenly decided to
eat the foods recommended by
the United States Department of
Agriculture Dietary Guidelines
we would face a catastrophic
food shortage.
The message from all of this
is clear: We need a system that
is in touch with human biologi-
cal needs. We need a system that
doesn't provide incentives for
producing cheap sources of fats
and sugars at the expense of
increased cost for whole fruits
and vegetables. To maximize
human health and well-being,
it pays to consider basic human
evolutionary truths in policy for-
Eric Sweeney is a Rackham
graduate student.


The nation's report card is in.
The Natural Resources Defense
Council released state rankings
according to oil vulnerability last
week, with Michigan taking the
22nd spot -not exactly embarass-
ing, but not anything to write
home about either. Which means
it's time to make some changes.
First, the state needs strict
greenhouse gas emissions stan-
dards for vehicles. By now it's
no secret that Detroit's automo-
tive industry is going to have to
change drasticallyand quicklyto
survive. Stricter emissions stan-
dards might be a tough sell in
the land that once supplied the
nation with SUVs, but changing
standards should motivate auto
giants to adopt greener technol-
ogy more quickly, supplying a
rapidly growing market for more
eco-friendly vehicles, which
could be good for both the envi-
ronment and the economy.
Low-carbon fuel standards
should also be implemented.
These standards aim to decrease
the amount of carbon produced
by each unit of fuel. Adopting a
plan for these standards like Cali-
fornia's, which sets concrete goals

for fixed time periods, is exactly
the kind of tough love the indus-
try needs to get serious about fuel
efficiency and alternative energy
technology. The good thing about
these stands is that the way that
carbon levels are reduced can be
flexible, deriving from a mix of
efforts like increased utilization
of solar and wind energy and
investment in smart (read: NOT
corn-based ethanol) biofuels.
Improving public transit is
another solution that the state
should have alreadytaken action
on. Affordable public transit
is key in a time when the aver-
age Michigander spends 5.78
percent of their income on fuel.
It's also unlikely the state will
be able to draw the industry it
hopes will revitalize the econo-
my if it can't compete with other
states in this area.
It's true that a lot of these
measures will benefit the planet
- and that's a good thing. But
these measures are more than
that. They're the real and neces-
sary solutions needed to stabilize
transportation and fuel cost for
every resident for whom times
are already tough enough.

Editorial Board Members:
Elise Baun, Anindya Bhadra, Harun Buljina, Robert Soave

U needs to
prioritize, kids
need toughening
As an alumnus of the University,
I returned to campus today to see
what has happened in the nearly
20 years since I graduated. I saw a
number of renovations, new build-
ings and other wonders.
Then I picked up a copy of the
Daily's Orientation edition and
paged through it. There were a
number of articles on things that
have been going on - including
several articles on the new North
Quad residence hall and the conver-
sion to "marketplace" dining halls.

That's when my jaw dropped. Are today's students so soft,
Let me see if I have this straight spoiled and of such weak fiber that
- tuition and expenses are at an they cannot walk five lousy min-
all-time high and continue to rise. utes to a dining hall? Do students
Financial aid, scholarships and really need air conditioning to sur-
other forms of assistance are fail- vive the three weeks of heat that
ing to keep up. remain when school starts again
And, despite all this, the Univer- in September? Students cannot
sity has decided to spend millions survive without personal made-
upon millions of dollars to build to-order food or their own private
new residence halls with "per- bathroom?
sonal bathrooms," air conditioning As a parent, I have avested inter-
and who knows how many other est in understanding why costs are
luxuries? On top of that, it is going skyrocketing at colleges. This is a
to update dining halls with made- perfect example of why they are. If
to-order food, delis, convenience this is what it takes to attract stu-
stores and all the trimmings? dents to the University of Michi-
Look, I realize that the Univer- gan, my children will be attending
sity, like all other businesses, has to college elsewhere.
compete for students, and the liv-
ing experience is part of that. But, Michael J. Corbin
really - is all of this necessary? Alum


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