You want fries with that?

Contemplations of a travel weary doctor

Going to the States, I thought I knew what I was in for. After all, I’d been there before. But it wasn’t long before I felt the full effects of everything the USA can throw at you.

Before I left, I was really pleased with myself. I had been eating well and exercising for more than six months and I had lost a lot of weight. My blood tests were the best they had been for years.

I was only in America for three weeks but that was all it took for the weight I had carefully shed to come back with a flourish.

A big part of the problem was the places I visited. Most of the cities, towns and suburbs in the States fail the sustainability test. Everything is on a big scale, or super big!

In many places, walking was simply out of the question. I needed to get about by car for everything. A trip to the supermarket was a many kilometre drive away and when I got there I faced an overwhelming choice of foods.

Some of the processed foods in their shiny packaging had been on the shelves for weeks and were still ‘within date’. What’s more, the food is cheap−really cheap! This all adds up to a less than subtle inducement to buy and consume in bulk.

They sure know how to seduce a diner to their restaurants too. I went to Ye Ole Smokey Ribs BBQ and Bar. I was offered all I could eat and more. Every dish came with roast potato and sour cream or a mountain of fries.

My breakfast in the small hotel where I was staying was almost as interesting as the view. As I watched a family of ducks paddle past on the lake, I was served three pancakes, dripping with maple syrup, cream and strawberries, with grilled sausage and bacon on the side.

I’m writing this back home again, having given a speech in a shopping centre on the outer margins of a major Australian city.

As I was driving here I realised the landscape and the environment was like what I saw in the USA. Like the Americans, everyone in this neck of the woods relies heavily on their car.

Now, it’s late afternoon on a sunny day and I’m sitting outside a fast food outlet drinking a bottle of water. I’m watching the cars drive around the car park, trying hard to be as close as possible to the supermarket.

At least there was ducks paddling on the lake in America.

Beside me, teenagers are eating chicken and chips as they down cans of cola. I suppose there mustn’t be any sport this afternoon or maybe their school has cancelled it.

Suddenly I feel I’m turning green. I’m changing the way I view things. We need an environment that works with us, not against us: a sustainable environment.

Change the environment? Can we really? Of course we can, but it sure ain’t going to be easy.

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