Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gated Childhood

For some years I've been arguing that one of the effects of governing through crime is in the incredible rates of obesity among our children. The argument, in a nut shell, is that parents, hyper conscious about the need to protect their kids from crime risk, accept the immobility of their kids as a price for safety.

Some recent books and newspaper articles suggest that others recognize the locked down quality of contemporary childhood as a crucial part of the obesity problem, but they seem to over romanticize the notion of the "great outdoors" and the association of that with experiences in "nature' (often quite manipulated nature, of course). The problem is not lack of access to nature --- national parks are in more demand then ever and the REI culture of getting outdoors has never flourished so mightily among ordinary middle and upper middle class people. The real problem is getting outside at at all. Roaming urban and suburban streets can be just as effective in preventing obesity, diabetes, etc. as hiking in the woods. Americans "boomers" may not have found our way to nature often enough, but we roamed our neighborhoods and parks. Unfortunately, forty years after President Johnson' administration declared a federal commitment to "safe streets," the fear induced flight from street life has become a major threat to American physical and mental health.

See., St. George, Donna. 2007. “Getting Lost in the Great Indoors: Many Adults Worry Nature Is Disappearing From Children's Lives.” The Washington Post. (June 19) p. A1.


Avery Ray Colter said...
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Avery Ray Colter said...

I heard the exchange on KPFA about gating and obesity. There is one other very disturbing element to this story however, which I think points to the terror of parenthood, that anything that ever happens to a child is the fault of the parent.

I am a member of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance; their site has links to cases of abduction of adipose children by government agencies on the premise that "allowing" a child to be fat constitutes child abuse.

Here is a recent report.

Fat children often can feel like hiding at home due to the hazing they receive, with all the health problems attendent to lessened physical activity. Billboards proclaiming "Childhood obesity is a Big Problem" led my wife to say that children the size she was will now feel incessantly under the watchful eye of the surveillance society. NAAFA has been proposing and speaking on a different way with their kids' project.

Adiposity has been socially criminalized for nearly a century. The "war on obesity" has had the same failure and the same collateral damage as other wars of recent memory. One more war, one more criminalization campaign which needs to end for the sake of us all.