Life as we know it is under threat. It’s doomed because of the greenhouse effect, acid rain and holes in the ozone layer. These have taken over from biblical prophecy as the imminent reason for the end of our existence. Like Christianity they offer hope, for even at this late hour all is not lost. If we would only accept the error of our ways and repent. If we give up our merciless quest for more then eternal life still beckons, at least for our species. It is survival of the species that is being fought for by the environmentalists, not personal survival. This is clearly demonstrated by the fuss over global warming.

Global warming is a predicted environmental catastrophe that threatens to kill many millions of people in fifty to a hundred years time. Most of us will be dead and buried long before the its more catastrophic effects begin to bite. Nevertheless, to curtail greenhouse gas emissions politicians are being urged to put policies into place that will destroy jobs. There is little doubt that unemployed people get sicker and die sooner than those in employment. Those pushing for governments to curtail greenhouse gasses are in effect asking them to start killing people now, to possibly save lives in fifty or a hundred years time.

There is nothing odd about sentencing people to an early death, because of weather reports for mid way through the next century. Who cares that weather reports get increasingly unreliable beyond about three days into the future. After all, their unreliability is only due to the impact of chaos on meteorological models. Chaos has the effect of making little variations turn into big deviations over time. Now, what impact do you think variations which make weather reports for more than three days into the future unreliable, are going to have on weather reports for fifty or a hundred years time. You have just thought the unthinkable. Go and wash your brain out with soap and water. If you are not brainwashed, you might think the world had gone mad. Even then you might think it mad, but for different reasons.

But what if you are a selfish individual and don’t give a damn about the species. Perhaps you want humanity to die out so fewer other species become extinct. Well, you still can’t relax and have fun. It’s too dangerous. Cigarettes, alcohol and pesticides or fat in your food could shorten your life. In fact, whatever you enjoy doing is probably harmful to your health. Not surprising really, as almost everything is hazardous to our health. If you make a rat drink enough water, it will die. This alone is enough evidence for some health nut to preach against the dangers of consuming water. Especially if they know of the Spanish inquisition’s habit of torturing people by forcing water down their throats until their stomach burst. Leaving little room for doubt that water consumption can be as injurious to people as rats. People can also get soggy brains if they drink too much water. Before glue sniffing became popular it was people sculling water for a cheap high that was the danger. Now it’s ecstasy users who need to be careful not to get carried away while following public health warnings about the risks of becoming dehydrated while dancing all night.

Perhaps consuming water is a bit of an extreme example; it’s probably not harmful to your health. You might think that if it is not bad for you, then there is no reason to avoid it. But that’s not how public health works. Just because water will not kill you, does not mean you should not avoid it. The question is if you would live longer if you drank something else instead? This is the test upon which the acceptability of drinking water hinges. Armchairs can serve as a good allergy. People do not die because they sit in a comfortable chair. But this does not mean people should be left in peace to sit in comfy chairs. Oh, no. The question is, do they live as long as people who spend their time exercising rather than sitting in comfortable chairs. If not, then this is reason enough for a public health campaign to get people out of their comfortable chairs and into the gym.

Campaigns that make people exercise more might have another effect. They could make people edgy when sitting in their favorite armchair. People might start getting a nagging feeling when watching television or reading a book. The campaign could make some people think they ought to be exercising rather than relaxing. In fact it probably has to, if it is going to be a successful public health campaign. This is not necessarily a good thing. People who are unable to relax are liable to do something stupid or unpleasant. Many even think that being unable to relax is unhealthy and pay others to teach them how to relax. Meditation is particularly popular. While there are a variety of ways to meditate, the most popular is to stop thinking. No chance of guilty thoughts stopping you from relaxing if you are no longer thinking. Others get help from psychiatrists.

Another effect of public health campaigns is to stop the money they use from being spent on something else. If the something else is an environmental group, then this benefit ought to be considered when examining the campaign merits. Successful environmental action is liable to be far more damaging than successful public health campaigns.