ABSTRACT

In his three-minute talk in the popular TEDtalk series, Dr Dean Ornish, clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, gives a rapt audience his take on the global obesity ‘epidemic’ and its various evils (2006). He cites some statistics on childhood obesity in the USA and offers the standard warning that this may be the first generation of children to die younger than their parents. Using PowerPoint to its best advantage, he flips through the famous Centres for Disease Control (CDC) slides that show rising rates of body mass index in the USA since the 1980s. Then, as the CDC maps hurtle towards the present, Ornish delivers his coup de grâce – a slide showing a cartoonish parody of the classic evolution of mankind image. Where the original ‘march of progress’ concludes with the upright, muscular modern man gazing triumphantly into the future, Ornish’s version features two extra figures of declining height and increasing girth, and finally a pig. The audience erupts with laughter and applause. ‘It gets worse’, Ornish announces, ‘we’re kind of devolving’.