Friday, November 25, 2005


Existential Friday: Survival


For the past couple of weeks, a slightly camouflaged spectacle has been going on in My Neighborhood Park. It's sort of a squirrel convention, or perhaps a smorgasbord. I wish I oculd have captured this in a single photo, but I'm no nature photographer. Trust me, in your field of vision you could see 10, 12, 15 squirrels sitting there stuffing their faces with acorns.

The most I could catch in one camera frame: four, maybe a fifth in there somewhere.

It's somewhat unusual to see so many of them, sitting and eating with such grim determination. B says this means it's going to be a long, cold winter -- a sort of November squirrel version of Groundhog Day.


I'm reading an excellent book called Displaced Persons, by Joseph Berger, a memoir by a child of Jewish refugees who immigrated to the U.S. after WWII. Berger's parents grew up in Poland and survived the holocaust by going to Soviet Russia after the partitition of Poland in 1939, where they worked at hard labor and never had enough to eat in a country wracked by wartime shortages. They were poor even before the war, and it seems as though the first 30 years of their lives were all about food -- scraping together enough to eat, and being hungry virtually all the time. And it seemed like they spent a lot of time thinking about food.

If I'm hungry for a couple of hours, that's a lot. It's almost unimaginable to me what it would be like to feel hungry most of the time, for years on end. But throughout most of human history, hasn't life for most people mostly been all about getting food? And isn't it that way now for a lot of the world?

U.S. calorie consumption per person is up 20 per cent since the early 1970s to the world's highest - a third above the global average. Average daily calories per person: 3,654 (except on Thanksgiving, where it probably hovers at about 5000!!!!)

In this generally poor region where tens of millions are chronically undernourished, daily per capita consumption was 2,176 calories in 1995-97, 20 per cent below the global average.

Latin nations
Average daily calories per person: 2,791

Despite a taste for sausages and cheeses, Europeans consume fewer calories than Americans. Average daily calories per person: 3,394-97.

Rising incomes and farm production have altered diets and steadily shifted this region's calorie consumption. Average daily calories per person: 2,648

Oil revenues have helped North African countries such as Egypt, Libya and Algeria boost average calorie consumption by nearly 40 per cent since the early 1970s. Average daily calories per person: 3,187

Source for global diet information: Economic Research Service, USDA, UN Food and Agriculture Organisation Agrostat database.
Warren -- Are these figures based on the number of calories that Americans purchase, or the number that they actually eat (which one assumes would be much more difficult to measure than purchases)? I don't doubt that Americans eat a lot more than the denizens of the Sahara region, for example, or even more than Europeans, but I wonder if some of the disparity might be due to many Americans' nasty habit of wasting an extraordinary amount of food.
the website suggests it is actual consumption but i cannot speak to their methodology. but yes, americans do indeed consume more than most, hence the malnutrition endemic in the sahara and obesity endemic (including in yours truly) here at home.
The best Thanksgiving weekend observation. Thanks.
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