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4 unconventional causes you should get behind

September 27, 2013, at 1:03 AM

Sure, it's easy to be against poverty, for safe sex, against war, for clean water, against Miley Cyrus, for Liam Hemsworth. Some causes are as easy to support as they are important to promote. Liberal or conservative, here are four unorthodox causes you might want to get behind.

1. Empower the fast food industry to fight obesity.
They know how to make food that people will like and eat. They are under pressure to do something about their contribution to the obesity epidemic. They are not going to go away. They will not be regulated out of existence. It is very hard to convince someone to willingly change their diet. It is impossible (or almost impossible) for an obese person to reset his or her body back to "skinny" save for surgery or extreme alternations to their way of life. And making fast food a little bit healthier has potentially more impact, more bang for the buck, than to re-engineer a food delivery system that makes more healthy food available to poorer people.

From the June Atlantic:

To be sure, many of Big Food’s most popular products are loaded with appalling amounts of fat and sugar and other problem carbs (as well as salt), and the plentitude of these ingredients, exacerbated by large portion sizes, has clearly helped foment the obesity crisis. It’s hard to find anyone anywhere who disagrees. Junk food is bad for you because it’s full of fat and problem carbs. But will switching to wholesome foods free us from this scourge? It could in theory, but in practice, it’s hard to see how. Even putting aside for a moment the serious questions about whether wholesome foods could be made accessible to the obese public, and whether the obese would be willing to eat them, we have a more immediate stumbling block: many of the foods served up and even glorified by the wholesome-food movement are themselves chock-full of fat and problem carbs. [Atlantic]

2. Bring awareness to the pill that can help prevent someone from getting AIDS.
If you're into sex, and have a lot of it, there is a pill you can take that will (according to most of the available evidence) dramatically reduce the chances you'll acquire the HIV virus from someone who is infected. It's called Truvada. There is a stigma associated with the pill because the safe sex industry does not want to license sex without condoms, which is still safer. But if preventing the transmission of AIDS is a good thing, and if the pill is effective and safe, which it appears to be, then it is a responsible practice to let people know that Truvada exists.

But forget about those of us in the developed world. AIDS in the U.S. can be a chronic illness. AIDS in Africa is a deadly pandemic. Awareness of Truvada and a careful distribution program in high-risk areas there could reduce human suffering significantly.

3. Down with liberal anti-science!
Sure, conservative anti-science types are sillier. But liberal anti-science can be harmful. I am using the term liberal quite liberally here, but in general, opposition to genetically modified organisms is becoming part of the left's socio-cultural canon. There is indeed a lot we don't know about GMOs and why they work, and how they work, but we DO know a lot, and the biotech/agriculture union has generally proved beneficial to humans. Study and be careful, and allow regulators to probe new technologies and hybrids, but standing in the way of a technology that has helped feed and prolong the lives of millions for reasons having more to do with a reflexive and not unwarranted opposition to concentrated wealth and power than science is not a cause worth supporting. Oh, and get your children vaccinated!

4. Forget advanced algebra.
Teach probability and statistics instead. Here is an essay by Nicholson Baker explaining why you should oppose Algebra 2. It persuaded me! And here is a Ted Talk by Arthur Benjamin about why statistics ought to be inserted somewhere into the high school curriculum instead.

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