June 4, 2001
1:20 PM   Subscribe

Spam is killing Micronesians. The kind in a can. Spam, not Micronesians. (via Arts & Letters)
posted by luser (4 comments total)
And if the fatty Western goods don't kill you, watching Baywatch in Fiji will make you feel sad.

I like the fact that resource depletion is linked to drastic and rapid lifestyle changes. It can also be linked to political instability. I don't really understand why "rapid" Westernization makes you more likely to get sick and die. It seems that the change to an unhealthly lifestyle happened rapidly, but the rapidity of the change is not more unhealthy.
posted by rschram at 3:19 PM on June 4, 2001

Doesn't rapidly introducing a new type of lifestyle, especially a diet, have a dramatic effect on the body? I would think so. Maybe they just aren't adjusting to these things. High cholesterol and such are not things these people are used to living with.
posted by tomorama at 4:10 PM on June 4, 2001

I spent a year teaching high school on Chuuk (one of the other states in the Federated States of Micronesia), and my wife (then girlfriend) spent a year teaching elementary school on Kosrae. To both of us it was truly amazing how many of the people there had diabetes and/or heart trouble. And from my discussions with my students' parents, it really is a completely new occurance in this generation. Their parents' generation either lived out their lives and died peacefully of old age or were killed/worked to death by the Japanese in World War II. This generation is the first that has been 'taken care of' by American money and protectorship and has been exposed en masse to American culture. The result:
  • Everybody nowadays seems to die of heart disease or diabetes-related complications.
  • The younger generations are growing up used to eating heavily processed, imported food and are not learning how to fish, pound taro, or even climb for coconuts. So now they are dependant on outsiders for their daily bread rather than being able to produce it themselves.
  • The importation of strong alcohol has turned a communal-type lifestyle into one comprised of a group of hard workers and the group of alcoholics that mooch off of them.
  • The entertainment that is exported is the Steven Segal and Baywatch kind, rather than anything that promotes thought or decency, and just like in America, it shows.
  • Prepackaged food and goods have turned beautiful islands into repositories of litter.
It's really quite depressing, and going there is what truly convinced me that technological advancement does not equal happiness -- in fact quite the opposite. Not a single one of my students had ambition to do anything except for leave for Guam or America and never come back.
posted by OneBallJay at 4:22 PM on June 4, 2001

Well, I think importing a lifestyle along the lines of accountingboy's bulleted list has disasterous effects on health, but I don't see why doing the importing quickly makes the lifestyle more unhealthy. I think the "total" absorption of western consumption habits makes an epidemic. I don't deny that it happened too fast for health services to turn around how they treat patients, as such making the problem worse. But that's an aspect of FSM health/social services infrastructure (and perhaps more broadly, the `protectorate' status.)

I think the saddest fact is that, as acb suggests, it makes sense to live off imports yet it stops making sense to the youngest generation to stay in one's community.
posted by rschram at 4:47 PM on June 4, 2001

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