There I was munching on a delicious buttery, rich meat pie from a local bakery when a lady nearly backed into me as she left her parking spot outside the supermarket. She wasn’t an obese woman by any means, but she was carrying quite a few extra kilos above what is considered a healthy weight. I will call her Common Woman.
I kept on walking and as I wiped the crumbs from my face, the Common Woman pulled into the car park of a nearby shopping centre. I estimated that the distance is no more than 100 metres. Two lengths of an olympic swimming pool.
Then there were the two tourists / backpackers. I first saw these two thin blonde girls walking, empty-handed, up the main street. They weren’t jogging or power walking, they were simply strolling along. About an hour later, with arms full of groceries and hands full of shopping bags, they walked back past my place of employ. I’ve since seen them quite a few times walking along the streets, doing everything on foot. I’ll call them Civil Women.
There have been numerous articles published, and even a successful book, asking why is it that French women don’t get fat. Their arguments are all about portion size, full fat foods, active living and their food cultures. Sure, we here in Australia eat far too much and a definable Australian food culture is pretty much non-existent, but there is one other reason why we’re battling with the bulge.
A recent report has shown a robust relationship between motor vehicle ownership, legal heritage and obesity in OECD countries. The report indicates that an increase of 100 motor vehicles per thousand residents is associated with about a 6% point increase in obesity in common law countries, whereas it has a much smaller or insignificant impact in civil law countries.
For those unfamiliar with the two legal systems, Britain and most of its commonwealth countries, as well as the USA, follow a common law legal system, meanwhile in Europe and Asia, civil law is the order of the day. In countries following a common law tradition, individual liberty is encouraged, however under a civil law background the rights of the individual tend to be circumscribed by the power of the state.
If you’re wondering how this makes a difference to our waistlines, lets take a look at a few examples. We only need to look at some of the recurring stories in our local newspaper, the Central Western Daily. The so called debacle of the parking at the new hospital isn’t a debacle at all. It’s a pure example of where Common Law and the individual is creating a problem, that ironically, society as a whole has to pay for.
Article after article, Common Woman after Common Man complaining about how far ‘they’ had to park from the hospital doors or how long ‘they’ had to wait for a spot to become available. The civil law alternatives of public transport or heaven forbid, walking from the ample parking along Brabham Park, were unthinkable, and any councillor who mentioned these simple alternatives were quickly reminded of their status of being elected by ‘the Commoners’. Let’s also not forget the continued whinging by motorist whenever they’re right to park in front of their favourite shop, or taking their usual road, will be curtailed. The multiple attempts at redesigning Anson Street is a case in point.
Common law cities, like Orange, are often sprawling affairs, dependant on the motor vehicle with individual houses invading prime agricultural land, with more calls for faster highways and easier access. In civil law countries, and increasingly in large common law cities like Sydney, the independent vehicle pays second fiddle to the requirements of the society as a whole. Taxes, charges, expensive parking fees are all used to limit the use of personal vehicles in European cities. Even in London, the home of Common Law, they have introduced the controversial Congestion Charge to limit personal vehicle usage.
Maybe it’s time we stopped fussing about carbs and start to have a good hard look at our idle lives. Maybe we don’t have to drive to the gym to run on a treadmill. Could it be that we all just need to park a few blocks from work and take a stroll through the beautiful streets of Orange every morning and evening? How about our shopping habits? Are you guilty of driving from one centre to another even though they’re all within four blocks?