Good habits become us

Permanent winter for a Moncton events centre?

The world may be a dangerous place, full of gnashing teeth, but unless you’re fond of swimming with crocodiles, the chances that you’ll die from anything Mother Nature throws at you are slim to none.

In fact, all the evidence convincingly shows that when it comes to tempting fate, human agency is all it takes to do anyone in; indeed, our own bad habits are dispatching ever greater numbers of us with each passing year.

An NBC report back in September put it this way: “Americans may worry about pollution and harmful chemicals in their air and water, but a new study of the major causes of death confirms what most doctors know: We are our own worst enemies. The leading causes of death have to do with bad habits, including smoking, poor diet and a lack of exercise, the report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington finds.”

According to Statistics Canada, the leading causes of death in this country – barring accidents – are all related, in some way, to the trials and gauntlets to which we willingly subject ourselves: tobacco, alcohol, narcotics, poor diet, overwork, sleep deprivation, even sitting around on our ever-expanding derrieres.

Here what a CBC piece reported last year: “Sitting on one’s butt for a major part of the day may be deadly in the long run – even with a regimen of daily exercise, researchers say. In an analysis that pooled data from 41 international studies, Toronto researchers found the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death, regardless of regular exercise. ‘More than one half of an average person’s day is spent being sedentary, sitting,’ said Dr. David Alter, a senior scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, who helmed the analysis.”

Still, our tendency to form bad habits need not only lead to our early demise. We’re so adept in the risky-business department that even the way we ritualistically approach our economic and social challenges and opportunities could injure us in palpable ways. It could, plainly, bankrupt us, render our public institutions unworkable, or undermine our faith in our system of government.

We’re not quite there in New Brunswick, but I wonder if there is not some correlation between the fact that residents of this province are more prone than their fellow citizens elsewhere in Canada to drop dead from a preventable disease and the fact that our socio-economic grid and public finances are also reeling under a clutch of preventable causes.

After all, if we’re prone to ignore the facts about our physical health, and embrace our addictions (nicotine, booze, sugar), how less likely are we to comport ourselves similarly when it comes to deficit spending?

Shortly, New Brusnwickers will have the chance to steel themselves to the reality of their shared circumstances in this province, as the Liberal government of Brian Gallant prepares to apply some version of cold turkey. The degree of the cuts and tax hikes, which are sure to come, remains to be seen, as does their long-term effectiveness in a jurisdiction that spends more than $600 million a year just servicing its more than $12 billion debt.

But there can be no doubt that austerity and self-denial will become the new normal.

Make no mistake, detoxing from profligacy addiction will be rough. Still, it won’t be anything like quitting cigarettes (trust me).

And with our bad habits behind us, we have a chance to form some good ones for a change.

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