Short is the New Green

Munchkin landMunchkins in the Wizard of Oz/Screen capture

Randy Newman was wrong; short people have every reason to live. It is the tall people who have a problem. As a new study by S. Matthew Liao, Human Engineering and Climate Change points out,

Human ecological footprints are partly correlated with our size. We need a certain amount of food and nutrients to maintain each kilogram of body mass. This means that, other things being equal, the larger one is, the more food and energy one requires. Indeed, basal metabolic rate (which determines the amount of energy needed per day) scales linearly with body mass and length. As well as needing to eat more, larger people also consume more energy in less obvious ways. For example, a car uses more fuel per mile to carry a heavier person than a lighter person; more fabric is needed to clothe larger than smaller people; heavier people wear out shoes, carpets, and furniture more quickly than lighter people, and so on.

Short people simply take up less space. They fly economy and don't feel squished. They eat happy meals and don't feel hungry. And as Randy Newman correctly points out, "They got little cars that go beep, beep, beep." The differences can be huge. The study continues:

A way to reduce ecological footprints, then, would be to reduce size. Since weight increases with the cube of length, even a small reduction in, e.g., height, might produce a significant effect in size, other things being equal (To reduce size, one could also try to reduce average weight or average weight and height, but to keep the discussion simple, we shall use just the example of height). Reducing the average US height by 15 cm (six inches) would mean a mass reduction of 23% for men and 25% for women, with a corresponding reduction of metabolic rate (15%/18%), since less tissue means lower nutrients and energy needs.

25% less mass! Imagine the effect on fuel economy, on capacity of airlines. Yet the weightist, heightist people running America charge short people the same air fare, the same meal prices, even though we cost less to carry and would happily eat smaller portions.

The savings in carbon keep mounting when you look at further implications. Imagine the savings in building materials if there were Frank Lloyd Wright scaled ceilings everywhere. If the standard ceiling was only seven feet high then one could pack 15% more people into buildings without increasing their height.

If furniture was shrunk to scale, and if double beds became the norm again instead of queen, one could probably make housing units smaller too.

And cars! Imagine the fuel savings if everyone was comfortable in a Smart Car or a new Isetta sized vehicle. The lanes could be narrower, the parking spaces smaller, the fuel consumption a fraction of what it is today.

S. Matthew Liao's projected reduction of six inches in the average height should be a target to be promoted and encouraged. In fairness to short people who are currently overcharged for everything, "fair share" legislation should be passed that gives a 15% discount on everything for people who are 15cm shorter than average. Since short people are under-represented politically and athletically, there should be quotas, handicaps and special basketball nets mounted lower for short players.

Other studies have shown that short people live longer and are often healthier.

Evidence of a link between height and longevity has been found by scientists, suggesting that some short people will live longer than their taller peers….Insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) levels have previously been linked with both ageing and body size, with evidence showing that decreased levels of IGF-1 predispose the animals for short stature, but increased longevity.

So short people are not only less of a burden on the planet, they are less of a burden on the health care system and consequently the national budget, deserving a break in insurance costs and taxes.

William Saletan noted in Slate a few years back:

Smaller people consume fewer resources, live longer, and are cheaper to transport. They can fit in a Hyundai. Forty-five years ago, if you were 6 feet tall, you couldn't fly in a NASA space capsule. Now, you can barely fly coach. Blessed are the short, for they shall inherit the earth.

Seth Godin said Small is the New Big; We say Short is the New Green.

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