Last week I visited the local Wal-Mart, the first time I've been around lots of Grants Pass townspeople since arriving here. I was struck by what a large percentage of people in the store appeared to be in excellent health -- lean, energetic-looking, fast-moving folks much different from the general population I'm accustomed to in similar Wal-Marts back in Mississippi and Kentucky. I haven't seen so may fit people since my European days. How can this be explained?

Though in general I'm suspicious of data sources and how data is interpreted, often comparative statistics at least provide a general feeling for what's going on. Therefore, I checked to see what a website comparing the 50 US states said about the matter. The site was StateMaster.Com at

There I see that though Vermonters are listed as the nation's healthiest citizens, in #1 spot, Oregonians are indeed recognized as being healthier than people in most states, coming in at #19. In contrast, Kentuckians find themselves in the less healthy half, coming in at #32 and Mississippians are at #49.

Obesity rates offer a complementary picture: At the link here you see that Mississippians are the nation's most obese people, Kentuckians are the third fattest, while Oregonians are only the 19th most obese. Vermonters are the third-most SLENDER.

How can these data be explained? I wonder if another page here offers an insight?

There it's shown that slender Vermonters also are the best educated among us, in #1 position again. In contrast, Kentuckians are way back at #35 while Mississippi is #49 again. Oregon doesn't do so well here; it's #38, behind Kentucky.

To me these data possibly support the notion that general education has a value far beyond just helping people get jobs. The more you know, maybe, the more likely you are to avoid self-destructive behaviors such as smoking and overeating. And I'm making a wild guess that in a similar manner the more people understand what a majestically complex, beautifully intricate and terrifyingly fragile world we all live in, the less likely they'll be to live biosphere-destroying lifestyles.

There's another site similarly comparing nations. It's at

If it's true that general education heightens general environmental sensitivity, then one disheartening piece of information the above site gives is that in terms of percentage of total government expenditure for education, the US comes in at only #59 in the world, way behind such upward-striving countries as Mexico (#9) and Yemen (#1). Mexico invests nearly a quarter of its governmental monies in education while Yemen spends nearly a third. The US spends only about one-fifth. The above site also shows that in the US a similar one-fifth of "central government expenditure" goes to the military.

At some point a discussion needs to take place about whether it enhances our defenses more to send troops to Afghanistan, or to enhance educational possibilities for the citizenry.