And there's been a huge change in the balance of food types. Not only has food, relative to other expenses, never been cheaper, (UK household spending percentage has fallen from 20% in 1970 to 10% in 2002), but it is energy-dense foods, fats and sugars, that have fallen most, while fruit, vegetables and grain have fallen much less. And sugary drinks have fallen in price most of all, and now more than three-quarters of US school children drink at least one fizzy drink a day (unsurprising when they see on average 10 food industry adverts per hour of TV). "North American children are drowning in liquid calories. And the rest of the world is jumping to join them Coca-Cola boasts 1.5 billion consumer servings a day."
Another action needed is to stop the subsidising of the motor and associated industries. As the authors say: "Although most of the world's population will never own a car, road building is invariably funded by public funds, in rich and poor countries alike. Road transportation is 95% oil-dependent, and ensuing a steady supply of cheap oil also involves massive public expenditure. Then there is the automobile industry...(with huge subsidies and bailouts)."
It's here that the book is likely to be most controversial, even among those likely to broadly back its conclusions. It says that there's no evidence to show that roads encourage economic development, while noting that congestion hampers economic output and the poor bear the majority of the negative costs of road building. The only real benefit lies, the authors say, is in profits for big, often foreign, companies. What Africa (with which it is chiefly concerned in this context) needs is not fancy roads for cars, but simple solid paths for bicycles - and the bicycles to use on them.
And it's also clear we need to curb the lobbying power and influence of the motor industry. Roberts tells the astonishing tale of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile's Commission for Global Road Safety, which has an industry members — oils, tyres and car making among their origins — and as patron Prince Michael of Kent, former racing driver and member of the British Racing Drivers Club. It's keen on pedestrian education, Roberts says, decide decades of research showing this to be wholly ineffective, as well as sending the message that "road space belongs to drivers and pedestrians and cyclists must look out or die". Driver training too, has a negative impact on safety.
But above all, the message that Roberts wants to deliver is that we need to go back to bicycle and walking as the primary form of individual transport (while also improving mass transit systems). The arguments are on both climate change/environmental and health grounds.