Is it ethical to work in a leisure centre?

Ethan Greenhart

Topics Politics

Dear Ethan,

For the past six months I have worked in a lovely leisure centre in Halifax. I must say it is quite nice to see people having fun, and working off their angst by swimming, playing ping-pong or exercising in gyms! But I thought I should check with you that there isn’t something unethical about working in a leisure centre. I mean, these institutions do not emit anything crazy like ‘sweat carbon’, do they?!

Gillian Harper

Dear Gillian,

Get out! Get out now! You sound like a nice, possibly even ethical person, so I’m telling you kindly: it is unethical in the extreme to work in, step foot in, or get on a step machine in that Temple to Titillation that is a leisure centre.

What are you thinking, working in a building that is run on a whole town’s worth of electricity just so that people can experience leisure?! At this moment in time, I can think of no more unethical job than working in a leisure centre. And I’m thinking really, really hard. Pilot? No, not as bad. Pilot on a cheap flight carrying scores of chavs to get wasted in Prague? Maybe. Torturer in a sweaty Egyptian jail cell where kidnapped terror suspects have been rendered and, worse, where energy-guzzling electrical devices will be used to torture them? No – I simply cannot think of anything worse than being a chippy, chirpy, tracksuit-wearing pimp of pleasure in a leisure centre.

From the garishly lit foyer with its refrigerated drinks machines (energy, energy, energy), to the heated swimming pools pumped with chemicals (and children’s urine), to the steaming hot showers where buff guys and toned girls stand for MINUTES on end admiring their own freakish and tangoed bodies, a leisure centre is a veritable cathedral of carbon.

Gillian, you must be aware of the research published by the Carbon Trust which revealed that nearly a fifth of the average British citizen’s 10.92 tonnes of CO2 – that is, 1.95 tonnes – is emitted through recreation and leisure? That includes holidaying, going to the gym, and ‘enjoying live evening sport under floodlights’. How do you feel now, Gillian, to see your ‘lovely’ job of working in a leisure centre listed next to WATCHING LIVE SPORT on the unethical Richter scale? I bet you never thought your working day would be spoken about in the same breath as those disgusting gatherings of thousands of grunting men who shout and sweat and drop tonnes of litter as they watch two teams of burly blokes without a GCSE to their names chase a piece of pig’s bladder around a muddy field.

Gillian, leisure centres sum up the entire folly of human existence. A leisure centre is an intensive energy-burning institution full of men and women exerting themselves under bright lights and air conditioning outlets, yet it produces nothing! It is a factory-in-reverse, where the masses pile in, work themselves into a sweaty frenzy, and yet have not so much as a box of biscuits or a packet of cigarettes, or whatever else is produced in factories these days, to show for their exertions at the end of it.

However, the fact that leisure centres and gyms are startlingly unethical raises a problem, Gillian – because people DO need to get fitter. There are two very big problems: the first is obviously the expansion of our carbon skidmark across the globe, and the second is the expansion of our waistlines. We face damnation and swarms of locusts courtesy of global warming, and early death by heart attacks courtesy of the obesity epidemic. And these two calamities of gross proportions are directly linked. It’s the stuff we do to make ourselves fat – eat junk food, sit around watching The Jeremy Kyle Show, drive in jeeps, take flights to France instead of getting there by manmade coracle – that also heats the planet. Fat people cause more discomfort to Gaia than thin people. As a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine puts it: ‘An obese population leaves a significantly heavier footprint than a thin one…’

So how can we get our fat nation fit without allowing them anywhere near an energy-guzzling leisure centre? Well, Gillian, I suggest you give up your eco-irresponsible job quicksmart, and set up a Greenhart-style Green Gym.

We Greenharts have devised a circuit-training regime in our back garden. You might call it a Lentil Leisure Centre (zany!) since the circuit training is built around getting fit by planting and harvesting lentils. Step 1: speed-excreting – me, Sheba or one of the kids exert our gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and gluteus medius (that’s the buttocks to the uninitiated) in our outside thermophilic toilet and produce some humanure. Step 2: speed-running – the four of us sprint from the thermophilic toilet carrying the products of step 1 in sustainable-wood egg cups; it’s a bit like an egg-and-spoon race but with a whiffy difference! Step 3: speed-spreading – in movements designed to toughen and refine our biceps brachii we hurl the contents of the sustainable-wood egg cups on to the Greenhart allotment where it sinks into the soil and enriches the lentil plants. Step 4: speed-harvesting – in movements aimed at exercising the intertansversarii muscle in our backs, we bend down and pluck the already-grown lentil plants from the soil and sprint back to the house where we make a very well-deserved lentil loaf.

Such circuit-training keeps us AND the planet fit, Gillian, and you should see my gluteus maximus! I am not a vain person, but I do like to show it off in tight-fitting organic-cotton or organic-denim trousers, and if anyone gives me a second glance or wolf-whistles I always make a point of cornering them and explaining in graphic detail that I got this rock-hard butt courtesy of a Greenhart Green Gym where I did my bit for victimised Mother Nature through speed-excreting and speed-plucking. That always wipes the smile off their faces, I find, and makes them think seriously about the problems facing our planet.

Gillian, you have not a moment to waste! Hand in your notice NOW, disembark from the sinking ship that is human leisure, and construct (from hemp only) a Green Gym where the emphasis should be on people making amends for their sins against the planet through sheer hard graft. I mean, why should we have leisure when Gaia languishes in a steam sauna of our making?

Ethan Greenhart’s book Can I Recycle my Granny? and 39 Other Eco-Dilemmas is published by Hodder & Stoughton in October (for more details, visit Amazon(UK)). Ethan is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him {encode=”” title=”here”}. Read his earlier columns here.

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Topics Politics


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