Things that we value most like family, health, freedom, peace, wealth, friends and happiness—do not exist without sustainability. In other words, if we don’t learn how to live sustainably, life will be nothing more than a hell on Earth for those few of us who survive. —J. Morris Hicks (1-25-14)
A little background. Mother Earth began supporting life four billion years ago. The first humans appeared just 200,000 years ago and it took us 199,800 years to reach the one billion population mark.
Then, in just the next 200 years, we added another six billion people. That’s just a mere blink in the eye of history and here’s how I recently explained that blink to a sixth grade class in New London, CT.
If we crammed that four billion years into just one year, we humans have been around for only the last 26 minutes of the last hour of that year. Even more alarming; in just the past two seconds, we’ve grown from one billion to seven billion. Finally, in just the last one half second, we have inflicted more damage on the fragile harmony of nature than all previous generations of humans combined.
How did we do so much damage? A combination of three things:
- Overpopulation, exceeding the carrying capacity of our planet
- The way we live, work, travel, and consume STUFF (See video below)
- THE WAY WE EAT
Scientists now agree that Mother Nature cannot sustain the way we are living for very much longer. Many have predicted that our civilization will collapse before the end of this century unless we take some drastic actions soon—like within the next five or ten years. So, what can we do quickly about those three areas of human activity?
- Curb overpopulation? We’re still adding over 200,000 people per day and it will take many decades, if not centuries, to get this situation under control.
- Change the way we live? Once again, this will take many decades, if not centuries, to move our entire world economy back to working in harmony with Nature.
- Change the way we EAT? Not only are our food choices the leading driver of most environmental issues, they are the ONLY major area of human activity that we can change quickly.
Like immediately! In fact, any meat-eating individual can change what they eat practically overnight. I did and I know that millions of others have done the same. And if enough people change quickly, I am confident that our free market system will deliver whatever they choose to eat.
So what’s our diet got to do with sustainability? Almost everything. It turns out that our popular Western diet, enjoyed by the most affluent two billion people in the world, is the leading cause of water scarcity/pollution, soil erosion, species extinction, global warming, deforestation, world hunger—and the cost of healthcare. You might ask, how could that be?
It begins with the fact that our popular Western diet includes some form of meat, dairy, eggs and/or fish at almost every meal. And, on a per calorie basis, it takes over ten times as much water, over ten times as much land and over ten times as much energy to produce than it does to produce plant-based calories.
In addition, a 2006 U.N. report concluded that livestock cause far more global warming than ALL transportation combined. And unlike transportation which continues to grow rapidly, we could easily eliminate the complete livestock sector—solving all sorts of problems at the same time.
In short, the way we’re eating is extremely harmful, incredibly wasteful and grossly unsustainable. Consider this: If all seven billion humans ate the way we do in the USA, we’d need two or three planet Earth’s to feed them all—we only have one—and she is in trouble.
What about our health? Will nothing but plant-based calories provide us with all the protein and calcium that we need? Don’t we need to at least eat some meat and dairy? Isn’t that what we’ve been told our entire lives? Yes, that is what we have all been told—but it simply is not true.
And even if it were true, it really doesn’t matter because that way of eating is simply not sustainable for very much longer.
An unprecedented Win–Win. Not only will a rapid move to a plant-based diet do wonderful things for all of our sustainability issues; it will also do wonderful things for our health—provided we consume the healthiest kind of plant-based diet. I am speaking of the one that derives most of its calories from whole, unprocessed, plant foods.
Cigarette smoking analogy. When I was growing up in the fifties, it seemed like almost all adults smoked cigarettes. But nowadays, after numerous massive awareness campaigns and billion dollar lawsuits spanning many decades, smoking is simply not cool anymore. Someday, eating animal-based foods will not be cool either—but our journey to that day is going to be far more arduous than it was with cigarettes. Why is that? Unlike our wildly popular habit of eating animal-based foods, which most still think is good for us…
- No one ever thought that smoking cigarettes was good for our health.
- No parent ever encouraged their children to smoke cigarettes.
- No doctor ever recommended that his/her patients smoke cigarettes.
- No schools ever displayed glossy posters urging kids to smoke. (Got Nicotene?)
How arduous will our journey be? To answer that, I am reminded of the three stages of truth: Ridicule, Violent Opposition, and Acceptance. Sadly, we are still in Stage One–Ridicule. Once Stage Two begins in earnest, it will take billions of dollars in legal fees to fight the mighty animal-based food industries as the truth about their products begins to take its toll on their revenues.
There will also be casualties as there have been in Brazil where brave citizens have been assassinated for simply being outspoken on behalf of the environment. Even so, this transition must happen and it must happen soon. No less than our civilization and our future as a species hangs in the balance.
Rapid change will require BOLD, well-funded, global ACTION soon!
Are we talking vegan or vegetarian? NO. That would be a real tough sell in today’s world and would only hinder our progress. Our goal is to influence the world’s most affluent two billion people (who are eating over 80% of the meat) to replace the maximum number of their animal-based calories with plant-based calories. The more, the better. And, if they choose the whole food variety of plant-based, they will get the added bonus of vibrant health.
We encourage everyone to try to maximize the percent of their calories from whole, plant-based foods—as it will be a huge Win-Win-Win for the planet, for our collective health and for the out-of-control cost of healthcare that is strangling most Western nations. But I should add that ANY plant based calories (even chips and sweets) are far better for our ecosystem than ANY animal-based calories.
Most are “comfortably unaware.” Sadly, not a single one of our most prominent environmental groups or schools of sustainability in our universities is visibly sharing this alarming sustainability truth about animal-based food with the public.
In a recent online movie trailer, Michael Pollan explains why they don’t:
I think they “focus grouped” it and it’s a political loser. They’re membership organizations you know; they’re looking to maximize the number of people making contributions. And if they get identified as being “anti-meat,” it will hurt with their fundraising.(Click here for the source of this comment on YouTube)
Hurt with their fundraising? Are you kidding me? They’re not telling the public the truth about the most important issue in the history of humankind because of MONEY? Wonder why that is?
How about a little data?—$611,051 That’s what the highest paid CEO of a charitable environmental group was paid in 2012 (Reported by Charity Navigator).
Sounds to me like they’re in the “conscience laundering” business—making people feel good about donating to charity, keeping their own salaries intact; but not really making much of a difference. By not addressing the leading cause of global warming for example, we have no possible chance to avert those rapidly approaching tipping points.
Maybe they’re not telling us the truth because they don’t think the public can handle the truth. Reminds me of the movie, “A Few Good Men” and the famous courtroom scene when Marine Colonel Jessup shouted at Navy Lieutenant Kaffee:
You want the TRUTH?
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!
Our experts don’t think the public can handle the truth, so they water down the message—keep meeting their fundraising goals—all the while compromising the sustainability of our ecosystem, our civilization and ultimately the human species. It’s like this: as we’re all “sleepwalking off a cliff,” at least we’ll all be doing the politically correct thing as we plunge to our deaths together.
It is time for this madness to END! Some of our most prominent experts have shared more truths than others—but NONE of them are URGENTLY waking up the sleepwalking public. None of them are consistent in their message and none of them are “walking the walk.”
Please ask your favorite environmental group’s representatives to read this blog and then tell you why they’re not telling people what they need to know—and what they must do—to preserve our planet’s ability to sustain us indefinitely.
As for telling the truth. A few days after posting this blog, I published this one. Titanic Sets Sail Once More—A different ending. Even your third grade child will have no trouble understanding the connection.
Finally, as mentioned earlier, here is the famous “Story of Stuff” video produced in 2007 and seen about three million times on YouTube. A really well-done video although there was not a single mention of the fact that we’re eating the wrong food.
After we fix the all important FOOD PROBLEM, we’ve eventually got to figure out a way to live in harmony with nature on our precious planet. As any third grader can tell you, our current system of unlimited consumption in a finite world is simply not going to work for much longer.
A few of my earlier blogs that touch on this crucial subject:
- Eating for health or sustainability? Why not BOTH?
- The CERTAINTY of global warming and water scarcity…
- Three books every world leader must read NOW!!!
- “Humans: the real threat to life on Earth.”
- Sustainability and Food Choices. Is anyone listening?
- The TERRIFYING repercussions of our DEMAND for meat
- Bill Clinton connects “sustainability” and food choices.
- Saving civilization is not a spectator sport!
- S.O.S. (Saving Our Species) — An urgently needed PLAN
- “You’re Screwed” or “We’re F_ _ _ _ D?” Take your pick.
- Are humans the “infestation” of planet Earth?
- “Infestation” IS the best word—if it gets your attention
- Remember when your doctor smoked cigarettes?
- Dr. Robert Goodland’s Happier Meals article re GHG January 2014
Handy 5-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
- Dr. Campbell’s new book: WHOLE, Rethinking the Science of Nutrition
Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.
To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now
Got a question? Let me hear from you at email@example.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
SHARE and rate this post below.
J. Morris Hicks, board member since 2012; click banner for more info: