UNSUSTAINABILITY — The elephant in the room

Not a C.O.P.D. commercial for Symbicort

We can talk all we want about humans being omnivores and that we’ve evolved to eat meat, eggs, cheese, or plants. But the bottom line is that unless we shift to mostly plants pretty soon, Mother Nature is going to forced to take back her planet. That’s because what we’ve got is grossly unsustainable.

We can also talk about returning to the happy farms of yore (See Chipotle Grill Post) all we want—with the cows, pigs and chickens all frolicking about. But the reality of the matter is that those days are gone forever. We’re simply running out of resources; particularly land, water and energy and will soon no longer be able to sustain the extremely wasteful meat and dairy industry.

And it continues to get worse—not better. Millions of people in the developing world are beginning to choose our wasteful diet AND we’re adding a lot more people to the planet every year.

A little background on population. Humans have been around for about 200,000 years and the global population stood at about 250 million at at year One, A.D. It took us a little over 1800 years to reach one billion mark. Since then:

  • 1927, we reached two billion. (adding one billion in 123 years)
  • 1959, we reached three billion. (adding one billion in 32 years)
  • 2011, we reached seven billion. (adding one billion every 13 years since 1959)
  • 2050—at this rate, we’ll hit ten billion in 2050.
  • A mere BLINK of history (just 211 years) we grow from one billion to seven billion.

Roughly 200,000 new people on planet Earth every single day -- about like having a new Grand Rapids

It gets worse. Our population continues to grow at about 200,000 people per day and is projected to rise to 9 to 13 billion by 2050. At the same time, more people around the world are choosing our wasteful diet-style around the world every year.

When people coming out of poverty have a little money for the first time, they want to start eating like people in the United States and Europe. And we’re placing McDonald’s, Burger Kings and KFCs all over the world so that they can do just that. As I wrote in the Introduction of our book, we have a serious dilemma on our hands. From the last paragraph of the Introduction:

Fortunately, despite the incredible complexity of our current dilemma, the solution is refreshingly simple. All we have to do is educate ourselves, start making better choices about what we eat, and then share all that we have learned with everyone we care about.

I am convinced that there has never been anything more important in the history of the world.

Former Amazon forest; now being used to grow soybeans to feed to pigs in China

The Bottom Line. EVERY YEAR—we’re adding 75 million people—we’re losing 32 million acres of forest—and we’re losing 24 million acres of arable land. Some of that forest goes to replace the arable land that we’re losing.

The world’s appetite continues to grow and we’re running out of land to feed it. Already, we’re burning down trees in the Amazon to make land for growing soybeans that are shipped to China to feed pigs. Burning trees in the Amazon — to feed pigs in China

When does this madness end? The United Nations knows that the rich Western diet is unsustainable, Mark Bittman of the New York Times knows it, and most readers of this blog know it—yet no world leaders have accepted the challenge of leading the global shift  to a health-promoting, plant-based diet.

$10 gasoline will be painful, but it will get us moving in the right direction---with more rice & beans and less burgers and cheese.

What do you think it will take for things to start moving in the right direction? I would like to think it would be leadership, but my guess is that it will take FORCE—the kind that will be delivered by gasoline at $10 a gallon.

What does it take to change the world? Maybe less than you think.

Peak Oil — Food Supply — Global Economy. All connected?

Want to receive some occasional special news from us? You may wish to join our periodic mailing list. Also, for help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page.

If you’d like to order our book on Amazon,  visit our BookStore now.

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

And if you like what 4Leaf eating is doing for you and your family, you might enjoy visiting our new “4Leaf Gear” store. From the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks…blogging daily at HealthyEatingHealthyWorld.com

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J. Morris Hicks -- Member of the Board of Directors -- Click image to visit the foundation website.

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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7 Responses to UNSUSTAINABILITY — The elephant in the room

  1. Mitzi says:

    In many places, there is overpopulation. But in a lot of rural areas, the growth of large, industrial farming complexes dependent on huge tractors and combines and lots of fossil fuels have impoverished and depopulated communities in the US, contributing to crowding and traffic in the cities. If we got back to sustainable farming and marketing practices, and healthy food, the population would balance here. The baby incentives in some countries are happening because people have come to the conclusion that if nobody reproduces (and most European countries are far below replacement level in terms of birth rate), then you might wind up with a country full of elderly people, and not enough young ones to care for them. Japan faces this problem already.
    I honestly think it will take a severe depression with famine (akin to the Dust Bowl years of the 30s) to wake us all up. Societies get comfortable, then they get decadent, then they fall apart. It has happened over and over again in history. I’m a student of the Bible, and the history of the Middle East and Mediterranean tells the tale. This process is not new. The scale may be, but the process is as timeless as it is cyclic. Something will have to make us profoundly less comfortable, and limit us to black-eyed peas and rice (or baked beans and brown bread, or potatoes and cabbage-whatever can grow in your area). Otherwise the pizza and fried chicken are as hard for most people to give up as the cigarettes are for the asthmatic wheezing outside the entrance at work, and for the same reason- it is addictive and easy. Sorry to be negative, but you asked.

  2. Ivette says:

    Population is growing , and we want to stop overpopulation. So, we should stop governments giving monetary incentives to have babies in Europe, and other countries in the world!!! We should talk about this issue as well.
    Also, Adding to your article, people in developing countries do not choose to have the “new western diets”, they are pushed, and manipulated by media, as we are pushed over here in the states. It’s the “free-trade” in foreign countries that welcome the”junk food” to organic, sustainable and local communities, and people are not ready or inform about this products. There is a lack of awareness in this communities. Is not just simply chosing, these foods!

  3. Anne says:

    This is essentially Malthusian logic. As India and China (40 pct of world population) get richer, the diets of their poorest citizens will improve, childhood mortality rates will decline, but birth rates will drop significantly. Eventually the growth rate of the world population will stabilize to the replacement level, unless more of the world moves to a vegan diet; in which case we will all live to the ripe age of 100 … We will then definitely reach 13 billion by 2050, otherwise I believe a steady state will be reached and world population will stabilize at 9 billion.

  4. huracan says:

    What I think it will take for us to move in the right direction is “Conscious Evolution” as described here :

    • radioman says:

      ..you forget one small thing, ‘they’ do not want conscious evolution, they want meat and cheese and pizza it’s so ‘delicious’, we are doomed ;} and check food in the schools, WTF evolution you are talking about…

  5. radioman says:

    yes, in the end the truth shall win, ha!

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