Mark Bittman on global warming—NY Times

Entitled “The Endless Summer.” An excellent read and call to action

Appearing on the Opinion pages of the New York Times (See link below to 7-18 article), this was an exceptionally well-written article that you should read in its entirety. The only thing that disappointed me was that Mark never did mention the #1 cause of global warming—which happens to be livestock. Scientists with the World Bank are now estimating that livestock now account for 51% of all greenhouse gases—compared to a mere 14% for ALL transportation combined.

But in Mark’s defense, his article wasn’t about the many sources of greenhouse gases, it was all about the American “exceptionalism” when it comes to our lack of recognition for this crucial problem. Mark began by saying:

Here’s what American exceptionalism means now: on a per-capita basis, we either lead or come close to leading the world in consumption of resources, production of pollutants and a profound unwillingness to do anything about it. We may look back upon this year as the one in which climate change began to wreak serious havoc, yet we hear almost no conversation about changing policy or behavior. President Obama has done nicely in raising fuel averages for automobiles, but he came into office promising much more, and Mitt Romney promises even less. (There was a time he supported cap and trade.)

It has been well over 100 years since the phenomenon called the greenhouse effect was identified, 24 years since the steamy summer of ’88, when many of us first took notice, and, incredibly, 15 years since the Kyoto Protocol. That agreement stipulated that signatories would annually reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases and was ratified (and even acted upon) by almost every country in the world, including every industrialized nation but one. That would be the United States. Now that’s exceptionalism. (Bill Clinton signed Kyoto; George W. Bush, despite an election pledge, repudiated it.)

Mark Bittman — New York Times

No conversation about changing policy or behavior? Ain’t that the truth. Even though the grim reality of what lies ahead is frightening, most people just continue to live their lives as if global warming didn’t exist. Meanwhile, Mark points out some pretty scary information in his article:

Climate Central’s projections show that the biggest cities in Florida, and a great deal of the Northeast coastline (including New York City), will be underwater by 2100, when almost everyone now alive will have “managed” to leave the scene. Of course, the calamities won’t be limited to North America, nor is 2100 some magical expiration date; the end isn’t in sight.

Yet, as Mark points out, “The only sane people who don’t see this as a problem are those whose profitability depends on the status quo, people of money and power like Romney (“we don’t know what’s causing climate change”), most of his party, and Rex Tillerson, the Exxon chairman, who called the effects of climate change “manageable.”

So why are we so complacent about this looming catastrophe? I think it’s a combination of two things:

  1. Widespread ignorance about the cause of global warming. Most people are not aware that our animal foods industry is by far the #1 driver.
  2. The protein myth. Even if people were aware of the primary cause of global warming, they would be reluctant to stop eating animal foods because 95% of our population still believes that we “need” to eat animal protein to be healthy.

Most of us have been taught that we “need” to eat animal protein to be healthy.

That “protein myth” is the more formidable obstacle of the two. That’s because that 95% includes the best, brightest and most educated people in the world. It includes includes most of our scientists, physicians, business leaders, politicians, media executives and world leaders. And, because of that “protein myth,” the powerful—yet simple, world-changing, plant-based solutions never even make it to the table for consideration.

What about leadership? Mark goes on to talk about the need for a carbon tax to limit the use of fossil fuels as well as a need for superb leadership in the office of President of the United States. As he states:

If we can force our next president to turn his attention to a problem that may well dwarf the economy in scale, perhaps American exceptionalism will come to mean leadership in the right direction.

No doubt that would be a wonderful thing, but I simply don’t see it happening anytime soon. In a world of special interests, unemployment figures, approval ratings and obsession with short-term financial performance, I just don’t think a new president could get elected on such a platform. And if he spent his first term leading the painful changes needed to even slow down global warming, then he/she would almost certainly not get elected for the second term.

The Bottom Line. We simply must dispel the “protein myth” if we’re ever to get any traction when it comes to making any headway in the effort to dramatically reduce the #1 cause of global warming—livestock for our dinner tables. And I don’t think that we can depend on our elected officials to get this done. That’s because there is far too much money and far too many jobs at stake.

Please check out my special page, Dispelling the “Protein Myth.” It includes a summary of all the issues involved along with at least fifteen of my previous posts on this topic. It also  reveals how I know that we’re on the right track. For example, even the United Nations has stated it publicly:

United Nations. “A global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change,” according to a UN report, June 2, 2010. “As the global population surges towards a predicted 9.1 billion people by 2050, western tastes for diets rich in meat and dairy products are unsustainable,” says the report from United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) international panel of sustainable resource management. (See link to my post on this topic)

But stating the problem and the solution in some obscure document every few years is not going to get the job done. We must have committed leadership to tackle this monster—and I truly believe that the superb vision and leadership that we need will come from the private sector. Although it could come from a second term president who doesn’t have to worry about getting re-elected.

In the final analysis, the planet will be fine. It is the human race and our fellow “Earthlings” who may no longer be able to survive in the aftermath of the human-driven climate change. Other creatures will probably evolve to live in the new environment; but our descendants may not be among them.

One curious footnote. Mark Bittman is primarily known as a food writer and has written numerous books, columns and blogs on the subject of “all things food related.” He’s probably written more than ten million words about food during his career, yet in this latest 858-word article about global warming, he didn’t mention food a single time. Even though our food choices are the single biggest driver of the problem.

Book referenced by Mark Bittman

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

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

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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

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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