“Dust Bowl” debate. Experts are missing the main point.


Six environmental experts and one Nobel Prize winner

What comes to mind when you think about preventing another “dust bowl?” Naturally I thought about the downright scary prospect of what would happen if we suddenly had far less land to feed all the people in the world. I also thought about how we could completely annihilate the primary driver of global warming, reduce water consumption by over fifty percent, cut our fossil fuel consumption by thirty percent and return billions of acres of farmland to forests and grasslands.

Do you think the combination of all of of the above might go a long ways toward preventing another “dust bowl?” I think that it could have a mind-boggling positive effect. And all we have to do is change the way we eat. By returning to the natural diet for our species, we’ll do all of these wonderful things for the environment while being rewarded with vibrant health for ourselves.

A pretty good deal for all concerned—particularly those two billion animals that we kill every single week for our dinner tables. But not a single one of the experts in the New York Times debate on this topic thought of this idea. Why not? Because it is very likely that ALL six of them truly believe that we “need” to eat animal protein to be healthy.

This ‘protein myth’ is killing us. It prevents many world-changing solutions from even making it to the table for consideration.

So what did the six experts had to say? The article began:

The famous dust bowl of the 1930s

The worst drought in 50 years is scorching crops across the heartland and, as a result, the government has declared one-third of the nation’s counties federal disaster areas.

Are we at risk for another Dust Bowl? If so, what can we do to prevent it? (See link below for complete article)

1. The first expert basically thinks it’s too early to tell. John Nielsen-Gammon, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A & M University, is the Texas State Climatologist. At this point, we still have a ways to go before things dry out enough over a long enough period of time to give us another Dust Bowl. The impact of rising temperatures is still relatively modest, and the current drought could be finished as early as this winter by effects from the developing El Niño. Nonetheless, rising temperatures make an extreme and prolonged drought more and more likely.

2. Second expert says the “only answer” is slashing carbon pollution. Joseph Romm, a former acting assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy, is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the editor of the Climate Progress blog. Only one thing can stop ever-worsening Dust Bowls here and around the world — slashing carbon pollution. Climate scientists have predicted for decades that man-made global warming would worsen droughts and dust storms in the Southwest and around the world because of the combined effects of warming, drying and the melting of snow and ice.

3. Third expert says we must start by renewing the farm bill. Mark Tercek is president and chief executive of The Nature Conservancy. This summer’s devastating drought and record temperatures are an ominous reminder of the Dust Bowl that ravaged American agriculture in the 1930s. They also are a stark warning of what could happen again if we fail to act decisively to help farmers protect America’s soil and water.

4. Fourth expert says we must reduce the consumption of fossil fuels. Cynthia Burbank, a former federal transportation official, is a vice president at Parsons Brinckerhoff . Drought, wildfires, record heat, huge losses in the Greenland ice sheet, intense wind and thunder storms – these occurrences are the latest in unusual, if not unprecedented, weather events. Some scientists are careful to say that these are not proof of climate change. But regardless of the symptoms, climate is changing. We need to take steps to reduce fossil fuel use and “adapt” to these new weather extremes. Hopefully if we do, another Dust Bowl will be avoided.

Jonathan Foley, the lone “glimmer of hope” within a sea of uninformed experts

5. Fifth expert was the only one who suggested farming changes. Jonathan Foley is the director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, where he holds a McKnight Presidential Chair in global environmental sustainabilityA system that replaces some of the corn-soybean belt with grains, fruits and vegetables that go directly into the human diet and with grasslands to feed animals and create cellulosic biofuels would feed more people, and be far more resilient to climatic extremes.

6. Sixth expert thinks “odds are fairly remote.” Gary McManus joined the Oklahoma Climatological Survey in May 1999 and currently serves as the Associate State Climatologist for Oklahoma. The odds of another “Dust Bowl” style environmental disaster, even with the severity of the current drought, are still fairly remote thanks to the lessons learned from that era. 

So what’s my point? Apparently none of these highly educated experts are aware of the leading cause of global warming, deforestation and soil erosion. Only expert #5, Jonathan Foley, seemed to understand at least a piece of what could be possible with a whole foods, plant-based diet for humans. His statement bears repeating:

 A system that replaces some of the corn-soybean belt with grains, fruits and vegetables that go directly into the human diet and with grasslands to feed animals and create cellulosic biofuels would feed more people, and be far more resilient to climatic extremes.

But instead of replacing “some” of that animal feeding “belt,” we ultimately must replace all of it—and none of our experts seem to understand that simple, yet inevitable “big picture.” As such, I become more convinced every day that this highly conspicuous oversight by many groups of brilliant people is a direct result of the ubiquitous “protein myth” in the western world.

Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics

Further proof of the “protein myth.” From a Nobel Prize-winning columnist at the New York Times. Just three days before the “dust bowl” article, Paul Krugman wrote a piece entitled “Loading the Climate Dice.”

How should we think about the relationship between climate change and day-to-day experience? Almost a quarter of a century ago James Hansen, the NASA scientist who did more than anyone to put climate change on the agenda, suggested the analogy of loaded dice.

Imagine, he and his associates suggested, representing the probabilities of a hot, average or cold summer by historical standards as a die with two faces painted red, two white and two blue. By the early 21st century, they predicted, it would be as if four of the faces were red, one white and one blue. Hot summers would become much more frequent, but there would still be cold summers now and then.

The Bottom Line. Brilliant article. Brilliant Nobel Prize winner. But no mention whatsoever of the primary cause of global warming. I hereby rest my case—and offer a few other blogs to back up my point, including the final one below about what me must do to “dispel the protein myth,” thereby freeing up lots of brilliant minds to think about plant-based solutions more powerful than their wildest dreams.

The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.

Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth

  1. Healthy Eating, Healthy WorldThe “big picture” about food (our book)
  2. A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD 
  3. An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
  4. What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
  5. A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
  6. Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unawareby Richard Oppenlander.

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 2 or 3 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 jmorrishicks@me.com

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

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, visit our 4Leaf page and also enjoy some great recipes from Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member since 2012; click banner for more info:

Nutrition Certificate

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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