Words of wisdom from Microsoft’s Stephen Emmott, PhD
Microsoft’s head of Computational Science (based in Cambridge, UK), Dr. Emmott recently presented the world with a terrifying wake-up call. And, in so doing, he inspired me to conceptualize a possible solution—one that he does not believe exists. In this blog, you will learn all about Dr. Emmott and will hear his compelling message on video. I will also introduce the thinking behind that possible solution.
Dr. Emmott’s message is simply this. Unless we make some HUGE changes in the way we live and reproduce, our future descendants are in deep trouble. A link to his entire article (an edited extract from his new book, Ten Billion) is provided below. But first, take a look at the preview of the book:
85-second video, Ten Billion (book trailer, August 2013)
Book description. Deforestation. Desertification. Species extinction. Global warming. Growing threats to food and water. These driving issues of our times are the result of one huge problem: Us.
Dr. Emmott does a magnificent job of describing the global issues that we face yet, like others before him, he makes no mention of the single most powerful “behavioral change” that we could make to alleviate many of those dire realities. Like practically all of our most brilliant scientists, he probably believes that we truly “need” to eat animal protein in order to be healthy.
Once he realizes that we don’t need ANY animal protein, he will quickly grasp the staggering benefits of using 90% less land, 90% less water and 90% less energy to produce the same number of food calories. Maybe then he will see the ray of hope that I see—a plant-based pathway out of this horrible mess that our species has created.
As he says, “The only solution left to us is to change our behavior, radically and globally.” Yes, but let’s start with the single “behavioral change” that will yield the greatest benefit—in the least amount of time. Let’s put together a “dream team” of leaders to teach the entire world what we should be eating. Let’s stop destroying the lungs of the world (our rain forests) in the search for more arable land to perpetuate the most harmful, wasteful and unsustainable diet-style imaginable.
Otherwise, I agree with Dr. Emmott’s dismal conclusion. In his book he appeals to the world leaders to take decisive action, but confesses that he doesn’t think that they will, concluding in his own words, “I think we’re f_ _ _ _ d.”
His well-researched article appeared in The Guardian on 6-29-13 and reminded me a great deal of one of my earlier blogs, Too many people, wasting resources, eating the wrong food. Dr. Emmott’s article begins:
If population levels continue to rise at the current rate, our grandchildren will see the Earth plunged into an unprecedented environmental crisis.
We currently have no known means of being able to feed 10 billion of us at our current rate of consumption and with our current agricultural system. Indeed, simply to feed ourselves in the next 40 years, we will need to produce more food than the entire agricultural output of the past 10,000 years combined.
Yet food productivity is set to decline, possibly very sharply, over the coming decades due to: climate change; soil degradation and desertification – both of which are increasing rapidly in many parts of the world; and water stress. By the end of this century, large parts of the planet will not have any usable water.
90-second interview with Dr. Emmott (August 2013)
Pretty chilling stuff. So, who is Stephen Emmott? You can read his entire bio at the link below, but here are a few highlights.
- He has two jobs. Professor of Computational Science at the University of Oxford, and head of Computational Science at Microsoft (Cambridge, UK)
- His new book is entitled Ten Billion and will begin shipping in September of 2013. It is available now for pre-order on Amazon.
- With a PhD in Computational Neuroscience, a prior stint as a post-doctoral fellow & scientist at Bell Labs, and now heading up computational science at Microsoft, he is arguably one of the world’s most prominent “big picture” thinkers.
The Solution to saving our species. He writes, The only solution left to us is to change our behaviour, radically and globally, on every level. In short, we urgently need to consume less. A lot less. Radically less. And we need to conserve more. A lot more.
To accomplish such a radical change in behaviour would also need radical government action. But as far as this kind of change is concerned, politicians are currently part of the problem, not part of the solution, because the decisions that need to be taken to implement significant behaviour change inevitably make politicians very unpopular – as they are all too aware.
Leadership. Since beginning this blog in February of 2011, at least 100 of my 777 blogs to date have dealt in some way with leadership.
We need powerful leadership coupled with a lot of money to organize and execute a plan that is capable of addressing these catastrophic issues that are unmistakable products of the human species.
Although Dr. Emmott doesn’t think we’re capable of getting it done, he does offer a solution to an imaginary disaster of a similar scope:
Asteroid approaching. If we discovered tomorrow that there was an asteroid on a collision course with Earth and – because physics is a fairly simple science – we were able to calculate that it was going to hit Earth on 3 June 2072, and we knew that its impact was going to wipe out 70% of all life on Earth, governments worldwide would marshal the entire planet into unprecedented action.
Every scientist, engineer, university and business would be enlisted: half to find a way of stopping it, the other half to find a way for our species to survive and rebuild if the first option proved unsuccessful. We are in almost precisely that situation now, except that there isn’t a specific date and there isn’t an asteroid. The problem is us.
The Bottom Line. Dr. Campbell and I are more optimistic. We believe that there is a plant-based pathway out of this mess that we have created—an “Asteroid-type” of globally-coordinated task force to tackle the single biggest human behavior change that will yield the “best bang for the buck.” We must change the way we eat.
We believe that aggressively influencing the entire human population to move quickly in the direction of eating whole, plant-based foods—will do more to ensure the longterm future of humanity than all other possible initiatives combined.
See the link to my 8-22-13 blog below featuring this topic, S.O.S. (Saving Our Species) — An urgently needed PLAN. It’s going to be real tough to curb population growth and change the way we live. But, in comparison, it will be relatively simple to start changing the way all of us eat. We just need leadership and MONEY—and lots of it.
Note. Much of the content of this blog was included in an earlier blog this summer, Are humans the “infestation” of planet Earth? (See link below).
- My 8-22-13 blog. S.O.S. (Saving Our Species) — An urgently needed PLAN
- My earlier blog on 7-8-13 Are humans the “infestation” of planet Earth?
- Source article by Dr. Emmott. Humans – the real threat to life on Earth
- My earlier blog on “human infestation.” “Air, Water, Sex and FOOD” revisited
- My next blog after this one. “You’re Screwed” or “We’re F_ _ _ _ D?” Take your pick.
- Order Dr. Emmott’s book, “Ten Billion” on Amazon.
- Stephen Emmott Bio. He is professor of computational science at the University of Oxford, and head of computational science at Microsoft
- Lester Brown blog. Too many people, wasting resources, eating the wrong food
- Q & A with Stephen Emmott
- Stephen Emmott. Forbes article from August 2012.
- Blog re Bill Clinton. 5 reasons why Bill Clinton should be the Global King of WFPB.
- Candidate for a major leadership role. James Cameron—on “Walking the Walk”
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.
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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation
Are you still as optimistic as you were a year ago on people making the change to a WFPB diet?
Has any high powered individual bought into your plan for change? I’m curious if all of your family members have made the change.
No one in my family will even consider it, even though one member has succumbed to the ravages of bad health from bad food. As a diabetic, his body broke down with septic shock and has been in a medically induced coma for 30 days and counting. Now his kidneys failed and must undergo dialysis for the rest of his life if he lives.
This individual is only 65 years old. Will this impact the other family members?
I doubt it.
Jim, great reminder, and hopefully Lester Brown will be on your leadership team as well. There are a ton of fundraising sites out there. I’d say if you and Dr. Campbell could think that aspect through initially, and at least start grassroots and see where that goes, it would be a start to potentially build a staff to support your efforts.
Historically, humans have usually resorted to war to reduce or respond to population pressures (see Plato’s Dialogues on this written thousands of years ago). It is highly unlikely that an enlightened change to a proper diet can be implemented on a wide enough scale quickly enough to avoid this outcome. The vast majority of meat eaters would rather fight than switch, and they are supported by powerful profit-oriented factions world wide, including the war industry. So, the prepers have it right. But, alas, they usually base their survival plans on even more meat eating, not realizing that this will be their real doom – an unsustainable micro-environment. Hopefully, I can be vaporized in the first exchange of nuclear weapons and be spared the nightmare of survival.
Yes, I see change. I see more Asians eating SAD. If the Asians abandon their traditional diet for the SAD, then what hope is their for the rest of the world.
It looks bleak for the WFPB change to ever happen.
Take me off your DAMN list!!!!!