My copy of Ten Billion arrived this morning. And I am using my 800th blog-post to tell you about it.
During the past few months, I have featured Dr. Stephen Emmott in a number of my blogs (See links below). That’s because of his CLARITY. He pulls no punches when he tells the world what will happen to us if we don’t quickly and radically change our behavior. But while he fails to mention the single most powerful solution; this book is well worth reading.
In it, he does acknowledge that FOOD is a huge part of the problem, summarizing what is happening early in this short (one hour read) and powerful book (You can get a Kindle copy today for $5.99):
1. An increasing population accelerates the demand for more water and more food.
2. Demand for more food increases the need for more land, which accelerates deforestation.
3. Increasing demand for food also increases food processing and transportation.
4. All of these accelerate the demand for more energy.
5. This then accelerates greenhouse gas emissions, principally CO2 and methane, which further accelerate climate change.
6. Demand for food will at least double by 2050, increasing demand for more land.
While Dr. Emmott goes on to address the details of our global food problem, he fails to point out the obvious solution. He notes that food production is accelerating at a far greater rate than population for three reasons:
- People are eating more food.
- People in developing countries are eating more meat.
- Recreational eating is becoming more common.
He nailed the problem extremely well, but never mentioned the obvious solution of changing what we eat. Perhaps, like many other great thinkers, he is under the impression that we really “need” to eat animal protein to be healthy.
Once that “protein myth” is dispelled, it opens the door for a massive global effort to begin phasing out all those animals and to start growing more plant-based food for human consumption. The implications of such a move are staggering:
By cycling our grain through 70 billion animals, we’re wasting 96% of the calories, 90% of the protein and 100% of the fiber.
Imagine the impact on land, water and energy usage if we stopped eating animals.
Dr. Emmott calls his book TEN BILLION. Here’s my “Top TEN” list of benefits from changing what we eat.
- We’d be able to free up 80% of the land that is now used for agriculture.
- We’re talking about returning over 30% of all the non-ice land in the world to nature.
- We would stop all rainforest destruction and let them flourish.
- We’d save our oceans by ending the needless harvesting of trillions of fish each year.
- We would eliminate the leading drivers of global warming.
- We’d solve the water crisis once and for all.
- We would put the pieces in place to end world hunger.
- We would save trillions of dollars on healthcare throughout the western world.
- We’d give our eco-system a chance to regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed 10,000 years ago.
- We’d prevent the inevitable “mass extinction” that Dr. Emmott predicts.
By virtue of all of the above, we’d give ourselves a chance to survive and thrive as a species indefinitely. We would finally have become the true stewards of our precious, life-giving planet. My conclusion:
Moving to a whole food, plant-based diet will do more to ensure the long-term survival of humanity than ALL other possible initiatives combined.
But, we also need to get get started on those other initiatives. Specifically, we need to start addressing the dual problems of over-population and the grossly unsustainable depletion of natural resources that is driven by the incredibly wasteful way that we live.
But by initially focusing all of our efforts on the single “biggest bang for the buck,” we give ourselves the time to work on the other crucial issues affecting our survival.
Once Dr. Emmott fully understands all the health benefits of plant-based eating and realizes that we never “need” to eat ANY animal products whatsoever, I am confident that he will want to play a major role in our SOS Global Initiative.
But he’s not there yet; without a plant-based pathway out of our current dilemma, he sees only doom and gloom. The last few paragraphs copied directly from his book. Please pardon his “French” in the last sentence:
Why we are not doing more about the situation we’re in— given the scale of the problem and the urgency— I simply cannot understand.
Only an idiot would deny that there is a limit to how many people our Earth can support. The question is, is it seven billion (our current population), ten billion, or twenty-eight billion? I think we’ve already gone past it. Well past it. We could change the situation we are now in. Probably not by technologizing our way out of it, but by radically changing our behavior. But there is no sign that this is happening, or about to happen. I think it’s going to be business as usual for us.
As a scientist, what do I think about our current situation? Science is essentially organized skepticism. I spend my life trying to prove my work wrong or look for alternative explanations for my results. I hope I’m wrong. But the science points to my not being wrong. As I said at the beginning, we can rightly call the situation we’re in an unprecedented emergency.
We urgently need to do— and I mean actually do— something radical to avert a global catastrophe. But I don’t think we will. I think we’re fucked.
Scroll down for three short videos.
His Bio from the book. Stephen Emmott is head of Computational Science at Microsoft Research. He leads a broad scientific research program, at the center of which is an interdisciplinary team of new kinds of scientists, and a new kind of laboratory, in Cambridge, England, pioneering new approaches to tackle fundamental problems in science.
His lab’s research spans from molecular biology, immunology, and neuroscience, to plant biology, climatology, biogeochemistry, terrestrial and marine ecology, and conversation biology, as well as the new fields of programming life and artificial photosynthesis.
Stephen is also Visiting Professor of Computational Science, University of Oxford; Visiting Professor of Biological Computation, University College London; and Distinguished Fellow of the UK National Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts.
85-second video, Ten Billion (book trailer, August 2013)
90-second interview with Dr. Emmott (August 2013)
The following two-minute Jimmy Kimmel “You’re Screwed” video would be entertaining if it weren’t so true.
The Bottom Line. This is the first time that a prominent scientist has provided such alarming clarity on the most important topic in the world—our survival as a species. With his credentials, affiliation with the University of Oxford, a prestigious position at Microsoft and direct access to Bill Gates—we really need to have this man on our team.
Indeed, it was his “asteroid” type of project that initially prompted the idea for the S.O.S. (Saving Our Species) initiative that we’re envisioning.
Update. In July, I reached out to Dr. Emmott with an email and followed up a few days later with a letter and a hard copy of our book. Then, while I was in London in early October, we met to discuss his impressions of our envisioned SOS Global Initiative. The meeting went very well and he agreed that two billion people eating much more plants would make a huge difference. Stay tuned. A few of my earlier blogs on this topic:
- My 9-8-13 blog. “Humans: the real threat to life on Earth.”
- 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?
- Earlier “Kimmel” inspired video and blog. “You’re Screwed” or “We’re F_ _ _ _ D?” Take your pick.
- Order Dr. Emmott’s book, “Ten Billion” on Amazon.
- Stephen Emmott Bio. Professor of computational science at the University of Oxford, and head of computational science at Microsoft in the UK.
- Lester Brown blog. Too many people, wasting resources, eating the wrong food
- Q & A with Stephen Emmott
- Stephen Emmott. Forbes article from August 2012.
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