Food Choices. The primary cause of global warming?

Or just the ONLY primary cause that we can change quickly? 

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Robert Goodland, who suffered an untimely death at 74, in December of 2013. Born in England in 1939, educated in Canada, professor in Brazil; his career was all about ecology, most notably, climate change. To my knowledge, this blog contains his last two video appearances and a link to his last published work. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Programme, will speak at his memorial service in Washington, DC on February 27.  For more info, visit Robert’s website. 

Dr. Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, longtime environmental specialists at the World Bank Group, estimated in 2009 that livestock are responsible for at least 51% of human-induced greenhouse gas, and that replacing at least 25% of today’s livestock products with better alternatives by 2017 may be the only pragmatic way to stop further climate change before it’s too late. 

Let’s be clear. We’re talking a GLOBAL reduction of meat calories. With people in China and other developing nations increasing their meat consumption every day, it’s going to take a MASSIVE world-wide effort to accomplish that 25% goal. To be sure, in order to have a ghost of a chance of hitting that minimum target, hundreds of millions of humans must be replacing ALL of their meat-based calories ASAP.

Without a doubt, for any massive global effort to be successful, genuine support of the mainstream media will be required. So let’s take a look at what some of the mainstream folks are saying—people like New York Times columnist, Mark Bittman.

Robert Goodland (1940 to 2014)

Robert Goodland

Less Meat, Less Global Warming. We Could Be Heroes. That was the title of Bittman’s column NY Times article published on May 15, 2012. In it, Mark cited the works of Goodland and Anhang. Sadly, Dr. Goodland passed away a few weeks ago and I am dedicating this blogpost to him. Here is an excerpt of the Mark Bittman piece that describes his direct correspondence with Goodland:

Five years ago, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization published a report called “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” which maintained that 18 percent of greenhouse gases were attributable to the raising of animals for food. The number was startling.

A couple of years later, however, it was suggested that the number was too small. Two environmental specialists for the World Bank, Robert Goodland (the bank’s former lead environmental adviser) and Jeff Anhang, claimed, in an article in World Watch, that the number was more like 51 percent. It’s been suggested that that number is extreme, but the men stand by it, as Mr. Goodland wrote to me this week: “All that greenhouse gas isn’t emitted directly by animals.  ”But according to the most widely-used rules of counting greenhouse gases, indirect emissions should be counted when they are large and when something can be done to mitigate or reduce them.”

Mark Bittman is clear about what he enjoys eating. But he is consistently confusing when it comes to helping his readers learn about healthy eating.

Mark Bittman

The exact number doesn’t matter. What does is that few people take the role of livestock in producing greenhouse gases seriously enough. Even most climate change experts focus on new forms of energy — which cannot possibly be effective quickly enough or produced on a broad enough scale to avert what may be the coming catastrophe — and often ignore the much easier fix of adjusting our eating habits.

(See link below to this article in the Times.)

Short Video on Global Warming from Robert Goodland. The only way to begin curbing global warming quickly is to address the #1 cause—and that would be livestock. This video explains the simple big picture in less than three minutes.

In it, the narrator talks about the need to replace 25% of our animal-based calories with plant-based. To me, this is a little misleading, because this is a global problem—meaning that we must replace 25% of ALL of the animal calories in the world, not just in the USA. Plus, we know that ALL of the people are not going to comply—for whatever reasons. Right now, for each American going vegan, there are an estimated ten Chinese moving in the other direction.

Quite simply, we must encourage EVERYONE to replace as many of their animal-based as possible—the more the better. Then, we can only hope that the minimum of a 25% global reduction will be exceeded. Eventually, humankind will no longer consume ANY animal-based foods—maybe as early as 2100.

Remembering Robert Goodland. I never had the chance to meet this man personally although we did share an email exchange a few weeks before his death. Also I attended his memorial service in Washington, DC, and met his widow in February of 2014. Today, I want to honor him by providing two videos that were taken just months before his death–by Dr. John McDougall in Santa Rosa, California.

Six Minutes with Robert Goodland—September 2013

During the same weekend in 2013, the following video contains 17 minutes of excerpts from a 90-minute lecture to a live audience at the McDougall Advance Study weekend retreat in Santa Rosa, California.

“Only pragmatic way to curb climate change in time”

Back to the Worldwatch article referenced earlier. Before ending this blog, I want to cite a few excerpts from this exceptional paper. The opening paragraph reads as follows:

Whenever the causes of climate change are discussed, fossil fuels top the list. Oil, natural gas, and especially coal are indeed major sources of human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs). But we believe that the life cycle and supply chain of domesticated animals raised for food have been vastly underestimated as a source of GHGs, and in fact account for at least half of all human-caused GHGs. If this argument is right, it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives would be the best strategy for reversing climate change. In fact, this approach would have far more rapid effects on GHG emissions and their atmospheric concentrations—and thus on the rate the climate is warming—than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

Promoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth

Promoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

Sharing these powerful truths with the world. To me, global warming is the single biggest issue of our generation. Most of the damage has been done during my lifetime (born in 1945) — and powerful steps to mitigate its devastating impacts are URGENTLY needed. We don’t have the twenty years or the $18 trillion to replace fossil fuels with renewables. We only have five or ten years MAX—so we must get started in earnest now.

It will take decades, if not centuries, to make a dent in the other major drivers of global warming, water scarcity, soil erosion and deforestation. But every individual can change what they eat overnight. And if they do, our free market system will deliver the healthy plant-based foods that we’re demanding—as billions of acres of land, now devoted to livestock, are re-forested and returned to nature—once again promoting health, hope and harmony on our planet.

And the greatest of these is harmony, because unless we soon learn to live in harmony with nature, there will be no hope for us or our civilization. And then it won’t really matter how healthy we are as we run out of water & food—and starve to death together. —J. Morris Hicks

As of today, February 4, 2014, the two videos above have each been seen on YouTube around 2,000 times. If they were each seen TWO BILLION times, we’d have something going. So let’s make that happen. Send this blog along to everyone you know and ask them to do the same.

I attended an Advanced Study Weekend at Dr. McDougall's California facility in 2007---the same site where Whole Foods CEO John Mackey brought a large group of his associates.

I attended an Advanced Study Weekend at Dr. McDougall’s California facility in 2007.

Thank you Dr. Mcdougall. A special thanks to my friend John McDougall who provided these priceless videos. It may turn out that they play a prominent role in helping all of us preserve our planet’s ability to sustain us as a species. What could be more important than that?

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

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

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 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.
This entry was posted in Activism & Leadership, Climate Change. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Food Choices. The primary cause of global warming?

  1. salbers12 says:

    The most powerful way to effect food change is to get the animal subsidies out of the production equation. When a Big Mac costs $15 then the masses will look to lower cost alternatives and not before.

    For all the bluster about change, I don’t see anyone, particularly any politician – taking on this grotesque waste and market distortion by proposing to just provide a level playing field by removing all animal product subsidies. The USA exports HUGE amounts of animal products, promoting their worldwide consumption which would disappear without subsidies.

    Since no one else sees this particular “elephant in the room” I propose that all conservation organizations form a task force to rewrite the Farm Bill with the stated goal to systematically reduce animal subsidies over a period of years to ZERO and then mount a campaign to GET IT PASSED.

    The Farm Bill is where battle lines must be drawn. This is the only proposal that will effect meaningful timely change. Whining about the status quo is not effective.

  2. E Anderson says:

    Be careful for what you wish for…I’m all for a plant based diet and a healthy planet, but Bill Gates and friends (including Monsanto) support GMOs and a pesticide ridden environment for growing plants and vegetables. It is my understanding that greenhouse gases are the direct result of “Big Agricultural” business feeding farm animals GMO grains. Please, take a deeper dive and connect the dots!

    Invite Vandana Shiva
    and Dr. Philip Bereano of the University of Washington,, to speak at your next gathering.

  3. Beth Aaron says:

    If those who know we are already urgently remiss in curbing climate change largely due to a sick food system, are not traveling everywhere at affordable costs, doing presentations everywhere, how will people learn since media is complicit in leaving facts out?

  4. CJ says:

    Jim, great post and dedication to Dr. Goodland. I saw that video when it came out and was very much saddened to hear of his passing, such dedication and insight… so glad that Dr. McDougall has provided these great videos of such great speakers of such depth over the years. He and his family are doing a great service of awareness and health… as you are, Jim.

    For those looking for additional informative videos, the VSH have an excellent list going back years: Every community needs to eventually foster a group as effective, involved, organized and supportive as VSH to help make the contributions needed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s