Two questions I was asked recently by one of my readers
The short answer to the first one is that I have chosen to focus my efforts where I think I can make the most difference. When I was a corporate executive with junior managers reporting to me, I always coached them to devote most of their time to tasks that ONLY they could do. To do what others could do would only be a waste of their special talents.
There are millions of people involved in trying to promote the widespread adoption of the whole food, plant-based diet for humans, but only a very small handful have a background that enables them to grasp the “big picture” problem, develop a workable solution and organize a global process for change. I am grateful for my special background and would only be depressed if I chose not to leverage it to the fullest extent.
So what am I trying to do? I am trying to garner the support of a handful of super-wealthy individuals who “catch the vision” and are willing to bankroll a MASSIVE global awareness campaign to facilitate an urgent shift in the direction of a whole food, plant-based diet for humans.
Why am I doing that? Because I have concluded that it’s the only viable pathway to the longterm sustainability of the human species. Whether my ultimate fate is success or failure, I will die with the satisfaction of knowing that I gave it my best shot.
A little background. I graduated from Auburn University in 1968 with a degree in Industrial Engineering, where I learned that ANY process can be improved. But, the real trick is to focus on the processes that deliver the biggest bang for the buck. We want to dedicate our brightest minds and our heaviest financial investment to improving our most important processes.
The late, great quality guru, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, was famous for this simple philosophy during the final years of his life—and he wrote it on my paper (that I still have) following one of his lectures that I attended at George Washington University over twenty years ago.
Keep on learning, study optimization of a system.
The great man made a big impact on my learning during those days, but sadly, he went to his grave without learning about the greatest process improvement opportunity in the history of the world—the global feeding model for the human species. Were he alive today, he’d be one of my strongest allies in URGENTLY improving that feeding model.
This blog is my story of process improvement and the role it has played in my life. Now, after a lengthy career as a corporate executive AND after studying all aspects of that global feeding model, I now seek to leverage my entire background to “optimizing” that system that will ultimately determine whether Mother Nature has a place for the human species in her future.
Process Improvement 101, a simple example. After graduation from college, my first process improvement project in the real world was reducing the time and cost of taking the monthly inventory at U.S. Coast Guard Base retail store in Honolulu in 1969. I noticed right away that the process seemed very cumbersome. First they would count each item and write the count next to its SKU number. Then, they would look up the purchasing record to find the cost of the item. Then they would multiply the cost per unit by the number of units to get the inventory value (at cost).
As the 24-year old “boot ensign” in charge of our retail operations in Hawaii, I noticed that the most time-consuming element of the entire inventory-taking process was looking up the cost of each item.
Then, while thinking of ways to “improve the process,” I suddenly realized that everything in the store had the same mark-up (cost + 15%). Hence, if I knew the retail price per unit, I could easily compute the cost of the item by multiplying by 0.8696 (1.0/1.15).
So, I simply had them completely eliminate the task of looking up the cost. We began taking the inventory at the “marked retail selling price” and then multiplying that total number by 0.8696. That simple “process improvement” ended up reducing the labor cost of taking inventory by over 50 percent, and also generated more sales because we didn’t have to close the store anymore to take inventory.
My career since the Coast Guard store. During the 45 years since that first process improvement example, I have spent a career “looking at the big picture” and improving processes in a wide variety of industries and situations. A few examples:
- The worldwide quality inspection process at Holiday Inns.
- The national sales force of Jockey International (underwear and sportswear)
- Customer returns reduction program at Sears in Chicago.
- Teaching “process improvement” at the ITT Night Vision Group in Virginia.
- Improving the off-price sales margins at Polo Ralph Lauren in New York.
In every one of these five examples listed above, the savings were in the millions of dollars per year. When you’re dealing with huge numbers in the tens or hundreds of millions, simple improvements can lead to saving millions of dollars.
What about projects saving billions or trillions of dollars? I have never had the opportunity to work on a project with potential savings of more than one billion dollars — much less one trillion dollars — until NOW.
I am talking about the improvement of the “human feeding model” in the Western world. For starters, by cycling our grain through livestock, we’re wasting 90% of the protein, 96% of the calories, 100% of the carbohydrates and 100% of the fiber. After adding up all of the staggering facts, I realized that I had stumbled upon the…
Largest improvement opportunity ever. After studying the way we eat since 2002, there is no doubt in my mind that the “human feeding model” of the Western world represents, by a huge margin, the greatest process improvement opportunity in the history of our planet. Here are my top six categories of savings:
1. Cost of health care. With up to 80% of our health care dollars driven by our food choices, the potential savings are two trillion dollars a year….just in the United States. Throw in Europe, Australia and the rest of the West and you’re looking at over $5 trillion. This is backed up by many decades of scientific and clinical proof.
2. Fossil Fuel. Food production accounts for one-third of our total energy consumption in the USA. Plant-based calories can be produced with 90% less energy than animal-based foods; yielding an overall 30 percent reduction of the total fossil fuel consumption in the USA. Not sure of the total dollar savings here on a global basis, but I am confident that the number is well into the trillions and would probably dwarf that $5 trillion potential dollar savings for health care.
3. Water. When you’re talking about water, you’re not talking as much about saving money as you are talking about saving lives and the ecosystem. Once again, our Western diet is grossly inefficient; requiring over ten times more water per calorie of animal foods compared to plant-based foods.
4. World Hunger. Our Western diet requires over ten times as much arable land per person than does a plant-based diet. A shift to plant-based eating makes it possible to feed an ever-growing population while returning millions of acres to Nature.
5. Fragile ecosystem. Comprised of water, land, trees, plants, air and millions of species of creatures—in our ecosystem, everything is connected. Nature had a plan for everything to live in harmony with the rest of nature. In the past few hundred years, we humans have strayed far from the harmony that nature requires.
As we rapidly destroy the lungs and arteries of the planet—rainforest and oceans, we’re rapidly destroying nature’s ability to sustain us. It’s not about saving the planet, she is going to be just fine. It’s really about preserving her ability to sustain us as a species.
6. Climate Change. Without a doubt, the raising of livestock is the number one human-generated contributor to the greenhouse effect. Recent studies from scientists at the World Bank indicate that livestock account for over 51% of GHG produced by human activity—more than ALL other causes COMBINED. Unlike the task of trying to reduce the use of automobiles and trucks, the #1 cause of global warming could be totally eliminated with a widespread move to plant-based eating. In this category, it’s not about saving money—it’s about saving the ecosystem, our civilization and ultimately, the human species.
A Return to Harmony…the net effect of all of the above. In just the past fifty years, humankind has inflicted more damage on the fragile harmony of nature than ALL previous generations of humans combined — for the past 200,000 years. Plant-based eating won’t solve this problem overnight, but it is the single most powerful opportunity that we have to get things moving in the right direction quickly.
Total savings? Obviously the savings go way beyond dollars that can be quantified. When we’re talking about world hunger, water, climate change and biodiversity, we’re talking about the future livelihood of all of the millions of species that call this planet home. We’re talking about our long-term survival on this planet.
So why is there no concentrated, globally-orchestrated effort underway to get this crucial project moving? Four reasons:
- Lack of knowledge. At least 90% of the people (including the smartest and best-educated) in the Western world truly believe that we “need” to eat animal protein to be healthy. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
- Resistance to change. People grew up eating a certain way and simply do not want to change. They like what they eat and it’s very important to them. With more knowledge about the consequences of those traditional food choices, many people will begin to change quickly.
- Money. Too many special interests riding on the status-quo. For if our global feeding model began to move quickly away from animal-based foods, many individuals and businesses in the health care, pharmaceutical, livestock, fishing, restaurant and food processing industries would lose a great deal of money.
- Lack of leadership. Among the less than 5% who know the complete truth about the power of a plant-based diet; no one has emerged as a leader on the global stage.
When that leader emerges, and the requisite funding is acquired, I sincerely believe that the “lack of knowledge” problem can be addressed with a MASSIVE global awareness campaign aimed at the most affluent two billion people.
What about the funding? To get things moving quickly enough to avoid the upcoming climate change tipping points, we will likely need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few years. Where is that money going to come from? From billionaires who know, care and are ready to apply a sizable portion of their personal wealth to this campaign. A seven-word sentence describes their mission in a nutshell:
Billionaires gather, plan, pull together, planet saved. — Paul Peacock
The Bottom Line. By simply shifting to a whole food, plant-based diet—we can all take charge of our health while averting climate change, easing the water crisis & soil erosion, ending world hunger, and buying us enough time to work on the big three remaining sustainability issues that future generations must address:
- Solving our overpopulation dilemma.
- Switching our global energy system from fossil fuels to renewables.
- Creating a new economic model that enables us to live in harmony with nature.
Perseverance over depression. Armed with my “big picture” understanding of what we must do, I persevere in doing my best to attract the attention of enough of those caring billionaires to get it done. And even though my efforts may not prove successful, it is not depressing. It would be only be depressing if I wasn’t giving it my best shot.
Blog inspired by Dr. Nivien Saleh, Thunderbird School of Global Management
A few of my earlier blogs on this topic:
- 5-4-14. From bigot to activist—my seven steps to altruism. Tracing the lifelong background that led to my “workable plan” for saving our civilization.
- 2-26-14. “Living in Harmony with Nature” by Ted Turner. Perhaps the world’s last chance to save us all from the horrors of global warming.
- 1-25-14. NOTHING is more important than SUSTAINABILITY! By comparison, all else shrinks to insignificance.
- 2-26-14. “Living in Harmony with Nature” by Ted Turner. Perhaps the world’s last chance to save us all from the horrors of global warming.
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
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD
- 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.
- What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
- A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
- Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unaware, by Richard Oppenlander.
Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
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