Our Pathway to Sustainability Just Got More Difficult

A Preview of My Latest Presentation Regarding Our Future as a Species

Background. My most recent public speaking event took place in El Paso, Texas, on 2-25-17. It was my standard “big picture” presentation, emphasizing the essential  need for humans everywhere to move urgently away from the consumption of animal-based foods. Here is a single slide from that presentation that describes our 4-part problem with regards to the long-term sustainability of our ecosystem, our civilization and ultimately, the human species.

Our dilemma is that the first three problems will each take many decades, if not centuries, to resolve–and we simply don’t have that much time. That leaves #4, “Our Food Choices,” which any human can change almost overnight. I have been arguing for six years that if the 2.5 billion wealthiest humans chose to replace 75% of their meat, dairy, egg and fish (MDEF) calories with healthier and greener plant-based alternatives, we might be able to buy enough time (environmentally) to address the other, more challenging, situations. But that hasn’t happened and now we’re starting to run out of time.

Let’s take a look. How many humans can our planet sustain indefinitely? It depends on how those people are living. Alarmingly, the slide below presents data from the Global Footprint Network indicating that with 7.5 billion people today, we clearly are a VERY LONG WAY from living sustainably.

Why has our journey to sustainability become more difficult? Because of the lack of progress (to date) in moving the world away from eating animal-based foods AND because of the strong probability of an ice-free arctic before 2020. Also, in light of the increasing urgency of climate change, I have made some revisions to my “go-to” presentation and have added the CO2 removal “idea/plan” as articulated by Peter Wadhams, PhD, Cambridge University–arguably the world’s foremost expert on the crucial role that the Arctic Ocean will play in our future. He mentions his idea and the urgent need for massive research to develop a way to remove large quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere in a 33-minute video later in this piece.

The short answer is NO; we’re still adding 220,000 to our 7.5 billion population every day and we’ve made absolutely ZERO progress in reducing emissions from fossil fuels.

Dr. Stephen Emmott, head of Computational Science at Microsoft in the UK, is quite possibly the most-informed human on the planet when it comes to understanding the many disturbing global trends that most affect our future.

He says that we’re in the midst of an unprecedented planetary emergency. Here are the last two paragraphs of his 2013 book:

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.

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.

He thinks our civilization will collapse well before the end of this century as he explains in his “one hour” book pictured above. I met with Dr. Emmott in London in 2013 and he agreed that an urgent move to a plant-based diet by most humans would result in an enormously positive impact on our ecosystem–and our possible future.

Who is Guy McPherson? He is a former tenured environmental science professor at the University of Arizona who believes that our civilization will collapse in less than ten years (Nov. 2016 video)–that we have passed the point of no return and that there is nothing that we can do to save ourselves. He is convinced that the human species will go extinct before 2027. I have watched many hours of his videos and, unlike him, have chosen to continue to include the word HOPE in my work. As such, I have been drawn to the conclusions and ideas as set forth by Dr. Peter Wadhams of the University of Cambridge. A Brief Overview of Dr. McPherson’s Message (May 30, 2017). Finally, here is a link to McPerson’s academic background.

I am not saying that Dr. McPherson is wrong (Although I certainly hope he is), but as a father of two and a grandfather of seven, there is simply no way that I can give up hope. The scientific community is 97% in agreement that climate change is a HUGE problem, but very few of them have publicly stated that we’ve already passed the point of no return. I spoke on the phone with Dr. McPherson on July 5, 2017 and gained a much better perspective on his career and how he has come to view our future as a species.

Wikipedia. Born 14 May 1948, Dr. Wadhams is professor of Ocean Physics, and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge. He is best known for his work on sea ice. He is the president of the International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans Commission on Sea Ice and Coordinator for the International Programme for Antarctic Buoys. He has been the leader of 40 polar field expeditions and he advocates for the use of climate engineering to mitigate climate change.

In his 2016 book (shown above), in his many online videos and in this Sept. 2016 article (below) published by Yale University–he argues that we still have a chance, but that we must move a great deal faster than the COP 21 Paris agreement is advocating.

The Global Impacts of Rapidly Disappearing Arctic Sea Ice

In the following video posted 12-31-16, Dr. Wadhams talks candidly about the science and about the social and political barriers we face when it comes to seriously working to reverse climate change before it’s too late. Although he has grave concerns about the ability of our leaders to rise to the challenge, he enthusiastically talks about finding a way to remove huge quantities of CO2 that are already stored in the atmosphere. At one point, he refers to the IPCC as being “criminally complacent” by not calling for much more URGENT steps to fight climate change before it’s too late.

As for food, he only mentions that climate change will seriously thwart the food production process but he never suggests that we should change what we eat. That’s because he is probably part of the 90% who still believe we really need to eat animal protein to be healthy.

I am saying that we need to do BOTH:  figure out a way to execute his CO2 removal plan AND simultaneously work urgently toward moving all humans away from eating animal-based foods. Please take the time to watch this powerful 33-minute interview with Dr. Wadhams conducted by Judy Sole of the University of the Earth. (May 2016)

 Our time is running out – The Arctic sea ice is going!

In closing, I added this slide near the end of my updated presentation. It draws attention to the fact that Dr. Wadhams is not the only scientist predicting an “ice free” Arctic before 2020. The U.S. Navy Post Graduate College made the same prediction five years ago.

The Bottom Line. As I said earlier, I still believe that we have a chance to get back on the pathway to sustainability, but I am now convinced that it will take far more than just changing our diet to buy us the time we need to resolve all elements of our incredibly wasteful and grossly unsustainable lifestyle. Click here to view all 65 slides of my presentation at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, on May 2, 2018. Food. Health. Planet. Our Future as a Species.

J. Morris Hicks, promoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

I look forward to giving this 75-minute presentation in public every chance I get. Please contact me directly if you’d like for me to speak at an upcoming venue near you. jmorrishicks@me.com

The following six books 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. 4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health, powerful new book by Kerry Graff, MD and yours truly
  2. Healthy Eating, Healthy WorldThe “big picture” about food (my first book)
  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. Primary cause of cancer is not bad luck. Stop Feeding Your Cancer, by John Kelly, MD
  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 you are eating? Take our free 4Leaf Survey. It takes about two minutes. eCornell is now using our survey in their plant-based nutrition course.

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 Program website, which is now being used by an ever-growing army of enlightened medical doctors who are fed up with “disease care” and want to promote true health for their patients.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmh@4leafglobal.com

—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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4 Responses to Our Pathway to Sustainability Just Got More Difficult

  1. Jeffrey M says:

    Greetings again! I watched your video “Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes” and the concept of 4 leaf eating. I agree that from the viewpoint of global conservation, cutting back to 20 percent of animal food would be very helpful, and from a health point of view a diet of 20 percent animal based protein would be better than 30 or 40 percent. However, it is still way too much (by about 20%) for truly optimal health. Just my two cents. Jeffrey

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Hi Jeff, Thanks for your comment, but I think you may have misunderstood a key element of the 4Leaf concept. That is, that we never recommend “any” consumption of animal-based foods. Granted, there is a 20% area of “wiggle room” at the 4Leaf level, suggesting that up to 20% of your daily calories could be foods that are “NOT” whole plants. But that 20% must include ALL bread, pasta, candy, chips, fruit juice, beer, wine, spirits and all other “food” that is not a whole plant. We’re not saying that all those foods are bad for you, but rather that they are simply not whole plants. If someone really were deriving 20% of their calories from meat, dairy, eggs or fish, it would be near impossible for them to score at the 4Leaf level on our survey.

      • Jeffrey H Mindich says:

        Hi Jim, Clearly a misread on my part, thanks for the clarification. I did find it a bit strange that a website promoting plant-based eating would allow a 20% consumption of animal food as “wiggle room.” The way you explained it obviously makes more sense. I agree that a more moderate approach rather than all or nothing is good, especially for people who are just going through a dietary change. However, I would say from a health point of view, first we might have to differentiate between food and non-food. So say comparing a whole grain sourdough bread and the nutritionally worthless stuff that passes for bread in the average supermarket. The former, as an occasional treat still fits into the category of food, while I would argue the latter doesn’t. Also, an organic energy bar made with seeds, nuts, dried fruit, and say some maple syrup is not an ideal food, and certainly not something to eat daily, but compared with candy or chips is still something recognized by the body as food. In the end though, as a person continues to eat a whole food plant-based diet, cravings for bread and sweets should lessen considerably, and hopefully consumption of “wiggle room” foods would fall to considerably less than 20%. Even for my clients who are relative newbies, I recommend a ceiling of 10%, which is also a number espoused by Dr. Joel Furhman. Anyway, I think we are all on the same page, just slightly different ways of approaching it. Thanks again for the response and keep up the good work!

  2. Jeffrey M says:

    Hi Morris~ I am a fellow graduate from the program at the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, as well as a holistic health counselor. I have just chanced upon your blog, and find it wonderfully informative and very well written. Thank you! Cheers, Jeffrey

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