Posts Tagged climate change
Yahoo.co.nz editors need to be fired, and replaced, immediately. Someone with extremely poor judgement last week saw published a completely ridiculous hack-job piece by cringeworthy member of New Zealand’s most poor unfortunate struggling writers. Granted, the guy has actually published, and has published quite a lot of books and articles I do acknowledge, but how many of them are worthy of the ink, paper, and time taken in bringing them into the light of day or neon is another matter altogether, and doubt is cast quite quickly by this filthy piece, a new low of internationally shameful proportions.
The only positive that can be offered is that the dangerously delusional dolt was courageous enough to offer his own name for the by line. His Wikipedia entry lists his previous occupations as, among other things, mathematician, and clown. While his misguided attempts at finding the positives in the world of hurt currently unleashing itself on the globe simply don’t add up, and while others have managed to find the funny side amid the chaos the western world’s elite are causing in delaying meaningful addressing of the challenge, Ken Ring here offers no useful insight, nor accuracy, nor even the most febrile attempts at humour.
Above and below: Meaningful and effective humour,
infinitely more worthy than Ken Ring’s pointless article
published by the increasingly side-lined Yahoo! NZ news.
We can tell his statistics and informative tone are simply useless by his complete lack of reference to any authoritative, peer reviewed studies. Why not even one nod to anyone else’s good work, Ken Ring? We are left to believe it is simply because all ten of the brief paragraphs that should have been entitled: ”Ken Ring’s Ten Most Dishonest, Disingenuous, and Daft Reasons Why Global Catastrophe is a Good Thing” are simply pulled out of his black hole of a feeble imagination.
In a completely cold serving of seemingly ironic karmic revenge, the first of these also recently published ”7 Terrifying Consequences of Climate Change” actually begins with reference to a mathematical study to show the great degree of likelihood that killer heat waves are clearly due to human influence on the atmosphere. It is a great pity that Mr. Ring had had no time to research a little further along his apparently self-declared new area of expertise of the mathematics of climate change. Or should that just be ”expert-tease”?
It is inexcusable in this day and age, while people are still suffering in the Philippines and elsewhere around our global village as a result of catastrophic weather events clearly victims of the ”loaded dice”of global warming, that Yahoo! or any other media corporation should release such irresponsibly inaccurate drivel. Both the author and the editor responsible need to be held to account and made to explain why they feel it appropriate to publish this erroneous nonsense in lieu of a verifiable news. The editor should also be sacked forthwith, and Ken Ring’s future writings viewed with ever greater servings of skepticism. This is not to say that there are no good things to come out of global warming. Of course there will be benefits for some few, such as the real estate industry which will have to find and sell vast new tracts of land to resettle enormous percentages of population in very short spaces of time. For others, the pleasures are simpler and easier to appreciate: this 2011 video describes seeing snow in my home town as a ”once in a lifetime experience.” Actually, I remember quite clearly going to school through a thick blanket of snow when I was in primary school, back in the era of car-free days when gas-powered car drivers had to ration out petrol due, apparently, to the oil embargo imposed from the middle eastern nations.
Perhaps it should come as absolutely no surprise that this snowy sign from Mother Nature comes at a time when she is so blatantly being violated by the five ”Five Eyes” nations, who, rather than having achieved anything like their much vaunted and mythological energy independence, are actually desperately seeking to drill for any last residue of oil, fracking local neighbourhoods and their water tables beyond repair, and siphoning off final grease spots from the tar sands among the pristine boreal forests in the north of Turtle Island. Set against a backdrop of such disgusting destruction, Ken Ring’s little attempt at a rear-guard defence of the results of the imperialist English-speaking nations’ efforts may seem relatively inconsequential; however, it is exactly this sort of collusion between the media and the uber-wealthy 1% within our five cultural enclaves that has apparently allowed our governmental representatives to continue permitting and even subsidising the fossil fuel and livestock and dairy industries with any semblance of genuine authority.
The intellectual and moral doubt sewed by official and apparently unofficial PR reps makes it easier for us to ”want to believe” that it is acceptable for us to continue in life and ”business as usual.” Unfortunately, that time ended approximately forty years ago. Even a majority of the US population has finally got the memo that global warming is happening and it’s making a mess of the world we would love now, and would leave for our descendants. It’s about time the editors of Yahoo! start thinking about the world they want to bequeath, and it’s way beyond time Ken Ring went and dug out his face paint and red rubber nose again. That would be a much more honourable way to earn another day through his rapidly heating future.
You may well know that one of the most important international meetings ever to occur is currently underway. The strangely named COP 18 is being held in Doha, Qatar, until this Friday. It’s the COP 18 meeting of nearly 200 countries who are tasked this year with finding and agreeing to the details of an effective replacement for the Kyoto Protocol.
Then again, you may well not know about it. Judging by one major online news source, New Zealand certainly seems to be facing a virtual media blackout on the very mention of the two week long conference. One of the nation’s leading news websites, the appropriately named “stuff.co.nz,” returns merely one single article on proceedings, and that’s for all three of the searches under the separate terms: Doha, Qatar, and Cop 18. Appearing as the fourth result of a search for the term Qatar [edit/ update: now the third, perhaps as a result of ranking improvement], but, crucially, NOT appearing under either COP 18 or even Doha, the tone of the article is quite rancid with acrimony and bitterness, virtually espousing a negativity akin to passive/aggressive ranting. Furthermore, it deals not even with the current proceedings of the meeting, but rather questions the “rights” of the host nation to hold the talks in the first place. But more on this tone of implicit vitriol later.
This overt failing of the website demands answers to a string of questions. Foremost in my mind: Why have the editors clearly deliberately avoided making up-to-date news on this conference able to be searched under the most obvious term: COP18, the name of the event itself? Even Qatar, as the name of the country, would be useful as a reference point for some people searching for current stories of this world-shaping event.
This gross negligence leads me to wonder: Why would the editors want to deliberately bury this, the one and only story referring to this, the major environmental meeting on the calendar and concerning all related issues and nations?
To be quite clear: stuff.co.nz is an aggregate news site. It supposedly presents ALL major news articles from ALL the nation’s local daily newspapers throughout the nation. Perhaps such stories have been carried in print but not put online, however, this in itself would be markedly unusual and would raise the question of why those stories have not been published online. Clearly then, there is something extraordinarily strange going on here, for which the editors of all the local daily papers would seem to have something to say which is not being said, online at the very least. Perhaps, for example, editors are venting their views and highlighting the meeting via their editorials, which are generally not included on this site.
To return to the tone of the article, it is rare to find any article on any subject which presents such a litany of examples of negativity in so many different contexts. From the title itself to the quotes, the attitudes presented are critical of the host nation in a way which belies New Zealand’s own hypocritical attitude as a developed nation, reliant on the huge amounts of methane and carbon pollution produced by the livestock industry, and our reliance on the majorly disastrous airplane to get us anywhere beyond Auckland’s beaches.
Clearly, the approach of stuff.co.nz bodes badly for the likely attitude of New Zealand’s representatives in Doha, Qatar, at the COP18 conference itself. Fortunately or not, the bad news for the rest of the world as presented by NZ’s governmental representatives is in fact the case, as is borne out by articles presented by the other news site, nzherald.co.nz. The tone of defensiveness continues even in this most recent of articles from yesterday’s news, though gratefully, the absurd vitriol has abated. Rather, as the title of another piece pointed out a day or two before, “Climate change talks may be ’embarrassing’ for NZ.” Why anyone would bother with the straw man attempt at a handshake pass with the words “may be” here is a laughable question in itself. There is no question, and the better verb form here is an emphatic: ARE. This state of affairs is in fact so offensive to the rest of the world, that even the online activist group Avaaz.com has been called to arms with this petition they are ready to present to the NZ Prime Minister.
In the 1970s New Zealand citizens repeatedly raised record amounts of money for charity on nationwide “telethon” events, and we also learned to feel good about our identity as a naive young nation by doing relatively well in such irrelevant events as the Commonwealth and the Olympic Games (on a strictly per capita basis, of course). In the 1980s we, the people, faced down the might of the US with regard the imposition of the threat of nuclear catastrophe by resisting the visits of nuclear powered and possibly nuclear weapon-equipped ships. We, the people of New Zealand, also stood against the governments of both New Zealand and South Africa, demanding introspection of our own cultures. In a dramatic string of events which saw the streets and the rugby fields covered with riot police, we asked hard questions, namely: the place of politics in sport, and the place of racism in the very structure of our daily lives. It was a time of maturing as a nation; of facing ourselves and taking on our own responsibilities as a people.
And yet in this new century where the major threat is the weather bomb of our own making, we have not enough foresight to insist, loudly and clearly, that our very own leaders stand with those low carbon footprint countries who will suffer most as a consequence of our recent luxuriously oil-soaked lifestyle.
Clearly, that website needs to be renamed immediately. The only question is which is better: stuffall,co.nz, or completelystuffed.co.nz…?
As you contemplate the answer, please go ahead and help the New Zealand government to grow up a bit, do the right thing, and change their tune: please vote in Avaaz’s petition and forward to others who might appreciate the opportunity too.
From 2005 – Just after Hurricane Katrina, a great guy named Stephen Schneider appeared on Bill Mayer’s television comedy show, and shared some great jokes with him:
From 2007 – What does it take?
What will be the ‘Rock Hudson got AIDS’ moment?
From 2009 – David Letterman chatted with Dr. James Hansen.
From 2010 – What’s the issue with the theory?
I used to watch David Bellamy as a kid on science shows on television. His TV shows were quite popular and he remains a prominent person as you can see from the reactions of two young New Zealand televisions hosts who spoke with him in 2009. Fortunately, he ended up sitting next to, and speaking with, George Monbiot on this clip from UK prime time television. Monbiot has a degree won in an open scholarship to Oxford University. Despite coming from a clearly conservative background, he writes and speaks clearly and often in defense of all evidence that climate change is real:
The large man seems tiny up on the huge stage, but his voice booms out over the audience and brings a big reaction as he reads from his list. “Mu, … kimchi!” Some people chortle. “Gakdugi, miyuk guk!” More people giggle. “San yachae dolsot bibim bap!” The audience laughs and claps freely, possibly at the British-Korean accent, and maybe it’s at his relentlessly convincing yet good natured listing of traditional Korean vegetarian dishes.
On the high note at the end of his speech he steps around the podium to face the audience and give a long, low bow. Soon after his presentation I have a rare opportunity to sit down with Robert Goodland, former environmental advisor to the World Bank for 23 years.
JW: How do you do, Dr. Goodland?! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
RG: “I’m an environmental scientist, and a tropical ecologist. I worked for the World Bank in Washington DC as their environmental advisor for 23 years and I found the job very difficult because most of what they did was not very good, so I drafted a whole slew of policies which, one by one, they finally implemented.
“For example, they were effectively promoting a method involving deforestation to cure tobacco, which is very bad for the forest and tobacco is very bad for your health, but it was very unpopular to say that the bank shouldn’t give loans for growing tobacco then, which was back in 1979-80.
“I wrote most of the bank’s social and environmental policies; one was on environmental assessment, one on wild lands and biodiversity, but the one I’m most proud of is on indigenous people: vulnerable ethnic minorities. My hobby horse right now is pushing something called ‘FPIC,’ which stands for Free Prior Informed Consent; FPIC as known to the insiders.
“We had a good long struggle for 15 years but now it is enshrined in the UNDRIP or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is now exactly five years old. It was circulating for ten years at least, but now even US and Canada and most nations have signed it; the hold-outs were Canada and the US.”
JW: What brings you to Gwangju?
RG: “These days, I’m working on promoting the fact that all our commitments to Kyoto and Cancun and everywhere else can be met if we all go meat-free just 25%. This is because at least 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions are because of the life cycle and supply chain of livestock products (meaning all meats, dairy, and by-products, and the feeding and transport of them from birth through to final end-use).”
[ * Read Dr. Robert Goodland’s study Livestock and Climate Change.]
“The world raises over 50 billion farm animals each year for food and this has a major impact on global warming. This is not just from the cows producing methane in their farts, but also because it leads to the destruction of tropical rainforests and other special places of nature, as farmers chop down old trees to plant grass to grow animals for meat. This means other animals that live wild amongst the old trees face extinction, and soil erosion and depletion and other environmental threats arise.
“And yet meat is just not efficient to produce, compared to vegetable-type food sources. For example we need 500 times as much land to produce 1kg beef as compared with 1kg vegetables. We need 30kg of vegetation to produce 1kg of beef. Or, to put it another way, protein derived from meat requires 25 times more energy to produce than comparable protein from grain. And finally, with regard the growing problem of water, to produce 1kg of wheat we only need about 250 liters, but we need about 25,000 liters to produce 1 kg of meat!
“Also, these days more than half of the maize we grow goes to animal feedlots” [massive industrial farms], “while one child dies every 45 minutes from malnutrition-related sickness.”
JW: How has your trip to Korea been going?
RG: “On this trip here to my wife’s first homeland (in Korea) I’ve discovered brown rice. A question for local people is: Why isn’t brown rice more commonly eaten here?! It’s much more nutritious, and a lot more delicious than white rice!
“I’ve also discovered the hiking trails of Jeju Island. There’s soon going to be an island-wide interlinking network of trails, but for now, though there are only a couple, they are wonderful.”
By Julian Warmington
Read or listen to more by Robert Goodland here.
REAL Online Radio Interview:
Caryn Hartglass with Robert Goodland
In early April of 2010, Caryn Hartglass interviews Robert Goodland by phone and saves the MP3 on her website REAL – Responsible Eating and Living. Nearly a year later and it remains one of the only easily retrievable interviews with this giant of research into sustainable consumption and promotion of vegan and vegetarian eating.
Nicknamed ‘the conscience of the World Bank,’ he was the social and environmental policy writer there for 23 years. More recently Dr. Goodland was one of two authors of a little-known yet shocking study that will immediately alter the way we think about the very idea of ever eating meat.
You can read his 2009 study here: ‘Livestock and Climate Change.’
His latest release offers further evidence that vegan/vegetarian diets provide more than enough protein for anyone, and serves to explode the myth that such diets are in any way inadequate: ‘Quality Protein, July 2’11 – Robert Goodland‘ (July, 2011).
Even more recently, at the Gwangju International Center, GIC’s own Hughie Samson introduced vegetarianism at a Saturday afternoon talk session. You can watch it here.
* * * * * * *
Here then is a transcript of the interview with Robert Goodland, courtesy of Caryn Hartglass:
* * * * * * *
CH: This is Robert Goodland. He is retired as the lead Environmental Advisor at the World Bank group and he served there for 23 years. In 2008 he was awarded the IUCN’s first Coolidge Medal for ‘Outstanding Contributions to Environmental Conservation.’ He’s the co-author of a book, Amazon Jungle, Green Hell to Red Desert: An Ecological Discussion of the Impact of the Highway Construction Program in the Amazon Basin. And, in the November/December issue of the  Worldwatch Journal, Goodland, along with co-author Jeff Anhang, published the shocking estimate of at least 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions [GHGs] attributable to the life cycle and supply chain of livestock products, and this means all meat, dairy, and by-products, and we’re going to be talking a lot about that today. Robert, are you with me?!
RG: Hello. Here I am. Thanks for inviting me.
CH: Oh gosh. It’s such an enormous pleasure. You are – well, as I read – you were dubbed ‘the conscience of the World Bank.’ You have done such amazing work over the last quarter century and more, and, I think people are finally listening.
RG: I hope so, yes.
CH: Okay, so, how did you get on this path of being interested in and protecting the environment and how it relates to food?
RG: How I got into the environment was very odd. I chose the disciplines which contained the least math, and I also loved the outdoors. So if you combined the least math and the most outdoors, that is sort of field studies and biology, that is now ecology and environmental sciences. That was my start.
CH: Well that’s interesting because everything that I’ve read that you wrote is full of numbers, statistics, [laughs] so that’s rather odd! Okay, so, I understand you wrote this book about the Amazon jungle. That was about back in 1975?
RG: That’s right, yes.
CH: What brought you to the Amazon and what motivated you to write such an incredible book?
RG: I was sent to Brazil as a sort of researcher and at the time they were building a highway through the Amazon and I was appalled, and no-one knew quite what the impacts would be, so, I wrote that book explaining what the terrible consequences would be.
CH: That’s right. And we’ve seen what the terrible consequences have been.
RG: We have indeed, yes.
CH: And not only are there big roads going through but they’re just plowing the jungle away now.
RG: They sure are, yes.
CH:: It’s a lot easier than making roads. They just knock ‘em all down.
RG: Yeah, they ‘knock ‘em all down’ using slaves, according to the Brazilian government, anyway. This is now restricted to Amazonia. And they cut them down by hand with machetes, let them dry out as much as they can in that very wet area, and then with a cheap box of matches they burn it. So, all that, just that few steps has terrible consequences for our world. If you reduce the forest you reduce its GHG ‘sucking up potential,’ and if you burn it you emit a lot more GHGs, particularly soot, which is the most powerful GHG, which is not usually recognized, but it is. And there are a lot of CO2 of course. And then if you put cattle on, which is the cheapest form of land use, then they produce a lot of methane, and as you referred to in our study, methane is 23 times, or 30 times worse than carbon dioxide in ruining our climate.
CH: You’ve said so many things in like thirty seconds. One of the things that strikes me is that I’ve heard so much about the Amazon rainforest being for numerous different things: the trees for animal grazing, or for growing soy beans to feed animals, but I never heard what you said: that slaves were used to cut [trees] down. That they’re cut down by machetes and that the trees are simply dried and burned. And this is like a two hour discussion by itself.
RG:According to the Brazilian government the Amazon is their number one peak area for the use of slaves, and if they’re not slaves they’re quasi-slaves, with debt-bondage in hoc to the company store, and of course they can’t run away. If they [do] they’re chased back. So yes, it’s pretty bad. The government is very worried about it.
CH: This show is called It’s All About Food. It’s very clear what I talk about: I talk about helping people transition to healthy plant-based diet: fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and there’s lots of motivation behind this that we talk about over and over and over and over because it’s better for your health, it’s certainly kinder to the animals, and what we’re doing to dig into a lot today is what it’s doing to the environment, when we raise animals for food. But so many people when they hear this information, and talk about, you know: “Why do you care so much about the animals? Why don’t you care about people?” It’s hearing this little bit of information about how slaves or near slaves are used to cut down these trees in order to allow for animal grazing or soy-bean production, so that we can raise animals to feed people: It’s ALL connected! The exploitation of animals is totally connected to the exploitation of people.
RG: Yes, people are very low cost in the Amazon. People can be bought for a couple of dollars, and often [are]. Murders are very, very common in the Amazon. And a second group of people are the indigenous people, the forest dwellers who depend on the fairly intact forest for their livelihoods. They’re also expendable. The government doesn’t particularly like them, and they are in conflict with the cattle barons. There’s a big human cost.
CH: Okay, well, let’s get onto some more happy news. So, you wrote this book and then you were working for the World Bank for several decades, and I imagine you encountered a lot of interesting things there.
RG: Fascinating, yes.
CH: And I think some of your work encouraged the World Bank to perhaps not support certain projects and help support others?
RG: That’s right. Yes, my job was for the first time in the history of the World Bank, inject some social and environmental prudence into their loans. This was very new. I was extremely unpopular, as you can imagine. But I did it, and during that quarter century, I managed to draft, and then even more difficult, persuade the World Bank to accept its current suite of what’s called its ‘safe-guard policies,’ policies on safe-guards, on environmental assessments, on indigenous peoples, and so on. I wrote most of them; I’m very proud of it.
CH: Well, I think what we’re going to find out is that industry can be profitable, and also socially responsible. That’s what the great fear is: That protecting the environment, and doing things environmentally sustainable, and doing things that give people a livable wage, and a certain amount of freedom, is not going to be devastating to the economy. It’s only going to help. So, I’m glad that you’ve been a part of it, and we certainly need a lot more of it. Unfortunately you’ve retired from the World Bank, but I’m hoping that there are others that are carrying on your spin. And so, there’s been a lot of things happening in the last quarter century, like lots of books being written, lots of information coming out about how environmentally destructive that animal agriculture is to our water, to our soil, to our air, and more recently, we’ve been getting more focus on global warming. And it’s been very frustrating for a lot of us, because a lot of this information has fallen on deaf ears. And then, in 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization came out with the Livestock Long Shadow report and they came up with this number that so many of us jumped on, that 18% of human induced GHGs are caused by animal agriculture. And we were all jumping up and down about this, and there were some moments of flow, and some moments of talking about the devastating effects of livestock. Now were you somehow involved indirectly with this report coming out?
RG: No, not even indirectly. I had had a big campaign in the World Bank to stop the World Bank from financing deforestation for cattle pastures, and in fact to phase out of industrial beef production, and we were not really very successful. Jeff Anheim was my partner in all this, and he’s still there, but, we did raise the question: Is investment in beef production from cutting down forests, is that the most efficient use of tax-payer’s money? And I think the economists in the World Bank slowly came to realize that it was a huge waste. Beef production is the least efficient way of feeding people.
And then you’ve all heard of the hamburger connection; how the Amazon and other forests are destroyed just so Northerners can have a slightly cheaper hamburger. And so both those things eventually were realized, and so the World Bank phased out of industrial cattle ranches.
CH: Well that’s good. That’s very good. [Trees monologue.]
Then you came out with this wonderful article last year in the Worldwatch Journal. And again a new number came out that at least 51% of human induced GHG emissions were produced by livestock production. What motivated this study?
RG: We wanted to recalculate the FAO’s study of 16 or 18% that you just quoted. Yeah, like you, we were amazed that it was so high, even higher than the transport sector and all of the gas-guzzling automobiles and trucks, and so we recalculated very carefully, and that is our considered conclusion, that the live-stock production chain, from cutting the forest, burning it, raising the live-stock, slaughtering them, throwing all their guts in the river, all of the manure causing impact, transporting the frozen carcasses overseas, even flying them by airplane overseas, then cooking them, and disposal of the waste, all of that adds up to more than half of the total anthropomorphic GHG emissions. And we were even more startled by our own conclusions.
CH: … You came out in the last Worldwatch Journal responding to some of the commentary of your November/ December 2009 article. There’s going to be some discussion and probably some reworking of some of the calculations but all this is going to be putting the focus on where it should be, on livestock, and whether it’s 18% or 30% or 51%, it’s too much. And it’s probably the easiest thing that we can address today to mitigate global warming.
RG: Yes, I agree. In fact, as individuals there isn’t all that much that we can do to combat climate risks. But the biggest contribution each individual can do if they so desire is to eat traditional diets: grains, soy, vegetables, fruits, and if that’s too difficult for them, then to eat meat analogues, such as veggie burgers, and soymilk, and yoghurt ice cream, things like that. But that can be done by anyone who so chooses, and it’ll improve their health, and it’ll improve their pocket books because traditional diets are much cheaper than meat-centered diets.
… When we’re supporting a plant-based diet, industry will respond. It’s up to each of us, not the government. So it’s really up to us whether we really want to save the planet.
CH: Since publication of your report came out [in 2009] what kind of responses did you get?
RG: That was also surprising as we thought there would be massive opposition, ridicule, and vilification but so far it hasn’t happened. It may happen in the future but we’re still waiting for it. On the contrary, practically all the comments, and there’ve been many for this article by Jeff A and myself, [it’s] caused more comment than practically any other article they’ve published in the history of publication for Worldwatch. So we’re kind of pleased. So far there hasn’t been any supportable rebuttal of our conclusions that 51% of all anthropomorphic greenhouse gases come from the livestock chain, and so that’s been really encouraging. Most of the comments have been, “Well, it might not be 51%,” but even so it’s much, much higher than the FAO’s estimate. We heard recently that FAO have been sparked by our work to do their own recalculation. Of course it’s a huge bureaucracy. They have a lot of money and a lot of people; a lot of good mathematicians, and they have the world’s best database on all these things, and so they’re going to recalculate their own work and I’m sure that their 18% will move towards our 51%, or even exceed it.
CH: These are really complicated calculations and a lot of interesting assumptions need to be made. There’s been a lot of interesting discussion in your articles about respiration of the animals: Whether to count it or not, and how to count it, and whether we count human respiration in some of these determinations of GHG emissions. How do you get your head around all of this?
RG: The same way porcupines make love: With great care! That part you’re talking about is in Part Four of the conclusion. We took it from the pure physicist Alan Calvert who published an article in ‘Physics,’ showing that respiration of human-kept animals (livestock) of which there are 60 billion, allowing for …, imagine that, 60 billion livestock and 6 billion humans. And then livestock ruminants are so much more damaging firstly precisely because there are so much more of them, and secondly because they produce methane which as was said is thirty times worse than carbon dioxide in ruining the climate.
CH: We don’t hear enough about methane, but then most people aren’t really interested in the chemistry or the details; it kind of sounds a little complicated. I’m interested in what you said about how the FAO has the world’s greatest databases and all this information and all these great mathematicians and yet you said that in their report they they understated or underestimated all the animals that are being raised.
RG: Yes, and since that report was released which was a few years ago now there’s been a massive increase in the number of livestock in the world. And it’s partly their success if you want to put it that way because the FAO have always pointed to the fact that as people get richer they want to eat more meat, and so FAO’s role has been to meet that demand, and produce yet more meat. We think this is really benighted, and is harming our world.
CH: Yeah, I see so many articles have come out from the third world about how they are building up their livestock production, and how in China they want to push the dairy production as well as the meat production.
RG: Yes, China is a very interesting case in point because my dear friend Colin Campbell – you’ve read his China Study, he’s one of the world’s greatest on diet and health in developing countries – he’s been predicting for ages that diabetes (- a lot of it is meat consumption related -) will skyrocket in China, and everyone laughed at him saying “Oh you’re quite wrong!” But however, China started to eat much more meat and dairy, and sure enough, literally as of last week, China is the diabetes capital of the whole world. There’s more diabetes today, as of last week, in China than there is in any other country. India is a close second and precisely because they’re both eating more meat; that’s a factor in it.
CH: … How does this happen?
Yes, it’s really sad. I had to work in China quite a bit when I worked for the World Bank. I was appalled that one day the Minister of Agriculture had invented a slogan saying ‘One glass of milk a day for each person.’ I wrote to him immediately because that’s so damaging. The first thing is that most Chinese are lactose intolerant. Cattle traditionally have been very, very rare in China. Meat and dairy have not been a part of their diet and that’s why their diet was so healthy and why the Chinese were so healthy. He quickly backed off and said “Oh well I didn’t mean cow’s milk, and you could use soymilk instead,” but the damage had been done. And he also said in the same article that the Japanese now drink cow’s milk and that’s why they’re smarter and bigger than the Chinese. I thought all of that was appalling but luckily after I pointed it out to him it was slowly withdrawn. It makes them sick to begin with. But anyway, McDonald’s got in there and are opening thousands and thousands of hamburger joints and so that’s one explanation for this huge surge in diabetes and next, diabetes leads to heart disease, so that will come next. I hope it doesn’t. If they get back to their delicious – the world’s best cuisine – …
RG: Oh, it’s one of my favourites…
CH: We’re talking about global warming. Robert, are we in deep trouble?
RG: The world is in huge trouble. I’m sure glad I’m not a pessimist or I’d commit suicide right now. It’s getting worse much faster. I think overconsumption by we rich people is probably the worst contributor from the first world, and of course it matters greatly whether there are going to be seven, eight, or nine billion of us by the year 2050. To feel that number of people..? It’s much easier to feed a lower number than a greater number of people, so a lot of institutions are worried about how to feed the world by 2050. And to me and a lot of my friends, the main way to feed the world is not to cut down what little forest remains, but it’s to eat efficiently. That’s to produce more nutrition for humans on the same farms that exist today, rather than cutting down more forest. And eating efficiently means a grain-based diet. Soy, grains, fruit, vegetables, especially, as you talked about Caryn, those delicious leafy greens. Ah, stir-fried mustard; I love it!
CH: What is global warming doing that’s so dangerous?
RG: It’s causing the temperatures to rise, and that’s killing off coral. It’s making the oceans acidic, and it’s killing off the fish – what few are left from after these long-line fisheries – fish used to be the poor man’s food, but now the rich can afford even less. And it’s killing our agriculture. Frequency of hurricanes is going up. Ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising. You name it; a terrible litany of things, and it’s getting worse. Heat spells kill more and more people, and kill their live-stock too. And cold-spells in certain areas are going to get worse too.
CH: You briefly mentioned fish. Are they part of this global warming too?
RG: They’re dying off. The more carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, dissolves in the sea, and to a certain extent that’s good because the sea has acted as a giant buffer, because it absorbs the carbon dioxide and then deposits it as solids in the sea floor where it can reside for thousands of years, but unfortunately the buffer capacity of the oceans has come to its limit, and now the oceans for the first time in recorded history are becoming acidic. That means all critters that depend on calcium for their livelihoods, such as coral reefs are in danger. Coral reefs are dying world-wide, and coral reefs are nurseries, huge for most of the oceanic food chain, and fish.
CH: And yet people are encouraged more and more to eat more fish.
RG: Yes, it’s very interesting that, and it’s harming their health. Unfortunately fish are not quite as bad as meat, because you don’t have to cut down forests to catch fish. But they’re not as healthy as all that because of all the oils. If you think you need more omega or fatty acids than you’re getting then it’s probably best to take a multi-vitamin than eat fish.
CH: That’s an interesting health point you bring up. What I always like to mention when people bring up omega and fatty acids is that it’s a two-prong issue. And one is that people eat so much junk that they get much more of the omega 6 fatty acid and we really need balance between the two. Part one is to stop eating the junk. And then start eating natural plant foods, and then you’ll be getting a better ration of the omega 6 to the omega 3s, and then certainly if you’re eating the leafy greens you can get lots of the omega 3 from that, along with flaxseeds and walnuts and things like that. We don’t often get the straight information on that, but then we don’t often get the straight information on many things we hear.
RG: No, we don’t.
We get a lot of mercury in the fish too, and that doesn’t do you any good.
CH: When they put out these warnings about how pregnant women should only have one portion of something a week, I think if they’re putting limits like that, then why do you want to eat it at all? And they’re never really accurate in terms of the quantity that’s really acceptable. It’s a very gray area to be in. So, what should our government be doing?
RG:Ah, good question! The over-riding, far most important thing is to tax carbon emissions. Tax carbon dioxide, because we’re in deep trouble from climate, and I think if you tax GHGs, then automatically meat would become much more expensive than it is because as I pointed out, the meat production chain produces 51% of all GHG. So I think a GHG tax is the first thing that government should do. And the second is to phase out of using coal as fast as is humanly possible. Get into renewable energies. But the GH emissions tax is the first one.
CH: There’s been discussion about taxing the GH emissions that come from livestock. And there’s been this huge uproar from farmers against something like that. Do you think it’s possible to get something like that passed?
RG:I think much better is to tax all GHG emissions fairly. It’s much more ethical to tax the whole lot, and not just single out livestock. If you tax all GHG emissions then livestock will be [subject to] higher tax than it is, so that will bring a lot of plusses, and a lot of benefits for human beings. But to tax just one, like the fat in food, or the amount of beef, or something like that, it’s inefficient, and it won’t achieve the same broad sweep of benefits as a GHG emissions tax would.
CH: Well it really all does come down money. And the thing, unfortunately, that we don’t see: The Sierra Club I think came up with the true cost of food. We don’t see the true cost of our food. It may appear that a ‘dollar meal’ at McDonald’s or something is far less expensive than eating broccoli and brown rice, and that’s very unfortunate because we’re paying an invisible way a tax with our subsidies. Are you familiar with government subsidies with livestock in particular?
RG: Yes, they’re huge. The most encouraging thing to me is that food industry leaders, and leading manufacturers of food, it’s in their own enlightened self-interest to produce meat analogues as fast as they can and advertise them. Of course the individual can choose to use traditional healthy diets or meat analogues but I think the meat industry can make a huge profit if they produce more food, meat analogues and advertise it. They’ll frankly the livestock industry is moribund. The more the science improves then the more these terrible results of climate change come in, meat will be more and more a niche market, and people will start eating healthier foods. To take advantage of the secular changes the food industry needs to look ahead. If livestock really are going to decline, then the food industry should take advantage of that, and be a leader in producing analogues. I think that China has a huge role in this because they have several thousand years worth of experience in making tofu, so delicious and so healthy.
CH: Oh my goodness, there are so many meat analogues that come from Taiwan and from China, there’s no reason to eat the real thing.
RG: Absolutely not, and food manufactures can gain carbon credit. And they’ll actually pay because meat analogs they’ll create much less green house gas than livestock do.
CH: I like that idea, but what I don’t understand is…for example you have McDonalds that comes out with a veggie burger that they try in Manhattan on a trial basis and its terrible. Do they do that intentionally: Make a product that’s terrible when there are so many wonderful products on the market?!
RG: Yes. I’m so cynical I’m not the best person to ask. I wouldn’t put it past them.
CH: And yet my understanding is that the veggie burger in India in McDonalds is quiet popular.
RG: Yes, that’s right. I read the packets of veggie burgers. I still think they have got too much sodium in them.
CH: Oh sure.
RG: But they are moving all the time. But some of them you’re right, are really delicious. I got one the other day that was a portabello mushroom burger.
CH: The problem I have with this show is that I always do it on an empty stomach.
Should any groups or institutions be doing anything?
RG: Yes, practically the whole world should join forces to reduce climate risks. It’s our biggest problem, and it’s related to ethics and human injustice; mainly feeding all of us adequately by 2050, and that is the biggest problem in the world. So yes, I think every institution, all individuals, all organizations, all clubs and societies, they should prioritize climate change, and how to combat it.
CH: Well unfortunately most of the environmental groups that are trying to combat climate change, they don’t talk about diet, still!
RG: They don’t! Isn’t sad?!
CH: It’s crazy, they don’t!
RG: Yeah, and it’s lack of leadership. Sierra Club have just started to do so, Friends of the Earth came out in a pretty good statement recently, saying reducing global meat consumption would free up one million square kilometers of crop land, so, that’s a good statistic. And Friends of the Earth all came up with a pretty good statement recently – you’ve probably seen it – a steak is the equivalent of taking 51 hot showers, because you have to use about 15 thousand liters of water to produce one kilogram of beef.
CH: I remember John Robbins came up with something like that in his book, Food Revolution book.
RG: Isn’t he great?!
CH: It’s interesting when you package it in one way or another to make it more understandable for people, because, we talk about billions and trillions of different things, and these numbers are just incomprehensible. Speaking of numbers I was reading this article that mentioned you. Chris Mentzer, CEO of Clean Energy, and he wrote a 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy.
RG: Yes, that was a wonderful article. Chris Menthol is a great guy. You know he is financing all the solar cells in Hawai’I. When he saw that if individuals switch to traditional diets and meat analogues they could get so much better climates. If all of Hawai’I was covered in solar cells… I think he’s going to join up with meat analogue people and really change the world. That’s my hope.
CH: There was one guy who was kind of against this belief and says that eating less beef won’t help climate change, and that’s Frank Mittleowner, of the University of California. What do you think of his report?
RG: Frankly, very little. Not much. It’s very misleading. He doesn’t seem to recognize that most of the livestock in the world DON’T grow in the United States, it grows in developing countries. He doesn’t recognize at all that most beef comes from deforestation and burning forests. And also, he doesn’t really calculate the climate impacts of beef production. All he does is criticize how other people calculated the transport sector GHG emissions, and in that I think he’s probably right. I think the people who calculated the emissions from transport dealt mainly with diesel and petroleum in automobiles and trucks, and they didn’t look at GHG emissions from steel, and rubber manufacture, and I think they should. So when their CEO does a recalculation of their own work, I think the transport sector specialists should do a recalculation of theirs.
CH: It’s really important, to understand when somebody puts out some criticism to really understand what’s behind it, but I remember reading his report and not being too impressed with it. But unfortunately the media likes to jump on these things, and quote things out of context, and give little sound bites, and it really confuses the public.
RG: Yes, I think that’s the purpose of it too.
CH: Right. And you know, there’s a part of me that just wonders: most people, they have families, they have people they care about, and, I never understand – I know that it’s somehow money related and profit motivated, but if you really care, how do you promote something that’s bad and untrue? I just don’t get it. And some people are really convinced that they’re right.
RG: I think most of the people who promote beef are financed by the livestock lobby, sorry to be so blunt, and I think that Californian professor – they looked into where his grants came from – much comes from the livestock producers; that’s why they have that point of view.
CH: Are you familiar with Heffer International?
RG: Yes, I am, yes.
CH: What do you think of the work they do?
RG: Actually I don’t like it because it promotes beef consumption. In fact in my church we had a special collection for Heffer International, and I stood up and said the reasons why I’m not going to contribute are a, b, c, and d and sat down, haa ha ha ha.
CH: Yeah, they’ve put out a lot of information that’s very appealing to people; pictures of kids with cuddly lambs, and put out the idea that it’s possible to help people feed themselves who are impoverished, by giving them an animal that they can milk and sell the milk and other things, but my understanding is that this makes the terrain even more difficult to deal with.
RG: It’s tremendously damaging to the local environment. It’d be much better to give people a packet of seeds, productive seeds, seeds with vitamins. That would be a bigger help if you really want your money to go further.
CH: Right, and some simple technology to help them make the land arable and on how to irrigate, and …
CH: Well, I just want to talk about one more thing… We talked about leafy greens, but I just wonder: Do you have any other favourite vegetarian foods?
RG: I love tofu. Soft, fresh tofu; sondubu. You can crumble it into practically anything, or you can have a nice curry sauce and have it as a soup, or as stew. But I would put leafy greens even before tofu.
CH: I swear by greens and I really think they really saved my life. I had a romp with cancer a few years ago and had green juice every day, steam greens , salads, smoothies, it’s all about green.
That’s what I’m going to leave everyone with today: the green message.
Thank you so much Robert Goodland; thank you for all your good work, and thanks for talking with me today.
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Robert Goodland’s main recent journal-article length report is here.
I sat down to chat with Robert Goodland recently. The brief interview is here.
His book is here.