The Greatest Public Health Crisis of All Time

We are in the midst of the greatest public health crisis of all time. No, it’s not the obesity epidemic or the diabetes crisis or the cancer crisis or heart disease, but the principal root cause of them all: our mass addiction to animal foods.

Consider the data: Our consumption of animal foods is clearly destroying our health. We have a socioeconomic system that has blithely poured billions of tons of toxic pollutants into the environment each year, which have bio-concentrated up the food chain destroying the health of animals. We are then persuaded to eat the flesh and secretions of those animals, thereby becoming chronically ill as we accumulate those toxic pollutants in our fat tissues. The pharmaceutical companies then swoop in to fix us with their pills, completing a nice business racket that is certainly not good for anybody.

Our consumption of animal foods is clearly destroying the planet. We are on track to wipe out almost all wild animals off the face of the Earth by 2026, mainly to support that consumption. As the WorldWatch Institute notes,

“The human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease."

Our consumption of animal foods is clearly destroying the lives of the most innocent among us, nonhuman animals. It is not only the lives of the 70 billion animals that we raise and kill each year before most of them even reach puberty, but also the lives of innocent families in the ocean that we corral and kill using our software Big Data and our hardware GPS technologies. Shame on us!

Yet, even scientists and scientific organizations who have been reporting on the impact of animal foods are still consuming them. Just as Bill Nye indicates in the video above, they make it clear that they are distressed about their continued consumption, but they can’t seem to stop. This is the textbook definition of addictive behavior.

So, what would a 12-step program for animal food addiction look like? Perhaps the following list might work:

1. We admit that we are powerless over animal foods and our lives have become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a higher power can restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of the higher power.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to the higher power, to ourselves and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have the higher power remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked the higher power to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all the beings that we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Attended vigils with the Save Movement to make direct amends to those who are being harmed.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our higher power.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other sufferers and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

If you have any suggested changes, please let us know in the comments below. Good luck to us all in these trying, but revolutionary times!

 

Why I Advocate Veganism

In a recent article entitled, “Why I Would Not Advocate Vegetarianism,” Dr. Sunita Narain summarizes her reasons thus:

“As an Indian (I underline Indian) environmentalist I would not advocate vegetarianism for the following reasons. One, India is a secular nation and the culture of eating food differs between communities, regions and religions. This idea of India is non-negotiable for me as it reflects our richness and our reality. Two, meat is an important source of protein for a large number of people, hence critical for their nutritional security.

Thirdly, and this is what distinguishes my Indian position from the global, meat eating is not the key issue, it is the amount that is consumed and the manner in which it is produced. A recent global assessment, for instance, finds that Americans on an average eat 122 kg per year per person and Indians 3-5 kg per year per person…

But the most important reason I, as an Indian environmentalist, would not support action against meat is that livestock is the most important economic security of farmers in our world.”

As an environmentalist of Indian origin now working out of the United States, I too would not advocate the lacto-vegetarianism prevalent in India today. India has the largest concentration of cattle in the world, with over 300 million heads, more than triple the cattle population of the US, on less than one-third the land area of the US. Considering that only 28% of the cattle in India are male, there are 140 million missing males who would be alive if India had not been culling them aggressively to promote its world-leading beef exports. Certainly, India cannot ban cattle slaughter while the dairy consumption continues unabated. Hence I advocate veganism worldwide, not vegetarianism. However, even considering vegetarianism in India, I would like to raise some issues with each of the reasons that Dr. Narain cites in her article:

Firstly, when it comes to culture, it is time for us, all over the world, to rethink what is appropriate in our changed environmental circumstances. This is why Dronacharya, the teacher of the Pandavas and Kauravas in our epic, Mahabharata, fights on behalf of the evil Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra. Dronacharya is symbolic of culture and habits, which when followed blindly, lead us to do evil, invariably.

Should we not change the culture and habits that we acquired a millennia ago when there were 100 million human beings, now that there are 7.4 billion of us on our planet today and the planet is clearly being destroyed?

According to Prof. Anthony Barnosky, a paleo-biologist from UC Berkeley, the biomass of ALL the wild megafauna from 10K-100K years ago was 200 Million metric tons (Mt). Today, there are 7.4 billion humans, each weighing an average of 68 kgs, constituting a biomass of 500Mt for our one species alone, while the total biomass of ALL wild megafauna has been decimated to less than 40Mt. Clearly, the human population is too much for the Earth to support on a long-term basis. In addition, we are extracting almost FIVE times as much food for our domestic animals as we eat ourselves. This is like a weight-lifter lifting five times his weight above his head, discovering that he is on quicksand and that he is sinking. Knowing that his weight alone is too much for the quicksand to bear, what is the first thing that he should do?

Every child that I have ever posed this question to, answers, “Drop the weight!” How I wish adults were equally prescient, for even Prof. Paul Ehrlich is still a meat eater!

Fortunately, culture and habits are now being questioned everywhere. In a groundbreaking article in the Israel Times entitled, “Is Any Meat Today Kosher?”, Rabbi David Rosen concludes that the inherent cruelty in the animal agriculture industry and the lack of necessity of consuming animal foods renders only Vegan foods Kosher today. The purpose of “Kosher” (“Halal”) certification is to assure Jewish (Muslim) adherents that the food in question was prepared in accordance with the religious tenets of their faith, which include at its core, compassion for all creation. How can we deliberately kill innocent animals unnecessarily and deem it compassionate in our modern era?

Such questioning is occurring in India as well. I have witnessed the rise of Veganism in India over the past few years with unalloyed joy. After all, the core of Veganism is Ahimsa, the non-harming of all beings, which is surely the greatest conceptual gift that India has bequeathed to the world in all its storied history.

Secondly, it is now well established that an order of magnitude more protein can be produced on a given piece of land with plant-based foods than with animal foods. The American Dietetic Association has stated unequivocally that it is unnecessary to eat animal foods of any kind at any stage of our life cycle. Therefore, nutritional security is best achieved through the advocacy of a plant-based diet, not a meat-based diet.

Thirdly, contrary to what Dr. Narain writes, meat eating IS the key issue in all our global environmental crises. In a recent article, the Worldwatch Institute notes,

"As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease."

There are two kinds of environmentalists: Vegans and those who haven’t understood the data
— Paraphrasing Dr. Kim Williams, who said that for cardiologists

We can’t simply blame the West for all this damage when India is the largest producer of milk and the largest exporter of beef on the planet. At its core, environmentalism is about choosing whether to base our relationship with other species on domination or on compassion. Should we murder hibernating bears or should we nurture wolf pups? With all her environmental alarms blaring, Mother Nature is asking us to recognize that animal rights are human rights!

Finally, I agree with Dr. Narain that our current socioeconomic system condemns a billion poor people to enslave and exploit animals at the behest of the rich, who then get chronically ill while ingesting bio-concentrated doses of toxic pollution in the animal foods they eat. Meanwhile, the World Wildlife Fund reports that 52% (58%) of all wild vertebrates got destroyed between 1970 and 2010 (2012). At that rate, we will wipe all wild vertebrates off the face of the Earth by 2026! But surely, we don't have to continue with this socioeconomic system until all life dies? Surely, we can put our heads together to devise a software/hardware upgrade of the socioeconomic system so that the 2.0 version is sustainable, uses less than half the Earth, has built-in equity among all humans and in which we begin with an attitude of service and humility, not exploitation and domination, towards our fellow Earthlings.

Indeed, we better devise this Global Civilization 2.0 in a hurry! At Climate Healers, this is precisely what most of our resources are focused on today!

Namaste,
Sailesh Rao

Time to Get Serious...

Photo by Marilyn Cornelius, taken at the Op ML protest outside Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership training in San Francisco, Nov 2012.

Photo by Marilyn Cornelius, taken at the Op ML protest outside Al Gore's Climate Reality Leadership training in San Francisco, Nov 2012.

Imagine going to a doctor with a persistent mild fever and a lump the size of a coconut by the side of your head. The doctor examines you and says that the lump is cancerous and causing your fever, but the best he can do is to limit your fever to 2C!

Would you then plead with him to limit your fever to 1.5C? Or would you ask him about the cancerous lump?

When you ask him about the lump, suppose the doctor says, "Oh, that cancer will grow! I will make sure that it doubles in size as quickly as possible!"

Wouldn't you run away from such a doctor?

But that's precisely what our world leaders have been doing in the context of climate change. They are all exercised about the fever that the Earth has contracted while they are studiously ignoring the cancer that is our consumer society, because they are stuck in a growth-oriented socioeconomic system that is based on consumption as an organizing value and competition as an organizing principle. They either don't know how to get unstuck or they are too frightened that they would lose their private plane privileges in an environmentally benign socioeconomic system.

Even the man who inspired us on this path, former Vice President Al Gore, is too frightened to talk about the cancer while he is truly exercised about the fever. And in such a craven political setting, the newly elected US President, Donald Trump, is rightly pointing out that if we are all pretending that the cancer doesn't exist, why don't we also start pretending that the fever doesn't exist?

Why, indeed?

Because reality keeps intruding upon our reverie?

Because billions of human lives are at stake?

Because trillions of non-human lives are at stake?

It is time to get serious.

Our mission is to heal the Earth's climate, not maintain it precariously in an advanced state of disrepair. Since the system cannot support such healing, the system will be changed.

Mewar Angithi Deployment - Phase I

After conducting real world cooking tests in ten different households of four villages in Rajasthan, India, we completed the deployment of approximately 1000 Mewar Angithis (MA) in these villages through our ongoing collaboration with the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), Udaipur. The cooking tests showed that, by and large, the women were able to reduce their wood use by 40% using the MAs. They also noted a significant reduction in smoke during the cooking using the MAs. Unfortunately, our particulate measurement hardware failed in the field and we were not able to quantify the reduction in smoke.

Over time, as the women adjust to the more efficient burning of firewood that the MAs facilitate, we expect the savings to asymptotically improve towards what was observed in lab tests at MPUAT.

The four villages were all located in the Kumbalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary of Udaipur district in Rajasthan:

Karech, with 268 households per 2010 census,
Kyarakhet, with 121 households,
Cheetrawas, with 144 households, and
Reechwara, with 368 households

The revenue village of Reechwara includes four villages, Reechwara, Char Ka Khet, Sakariya and PeepalSarai. 

We conducted meetings in each of these villages to seek the blessings of the villagers, especially the elders, for the deployment. And in each and every village, we were told that the deployment would be welcomed by the women of the village.

We also conducted extensive surveys of women heads of households in 100 representative homes in the four villages to assess current economic and social conditions prior to the deployment. We will be conducting follow-up surveys in these households in January 2016 to assess the impact of our deployment and to evaluate the condition of the MAs after roughly six months of use.

The 1000+ MA units for the deployment were manufactured locally in Udaipur by Sagar Metal Fabricators using 2mm thick High Carbon Stainless steel sheets and laser cutting machinery.

 

The Mewar Angithi: A $1 Device that Transforms a Traditional Chula into a High Efficiency Cook Stove

 The Mewar Angithi: A $1 Device that Transforms a Traditional Chula into a High Efficiency Cook Stove

The controlled use of fire, and more specifically cooking, is a fundamentally human creation that has allowed us to become who we are, an ingenious tool-wielding species that dominates over all other species on Earth. And yet, our infatuation with fire, and specifically cooking, is projected to be the central reason for our ecological Icarian downfall in the near future, unless we take remedial action soon.

The Environmental Message of Deepavali

The Environmental Message of Deepavali

Sanathana Dharma, meaning "Universal Righteousness" and popularly known as Hinduism, is truly the science of enlightenment. At its core, it is based on the simple principle, "Let Go." Its fundamental premise is that every human being is entitled to be enlightened, to reach that natural state of perfect happiness or "Ananda." While happiness itself is boundless and therefore, the quest for perfect happiness is eternal, the lifelong journey on that quest is surely the ideal human experience.

The Khadi Movement of the 21st Century

The Khadi Movement of the 21st Century

Gandhi was fighting for the independence of India. We are now fighting for our survival and for the survival of our children and grandchildren.

Gandhi inspired the people of India to make that one simple change, to take that voluntary step of changing their clothes. We need to inspire people in rich societies - specifically, all people who have access to the internet - to take that voluntary step of changing what we eat, to go vegan.

The Meat Moderates

The Meat Moderates

Unless the "Meat Moderates" abandon their plateaued positions and switch over to veganism, the vegan revolution will not occur and the deforestation of the Amazon and the Congo will continue apace. Just as the civil rights revolution could not occur fifty years ago until the "White Moderates" showed up at the Washington Mall and supported civil rights wholeheartedly.

Go Solar or Go Vegan - What Should We Do First?

Go Solar or Go Vegan - What Should We Do First?

It is very clear that fossil fuel use is going to decline and perhaps end during the 21st century in response to climate change. It is also very clear that a global shift towards veganism will occur during this century to save ourselves from environmental catastrophes and the worst impacts of climate change.

But where should our priorities lie? Should we focus on weaning ourselves from fossil fuel use - go solar, go electric, etc., or should we focus on weaning ourselves from meat, dairy, fish and egg consumption, i.e., go vegan?

In Search of Vegan Climate Scientists

In Search of Vegan Climate Scientists

The off-site social for the Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in Berkeley, CA, was standing room only. I was excited at the chance of connecting with many climate scientists who contribute to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and in particular, I wanted to find Vegan scientists to invite to the Veganic Summit that we're planning next year.