Since 2009, It’s All About Food, has been bringing you the best in up-to-date news regarding food and our food system. Hosted by Caryn Hartglass, a vegan since 1988, the program includes in-depth interviews with medical doctors; nutritionists; dieticians; cook book authors; athletes; environmental, animals and health activists; farmers; food manufacturers; lawyers; food scientists and more. Learn about how we can solve many of the world’s problems today and do it deliciously, here on It’s All About Food.
Part I: Barbara Cole Gates, Eating Lean and Green with SuperFoods to Save the Planet!
Barbara Gates’ advocacy began on the local PTA (Parent Teacher Assoc.) almost 2 decades ago, advocating on behalf of children, the environment and animals all at once, with a focus on bringing plant-based vegan meals to her local school cafeteria. Her advocacy on the the PTA eventually led her to the CA State Capitol where she spearheaded the effort to pass the 2003 CA Healthy School Lunch Act (ACR 16), calling on Department of Education Nutrition Services to implement programs that support more plant-based vegan-friendly meals in school cafeterias. In 2009, Barbara founded Lean and Green Kids, a children’s eco-health education and advocacy organization to support the goals of ACR16. A large part of that effort has been to create nutrition/culinary education programs with a multi-cultural approach, including the vegan/vegetarian perspective. LGK’s multi-cultural nutrition education program, The Daily Scoop is gaining recognition and reaching thousands of students in schools around the country. She has presented in classrooms to over 1000 students in grades K-12, and her recently published children’s nutrition book, Eating Lean and Green with Super Foods to Save the Planet, may very well be the key for changing how nutrition is taught.
Part II: Moses Seenarine, Meat Climate Change
Dr. Seenarine is an expert in development and its effects on local communities. He is the author of Meat Climate Change: the 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming, and Who’s (H)Eating Earth? Memes on Climate, Food and Hope. He has written dozens of articles on women, race, caste, migration, the environment, animals, and climate change. Dr. Seenarine’s work has been cited by the FAO, UNESCO, Human Rights Watch, Anti-Slavery International, the Institute for the Study of Labor, World Council of Churches, and many others.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
Caryn Hartglass: You’re listening to It’s All About Food. How are you doing today? Good, it’s a great day! It’s a great day to be alive, especially if you’re alive, don’t forget that you’re alive! Just a reminder; you know sometimes we need these crazy, little reminders right? And I’m just saying it today because I forget and yesterday was a particularly special day for a reminder. Ten years ago yesterday I woke up after a surgery in a hospital, but I thought I was having fast-growing uterine fibroids removed and the surgeon told me I had ovarian cancer. Turned out to be advanced, 10-20% survival rate, and here I am ten years later. Woohoo! Still kicking, sill thriving, very happy, thank you very much. So just your reminder: breathe, ahhh, enjoy it, because we live to breathe and we breathe to live. And then some other things that we do for life, we drink water and we eat and sleep, I mean that’s really basically it. So if we could get a handle on those things and do them well life should be pretty good I think, simple thoughts. So, I can’t wait to speak to my first guest because we are going to be talking about doing just that, and doing it with the people who really matter, the young folk on this planet who we need to inspire and empower to make a difference because we need some differences happening very soon. Barbara Cole Gates is my guest and her advocacy began on the local PTA (Parent Teacher Assoc.) almost 2 decades ago, advocating on behalf of children, the environment and animals all at once, with a focus on bringing plant-based vegan meals to her local school cafeteria. Her advocacy on the PTA eventually led her to the California State Capitol where she spearheaded the effort to pass the 2003 California Healthy School Lunch Act, calling on Department of Education Nutrition Services to implement programs that support more plant-based vegan-friendly meals in school cafeterias. In 2009, she founded Lean and Green Kids, a children’s eco-health education and advocacy organization to support the goals of the Act, the California Healthy School Lunch Act (ACR16). A large part of that effort has been to create nutrition/culinary education programs with a multi-cultural approach, including the vegan/vegetarian perspective. Lean and Green Kids’ (LGK) multi-cultural nutrition education program, The Daily Scoop is gaining recognition and reaching thousands of students in schools around the country. She has presented in classrooms to over 1,000 students in grades K-12, and recently published the children’s nutrition book Eating Lean and Green with Super Foods to Save the Planet, which we’re going to be talking about today, which may very well be the key for changing how nutrition is taught. Barbara, hi!
Barbara Cole Gates: Hi! I wasn’t sure if anyone could…
Caryn Hartglass: I’m reaching my arms out, I’m reaching out, trying to feel your astral form and give you an embrace, Barbara.
Barbara Cole Gates: It feels wonderful Caryn, thank you, I do feel it.
Caryn Hartglass: Good!
Barbara Cole Gates: I’m on speaker phone, is that okay? Am I coming through clear?
Caryn Hartglass: I think its okay, what do the folks at PRN think? Test 1, 2, why don’t you talk a little bit more and we’ll see.
Barbara Cole Gates: Well I don’t know if Caryn’s going to mention that she was an instrumental person in helping to pass the resolution, the Healthy School Lunch resolution in California. So in case that doesn’t come up I want to give a shout out to how you helped make that happen and that really is the foundation for everything that has come since.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you! Wow!
Barbara Cole Gates: Is speaker phone okay? Did we…
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I got a “sounds okay,” so I think it sounds okay and everybody else does. You know, I was rereading our interview three years ago you were on this program, just to bring me up to date so I don’t ask all the same questions, but it was one of those amazing things. The right place, the right time, paying attention to the signals the universe sends out, where I just happened to be in California when you were looking for people to help go up to the capital and kind of campaign for this resolution concept that you had, and it really was a magical moment.
Barbara Cole Gates: Oh my goodness, thank you saying that because you know what, full disclosure, I don’t know what I’m doing, I was a PTA mom. Everything that’s happened is just testament that when you make up your mind to do something and you know that, you know that why you want to do it, the how kind of takes care of itself, because I really just have to rely on the energies that the universe to kind of make things fall into place. Somehow, and I’m not a terribly spiritual person or religious person, but somehow this weird magic happens. That was the first and only time I’ve ever been at the capital, and look at what we did! And we weren’t professional lobbyists, and we weren’t, you know. We had passion and truth on our side, and it was pretty magical.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! I remember, you know, we didn’t have a clue really of where we were going. You had an idea of people to see, but we didn’t have appointments or we didn’t know who was going to be there or what, and it was just the passion and the truth you’re right. It was amazing, and I will never forget you.
Barbara Cole Gates: Well I’ll never forget you either Caryn. I’ll never forget, I’m not sure if you’re still a raw foodist or just experimenting then but I just remember you at lunch pulling out an avocado and talking about how you were eating more raw foods. The little details haven’t left me, it was a special time.
Caryn Hartglass: I love eating, I just love eating raw avocados just as a snack, plain, traveling, it’s a great food!
Barbara Cole Gates: Yeah, it is! And I’m going to use that as a segue over into our school lunch program and wouldn’t it be wonderful if the kids could eat avocados in the school lunch program. Avocados and other green and plant food is what our kids need more of, and I hope that some of the work I’m doing can help facilitate that. There’s a lot organizations working towards this, even the public health department, even the USDA. In the Healthy and Hunger Free Act, the USDA has made it mandatory for schools to serve beans and least once a week. And let me tell you why this is important, is it okay?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes!
Barbara Cole Gates: So one of the things I want people in our movement to know is that in the national school lunch program, which serves 30 million school lunches a day and maybe somebody can do the math on how many school lunches that is a year. Times about 200 school days a school year and summer school, 30million times 200, I’ve done the math but I can’t remember how many billions, billions and billions of lunches and breakfasts and snacks are served to our kids. Now 30 million kids is about three-fifths of all the kids in the United States, so well well well over half of all the kids in the United States rely on school lunches. And the kids who tend to rely on school lunches the most are kids most at risk for diet-related disease. And our school lunches, the only meat alternate, and meat has pretty much been conclusively linked to many of our health challenges. Too much of it, too many animal products can contribute to some of our biggest killers, cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity. The only meat alternate that’s allowed that isn’t laden with saturated fat, that isn’t cheese, or laden with cholesterol, eggs, or dairy products, is beans. And unfortunately our culture does not necessarily embrace beans like we should. And what’s exciting about beans, I don’t know if you’re aware, Caryn, or if any of your listeners are aware, but the United Nations has declared 2016 the Year of the Pulses. Pulse is a fancy European word for bean. Did you know that?
Caryn Hartglass: I didn’t know that. This year, huh, 2016?
Barbara Cole Gates: 2016 is the Year of the Pulses, and they have a beautiful webpage devoted to it and they put together an awesome video promoting beans, and they do it for environmental reasons and health reasons. Unfortunately the UN left out how it is a very wonderful solution to animals on industrialized farms as well, but it serves the health benefit, it serves the environmental benefit, and certainly as people replace their protein with beans it helps reduce our reliance on factory-farmed animals. So it’s the year of the bean, another great thing about beans is that the blue zones around the world, Caryn are you familiar with the blue zones?
Caryn Hartglass: I am!
Barbara Cole Gates: Okay, so you know that it’s the five zones around the world where people live the longest in, they all have certain factors in common, one of which is that beans are their staple protein. So, beans are awesome! They’re multicultural and so what I am focusing on, which I think is fairly unique to most health campaigns is really trying to bring bean-based meals into the mainstream and make bean-based meals and bean-proteins the new normal.
Caryn Hartglass: Awesome, and they’re cheap!
Barbara Cole Gates: They’re cheap! Hello?!
Caryn Hartglass: Beans are cheap! You can do everything with beans, from making sauces to pâtés, you can make chilis and stews and soups and cream sauces, you can even make brownies with beans.
Barbara Cole Gates: Well here’s something else you can make with beans, and it’s on our website. You know, when you think about kids and school lunches, most of the time they’re bring a turkey sandwich or a ham and cheese sandwich, some of the luckier healthier moms are putting peanut butter and jelly between two slices of whole grain bread, but it’s hard to put beans between two slices of bread, but it’s awesome to create wraps with beans. So I want wraps to take over the world. All you need are beans and greens in the house and some tortillas, preferably whole grain rich, and we’ve got a whole new way to go to school with a handheld that’s so cool! Any kid that shows up with a wrap and some dip to dip it in, has got to have the coolest lunch box at the table.
Caryn Hartglass: They’re cool!
Barbara Cole Gates: So that’s one way to get beans into lunchboxes and hopefully into school cafeterias. And we’ve got nine different recipes, well 9+ recipes on the website and each one features a cool bean of the month, because another one of our, I hope we’re going to get to talk about the nutrition program that Lean and Green Kids’ has created, but one is we have a program that features a cool bean of the month, every month, and it has the cultural connection and so we have a recipe that matches that cool bean of the month.
Caryn Hartglass: Excellent!
Barbara Cole Gates: Yeah and I’m bringing that saying back, “Cool beans!” They help cool our planet, right?
Caryn Hartglass: Of course, I’m getting it, I’m getting it. I’m going to steal it and use it too.
Barbara Cole Gates: Please do!
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, so I want to talk more about your programs and your new book but I just wanted to get back to the avocado for a moment. I remember reading something, I don’t know what or where, if you can help me, but it was about the USDA commodity foods that are allowed and recommended in schools and the formulas they have to make sure children are getting the right amount of protein, carbohydrate, and fat, the macronutrients, calories, etc. And it’s done it such a way that there’s actually some foods that are healthy that can’t be served or can’t be served in enough quantity because of their imbalance of the crazy ratios they’ve come up with because they’re not focusing on whole minimally-processed foods. So avocado is really high in fat.
Barbara Cole Gates: Yeah, I remember one time I, yeah, yeah. And it’s a good fat. Yeah I remember one time sitting around a table with school food professionals, now this was a long time ago and does not necessarily represent all school food professionals, but I had brought up olives, I don’t remember exactly what the context was, but they said “Oh, oh no, we can’t serve olives, they’re too high in fat.” So I think generally speaking, the regulations are better than not having any, I mean generally speaking they tend to work, and if we can just get the beans, well if we can just have beans replace meat on a regular basis it would be a huge, it could…
Caryn Hartglass: Change the world.
Barbara Cole Gates: It could change the world; it could really be a huge shift in perception to that. And I’ve written a book and created banners for the school cafeteria that are big and beautiful and people can sponsor them and we just had our first school district have a look at them, well actually there’s two now. We delivered to two school districts our banners and the idea came about because the National Dairy Council has always provided huge banners, like the size of a billboard, with movie stars that say “Got milk?” It’s taken a long time to put my skill set together and figured out how I could do it, but we have now created an alternative to that, and the banners have gorgeous pictures of food that features beans, Asian noodles, burritos, salads, soups, and it says “Beans, the lean and green protein.” And so that’s the message that when these hang at one school, kids in the cafeteria, and there’s usually between I don’t know 500-1,000 kids at an average school, at least out here in California where I am, so you know at least 500 kids are going to get that message every single day now where they have never gotten it before. So I’m really excited, and the nutrition director at a local school district saw the banners, said she loved them and ordered one not only for every cafeteria in her school but her district office. So that she can start to change perceptions of the administration. So it’s very exciting and if any of your listeners want to go to the website LeanAndGreenKids.org you can sponsor a banner, its $30 to sponsor a banner for a school cafeteria and we can reach thousands of kids year after year after year. So I’m very excited.
Caryn Hartglass: Very nice! Well I’m thumbing through this book, and is it targeted to a particular age group?
Barbara Cole Gates: Well, the answer to that is yes, it should be appropriate for about K-3, and maybe K-4. You know, in doing this, I wanted to do it to the best of my ability and so I joined the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and went to several workshops and went to a conference to try to figure out how to do this right. That’s why I’m pretty sure a good target is K-3, older kids aren’t looking at picture books anymore. While this is kind of not a picture book in the traditional sense, we don’t have an illustrator, but gorgeous photographs of children and food and nature. So that’s the target audience and the reason that is so so important is these are kids in their formidable years. Their beautiful open minds can receive these messages and retain them, it’s a simple message! That beans are an awesome protein that can help save the planet and save animals. I think what’s exciting about this message is that it’s a nutrition message that kids haven’t heard before, it talks about nature and the environment and protecting animals, and so it gives kids a reason. I think it can motivate kids and really be the formula for getting them to ask for healthy meals and hopefully more plant-based meals.
Caryn Hartglass: I like it because it’s gentle, it’s not scary, you’re giving children an appropriate message and they can get the information and they can make good choices on their own as a result. And it’s very, very simple, there’s not a lot of text here, but it’s powerful in its simplicity.
Barbara Cole Gates: Well that’s one of the keys of a picture book that I learned by joining the Society for Children’s Book Writers is that you want to let the photos do the heavy lifting. So for children at a young age you want the photos to really impact them, and I think we’ve chosen some beautiful, engaging, compelling photos.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. You know you said that it’s not for older kids, but it’s funny because older kids, and even the older ones, the adults, are very much into brief messages and pictures called memes. Everybody’s into these memes! These attractive pictures, compelling picture with a little text, because nobody wants to read a big heavy book anymore.
Barbara Cole Gates: Well, here’s the thing, in school kids are being introduced to chapter books now at a very young age, and that’s why this particular form of our lesson is for K-3. That being said we’re creating a book for grades 4 through 8 which will be an interactive reader, and it will still have wonderful photographs but it will be heavier into the text and a more in depth message. So we’re working on creating that for the upper elementary and middle school grades because that’s what the education system is calling for with common core standards.
Caryn Hartglass: Great. How old are your kids now?
Barbara Cole Gates: Caryn when I met you in 2003 that was 13 years ago, my son was 10 and now he’s 23 and he’s in his final year of college.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow.
Barbara Cole Gates: Yeah, and he started a vegan club at Humboldt State University, he’s working on getting the banners hung in his dining hall. As is my daughter at Monterey Bay, Cal State Monterey Bay is working on getting the banners hung in her dining hall. So the banners are appropriate if there are any college listeners or parents of college kids they’re appropriate for college dining halls as well. We have to get this message out that beans are the answer! They’re beautiful and delicious and they are the only meat alternate allowed in our National School Lunch Program.
Caryn Hartglass: Well you have plenty of experience because as you raise those children and you know what the challenges are getting kids to eat healthily. But a lot of it, in addition to the education which we desperately need in the schools, there’s the home component too which I’m sure you know is very important. Anything going on with Lean and Green where you’re educating the parents as well as the kids?
Barbara Cole Gates: Well I’m so glad you asked! So, in addition to… no really that wasn’t planned!
Caryn Hartglass: It wasn’t!
Barbara Cole Gates: Well in addition to the book and the curriculum that is being created to go with the book for classrooms for youth groups, our signature program is called the Daily Scoop of Good Nutrition News. And this was years in the making, but because teachers, the reality is, there are a lot of teachers out there who don’t have time or don’t feel like they have time to make nutrition a year-long or regular component of their curriculum, this is a program where it’s a nutrition tip a day. And so when a teacher has her opening routine, they’re doing the flag pledge, they’re going over the letter of the day, what’s the weather like, let’s count our numbers, how many days have we been in school, you know teachers like to do this opening routine with their greeting. They can add the Daily Scoop of Good Nutrition News and each monthly issue, it’s totally free, it is getting rave reviews from health professionals and education professionals, because it elevates nutrition education to a daily practice without adding more than 30 seconds to a teacher’s busy routine. And every month we feature a harvest of the month, in a lot of states there’s a public health initiative or campaign called “harvest of the month.” So if anybody in any states Google’s “harvest of the month,” you’re likely to come up with a the public health program that is trying to get schools and food service to introduce new produce, new fruits and vegetables, so we can increase consumption of fruits and vegetables. And so sort of a spin-off of that is the “cool bean of the month,” so the students are introduced to a harvest of the month and a cool bean of the month, and the cool bean, what’s so super cool about it is each bean has a multi-cultural connection. So we start out with America’s bean, and it’s a very patriotic bean. Caryn would you like to take a guess of what the American bean might be?
Caryn Hartglass: Oh my goodness… it’s a patriotic bean, I don’t know…
Barbara Cole Gates: Isn’t this fun? See how fun this is?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah! What’s the American bean?
Barbara Cole Gates: Well you need to think patriotic so it’s the navy bean.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh!!
Barbara Cole Gates: And navy beans got their name because they were a staple for keeping our military strong in the Navy. Isn’t that wonderful?
Caryn Hartglass: That’s great; yeah it’s wonderful, yes! Let me ask you, I think it’s really smart when you tap into programs and campaigns that already exist and are around and available, it makes it a lot easier, and then you kind of guide it in the direction that you want to go. I know we were both influenced by Antonia Demas who did this with her first book Creating Recipes from USDA Commodity Foods, and showing that you could use plant-based foods and still fit the plan without using animal foods, but this is great using this harvest program. I remember a few years ago you were talking about this wellness program that all the schools have to have as well.
Barbara Cole Gates: Yeah, and I’m really glad you brought that up too. And before we just leave Dr. Antonia Demas and her incredible Food Studies Institute and Food is Elementary, I do want to say that she was very influential in creating the Daily Scoop. She has curriculum, kids’ books from around the world with different beans and she made a cultural connection, so it definitely influenced and informed the Daily Scoop and the cool bean of the month. We all stand on her shoulders, she’s incredible. So about the wellness programs in schools, what I’d love all your listeners to know and realize is that starting in 2006, which really wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of the National School Lunch Program, it wasn’t until 2006 that finally schools were required to have a wellness policy.
Caryn Hartglass: And that’s like open, you can really craft it the way you like to some extent.
Barbara Cole Gates: Yeah, well the wellness policy is a living document and there’s a wellness committee that is also required if you’re taking part in the National School Lunches Program, if you’re reimbursed by the government for your lunches that are served, and most schools are, even private schools, then you have a responsibility, an obligation, to have a wellness policy that is updated regularly and has oversight by the wellness committees. And the wellness committees in general can be made up of school administration, school teachers, but also parents, community organizations, community members, businesses, and health professionals. So if you’re passionate about changing how kids eat, I encourage your listeners to call the district office of the school district that they live in and find out when the next wellness committee meeting is. That’s a great way to start getting involved and making connections, and most of my school presentations that I’ve been able to do have been through contacts and relationships that I made on the wellness committee.
Caryn Hartglass: Well that’s a really super great tip and a great way to end this half hour, which I can’t believe is already over! So Barbara I wanted to thank you for joining me, thank you for writing Eating Lean and Green with Super-foods to Save the Planet. And just keep not knowing what you’re doing because you’re doing great!
Barbara Cole Gates: Well thank you so much for having me!
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, another virtual hug!
Barbara Cole Gates: Mwah! Have a great day!
Caryn Hartglass: Bye, bye Barbara! Okay, again that was Barbara Cole Gates, you can find her at LeanAndGreenKids.org, please visit that site especially if you’re a parent or involved with children. These are great resources to get our children to eat lean and green with super-foods that save the planet. Just before we move on to my next guest, I want to take a moment to talk about water. I remembered to talk about it last week and I left something out that I wanted to add. So, I like to talk about breathing, and breathing really comes in handy so often during the day, especially when we focus on it because when things get kind of intense, stressful, just stopping for a moment to breathe is really critical. And then the next important thing is water. I am so passionate about clean water. The thing that I didn’t mention last week, you know that I’m kind of crazy about this one particular water distiller. It’s made in the United States, it’s called AquaNui, it’s different than other water distillers and believe me I know because I’ve owned them, I’ve gone for the cheaper ones and AquaNui is more expensive than some of the others, there are some that even copy some of the cheaper ones that are even cheaper. The problem with other distillers is they distill the water in a container, stainless steel container, and the idea is the pure water is coming off in vapor and then condensing in these coils and cooling as water into your container, leaving the crap behind. The other distillers boil everything off so that the contamination that you’ve been carefully distilling off, some of it can get burned off and into the water you’ve just cleaned, which is kind of against what you want to do. The AquaNui doesn’t do that, it leaves a certain amount of water in the container that you can pour off so that you’re only getting distilled water to drink and the contamination is left behind. I think that’s a really important point. If you want to know more about it you can visit ResponsibleLivingAndEating.com, it’s on the home page, read more about it, or email me with questions at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Lydia Dearie, 10/27/2016
TRANSCRIPTION PART II:
Caryn Hartglass: My next guest is Moses Seenarine and he is an expert in development and its effects on local communities, he’s the author of a book we are going to be talking about called Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming, he’s also the author of Who’s (H)Eating Earth? Memes on Climate, Food and Hope, he has written dozens of articles on women, race, caste, migration, the environment, animals, and climate change. Dr. Seenarine’s work has been cited by the FAO, UNESCO, Human Rights Watch, Anti-Slavery International, the Institute for the Study of Labor, World Council of Churches, and many others. Welcome to It’s All About Food.
Moses Seenarine: Thank you, thank you Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Did I pronounce your name right?
Moses Seenarine: You did.
Caryn Hartglass: Good! Well, first of all, it’s an honor to be speaking with you. I’ve read Meat Climate Change and it’s such an important book and I’m glad I had a chance to read it, I would love everyone to. So we’re just going to start right there. You put in a great deal of work to write that book.
Moses Seenarine: Thank you, I think there was really a need for something that was comprehensive and so I took that task on.
Caryn Hartglass: That was a giant task! So at some point early on I think you mentioned that there are some tens of thousands of scientific articles that have been written, by scientists, and most of the time all we get, and unfortunately what most people want to get, are these brief little sound bites. And climate change is such a complicated issue that a sound bite, ten minutes, a half hour, we don’t have enough, we can’t even touch the surface, that frozen melting surface. It’s just so huge and yet you dug deep and you organized the book into some great chapters citing essential nuggets from so many different sources, it is really comprehensive. And, I don’t know, are you hopeful?
Moses Seenarine: Well, you know, Caryn, I think that the problem is serious and the challenge of raising awareness is also huge. However, you know one of the things that I’m always fighting is apathy and I think the main cause of that is just because we are lacking information. I, myself, was very concerned about climate before I did this book, but I didn’t feel as if I knew enough to really understand all of the research and all of the studies and all of the sound bites. And as I gained more and more knowledge of this topic, I sort of became more empowered and I started claiming the issues in a more personal way. And so I wrote this book with the idea that if people had the information they would not feel so helpless and they would really gain a really good grasp of the challenges that we’re facing.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s so much in this book, we barely have any time, I’m just going to pick out a few things that we can touch on. One on them is the Food and Agricultural report from 2006, Livestock’s Long Shadow, it’s been quoted and repeated and misquoted and taken out of context by so many people. In some ways it put the concept of animal agriculture creating green house gases on the map. A lot of vegetarian and vegan groups have quoted this report even though the numbers have been reexamined and are different depending on who you talk to, and I don’t even think they understand that the Food and Agriculture Organization is really there to promote animal agriculture. So you went into detail numerous chapters about it and I think gave a lot of clarity, and I would like to see groups really read this before they themselves start sharing information.
Moses Seenarine: Unfortunately there is a lot of critical study on the larger intergovernmental groups that are based in the UN and that have governance over very large issues like climate change and Food and Agriculture policy. And so we took a lot of time taking apart the work of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, the IPCC, as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization, the FAO. We wrote this book basically as a way of expanding the work of somebody who’s fundamental in the field of environmental studies, environmental assessments, environmental economics, who is Dr. Robert Goodland. Dr. Goodland was a long time member at the World Bank and he was a biologist in training and he brought in a lot of the social scientists to start to look critically at development projects that the Bank was funding. Dr. Goodland became known as the conscious of the World Bank and he has really helped to develop many major important fields in environmental assessment. So what we are doing here is expanding on the work of Dr. Goodland in critically assessing the work of the FAO, of the IPCC, and the way they are presenting climate change as well as the solutions they are suggesting for mitigating climate change.
Caryn Hartglass: We love Dr. Goodland; I spoke with him years ago on this program. I remember my program at the time I had guests on for a full hour rather than a half hour and he was like “I don’t think I can talk that long,” but he had so many wonderful things to say and we definitely miss him and I’m glad you brought him up because I was going to. His work was groundbreaking and came from such a place of love. I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to be part of a debate; it was actually the evening before a bull sale, and it was sponsored by a small feed lot owner, and it was on animal agriculture’s contribution to climate change. I was the lone vegan and you know one of my other panelists was the Frank Mitloehner and he clearly had blinders on and really didn’t want to take in all that you’ve taken in in this book and all the concepts that Robert Goodland began and started putting out. He was adamant that respiration was taken care of by photosynthesis, for example, and I just want the listeners to understand, determining greenhouse gases by the different industries is a very complicated process. Just getting information from all the different countries in a way that you can utilize it in the same manner, because not everybody’s looking and measuring the same way, and every industry overlaps with the other industries so it’s really hard to piece out what belongs to what in order to make something sensible. Understanding the power of the different greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane and nitrous oxide, is also such a crazy complicated calculation and we keep modifying it and changing it as we have more understanding. It’s complicated. And then Goodland added that we’re not really looking at it in a way that would give us an even better understanding.
Moses Seenarine: Indeed. I mean it is complicated but I think it’s also simple as well. I mean, if we look at the inputs as well as the outputs in terms of effects, we can say that compared to animal-based protein, plant-based protein would be about a tenth or ten percent of the greenhouse gas as animal protein on average. And across the board, if we take a look at that idea of reducing our dietary greenhouse gas by 90% by adopting plant-based diets, it because simpler in how to address our footprint. And this is critical. We all have to do this and it’s not just diets it’s overconsumption, in general by the people who live in the global north. The people in the global south, billions of them, by and large are not responsible for global warming. We are the ones, and the major changes have to come from us and we can do that very, very effectively by going with a plant-based diet.
Caryn Hartglass: You know there are different ways to look at the power of different greenhouse gases, and we look at it over 20-year period or 100-year period and the outcomes are very different because each gas responds differently. Methane isn’t in the environment as long as carbon dioxide. And I’m just thinking here, talking to you, we should have some sort of, and maybe we do have it, determination going back in time not just future in time in terms of who has decimated this planet and caused an outpouring of greenhouse gases for the last 100-200 years because the United States, I mean we’re the winner clearly but we don’t pay the price for it and is there a way to determine what we’ve done from a hundred years back to compare countries in terms of their impact?
Moses Seenarine: Yes, there have been several studies that look at this, and you’re right, the countries in the north, primarily European countries are the ones responsible. Interestingly enough we could also talk about an Anglo-sphere of emission because when we look especially at diet and its link to race we see that countries like Australia where the consumption of animal products are at the top. So not only is there a geographic and an economic part of it, there’s also a racial component as well, especially when we look at the people who will be suffering from the effect of global warming. These are primarily the people of color in the global south who live along the equatorial belt. And it saddens me to see that a lot of the other PRN hosts who look at intersectional issues, like Glen Ford, Utrice Leid, Mark Riley and others, they do not point out the danger that people of color’s diets in the north have on disadvantaged communities in the global south. So there’s many different ways of looking at this and we need to address all of the aspects, not only effects on the environment but also the effect on the poor in the world who are really by and large not responsible for this problem.
Caryn Hartglass: You know I was at a conference at the UN a few weeks ago called Eat X and there were some great speakers and experts. I was really looking forward to the Q&A but they ran out of time so we didn’t have an opportunity, because what I wanted to do was bring up the elephant in the room which was the cow. Nobody was talking about reducing animal agriculture; they were talking about important issues like reducing waste and improving access for food. And one of the speakers, Karen Washington of a group here in New York called the Black Urban Growers; she brought up the concept that areas that we call food deserts, she said they’re not food deserts this is all about food apartheid. I’m sure you’ve heard that used as an expression before, but there is a lot to it.
Moses Seenarine: Right and when we look at how the consumption of animal products it’s largely market driven. We really see that part of the systemic oppression relates to diet as well. And the confirming systemic oppression and then of opposing systemic oppression we really need to include diet and environment as one aspect of our intersectional analysis.
Caryn Hartglass: I mentioned sound bites earlier and some of the sound bites or quick topics we hear about that some people use to kind of make this idea that reducing meat consumption isn’t that important will throw out the idea that 60 million bison were ranging across North America, plus 100 million antelope. You mention that in the book that Bill McKibben has argued this and a lot of people use that, and I was happy to see your response to that.
Moses Seenarine: Yeah, I mean there’s a multitude of aspects looking at the prehistoric versus current levels of livestock. Certainly the numbers of livestock we have now, 70 billion are slaughtered annually for animal protein. That is way, way ahead of anything we had preexisting to industrial revolution. So there is really no comparison. And people like Savory also take this argument further to suggest that we need to bring back livestock on grassland and semi-marginal areas in order to reduce global warming. This is unscientific, has been disproven many times, and it’s still being touted over there by quote unquote environmentalists as a solution, where as it has no base in fact.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I’m going to quote you many times now that I’m armed with this information and that’s what’s great about this book. It arms us with lots of very compelling excellent information from all over the world on so many different subjects. And another wonderful thing I really appreciate, we have a tendency in all aspects of science to focus on one thing, we have this reductionist attitude, it makes it a lot easier to study something, it makes it a lot cheaper to do tests, but everything is interconnected and you brought that out beautifully in this book. And I especially appreciated the quotes that you had at the beginning of each book, many of them from women, and we don’t have enough of that. I was looking in your table of contents because I think my favorite chapter title was Meat is Neo-colonialism. That is a big mouthful.
Moses Seenarine: Yes. So colonialism was a process that happened, the European occupation of land outside of Europe across the globe and we had an independence movement that supposedly replaced the colonial powers. However, a lot of the European multinational corporations are still in a way colonizing the vast tract of land in this quote unquote undeveloped world. We see this especially in South America, with Argentina, with Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, all parts of the southern continent where huge huge areas are being taken over by multinational local as well as international corporations and they’re displacing millions of indigenous people. So across the continent where you had maybe 90% of the people being independent landholders, small scale farmers, subsistence agriculturalists, surviving pretty much on their own, 90% of those people are now displaced and are homeless which leads to an incredible migration crisis. A lot of the migration crisis you see, we also spoke about this in Syria, was caused by livestock and the displacement of local agricultural practices. So the neo-colonial aspect is going to show the corporations, like Monsanto with their GMO and GM products, are now becoming the dominant landowners and land occupation of the vast tract of underdeveloped world.
Caryn Hartglass: Which is something I like to point out when people are talking about GMOs and trying to decide whether they’re safe or not. I don’t even go there about safety because it’s so hard to figure out whether they are or not, there are so many other issues involved with Monsanto and GMOs, the one that you brought up is a big one and another reason why we don’t want to support it, big agriculture in general.
Moses Seenarine: Ninety-some percent of the soy being planted is being planted solely for animal feed. This is something that is unsustainable. We’re converting vast tracts of forests, grasslands, savannas, semi-marginal areas into deserts basically. We’re also leading to a major crisis in topsoil loss, as well as water pollution, water scarcity, a lot of the nitrogen leaks to run-off and that leads to ocean acidification, the process of acidifying the ocean, as well as eutrophication, which is deoxygenating of local environment and rivers. These economic and environmental effects are long-term and they are having catastrophic impacts upon the ocean. Major as they are, are being affected by soil erosion, by the leaking of nitrogen into the water streams.
Caryn Hartglass: Your book is crammed many many different studies and so many different huge numbers about the devastating impact of animal agriculture on our climate, on our health, on the environment. There are so many different things you could grab and quote all over the place in this book, which is great, but you also mention how conservative our government organizations are and even some scientific reports tend to report very conservatively, and we don’t have time to be conservative anymore. We need to be extremely radical if we’re going to make timely change and I appreciate you bringing out Robert Goodland’s message in a really clear way which is, sure our energy systems need to change into renewable energy sources but to mitigate climate change today we all need to be eating plants and not animals.
Moses Seenarine: I think the take away from animal agriculture has to be this, and that is we are leading the short-term effects. CO2 is very powerful but it has a half-life of 100 years. Methane and Nitrous Oxide are many times more powerful than CO2; Nitrous Oxide is 300 times more powerful than CO2. And they are having a major short-term impact. Now the reason why short-term impacts are important is because they can get us to a tipping point beyond which there’s no return. So, also, if we reduce these short-term impacts we have a good way of mitigating climate change. So it represents a threat as well as an opportunity and we really need to look at this as the short-term effects of animal agriculture. Now, even if we went fossil fuel free by 2100, the increasing consumption of animal products will continue to cause catastrophic global warming. Animal consumption is expected to rise by 70% by the year 2050 and even more. So we need to address consumption and demand in a big way.
Caryn Hartglass: Do you think that’s going to happen?
Moses Seenarine: I think we need to look at it at a policy level. Unfortunately a lot of the activity that is done by local plant-based activists are not going to be able to change thinking up around quickly enough, because we’re already at 400ppm in terms of CO2 and we’re going to be going higher. So in order to make drastic changes we have to look at policy at the national, as well as the international level. I have done an analysis of the Paris Climate Agreement and looked at the solutions and changes that national governments are suggesting and critiqued that to show that it is not enough, and besides, animal agriculture is not addressed in any of the plans.
Caryn Hartglass: Never. Are you going to run for some kind of office, government office? We need you.
Moses Seenarine: Thank you. No, I think we really need to get the message out and I want to think that the key shareholders, the key stakeholders here, are the ones that really need to come on board. The scientists, the progressive organizations and non-profit advocacy groups, if they could come on board with this issue it would have a way of turning it around. Unfortunately many of the other PRN hosts, say McPherson, Michio Kaku, they don’t talk about diet. I mean they talk a lot about climate and I really appreciate the work they do, however, they’re missing the second leading cause of global warming and they’re failing to warn the public about the dangers that their diets can have.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I will see what I can do to talk to them about including this very important piece of this very crazy puzzle, because I am right there with you, I agree. I think changing from meat to plants can solve so many problems.
Moses Seenarine: For more information please contact the website its meatclimatechange.org, the book is available on Amazon as well as on Kindle, and I look forward to sharing anything else you may have in the future.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, Dr. Moses Seenarine thank you so much for writing Meat Climate Change: the Second Leading Cause of Global Warming and thanks for joining me today on It’s All About Food. Stay cool.
Moses Seenarine: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, that was a very important book everybody and I hope you take the opportunity to get it. Take the time to read it, there’s so much information in there but it’s important and we all need to be talking about it. Well, that’s the end of the program. I wanted to say I wish I had swamped my guests so that we could have talked about inspiring kids to take on this giant task that we’re leaving them with, but inspiring and enabling children to choose lean and green foods, plant foods, and learning about how important they are is the only way we’re going to save the plant, period. Thank you for joining me today, I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food, find me at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit me at responsibleeatingandliving.com, and please, have a delicious week!
Transcribed by Lydia Dearie 10/20/2016