Sailesh Krishna Rao, Keegan Kuhn & Kip Andersen

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Part I: Sailesh Krishna Rao, Climate Healers
Sailesh Rao 2013Sailesh Rao is the Executive Director of the non-profit, Climate Healers. An electrical engineer by training with a Ph.D. from Stanford University, Sailesh’s technology career includes service with AT&T Bell Labs and Intel. Moved to action to address the global climate challenge, Sailesh founded Climate Healers (www.climatehealers.org) in 2007. The goal of Climate Healers is to reforest one-sixth of the ice-free land area of the earth to neutralize human carbon dioxide emissions temporarily. Among its projects, Climate Healers partners with NGOs, tribal villages, and school clubs to help low-income areas in India use solar rather than wood-burning stoves. Sailesh was selected as a Karmaveer Puraskaar Noble Laureate, an award presented by iCONGO (Indian Confederation of NGOs) whose primary mission is to encourage citizen action for social justice. Sailesh is the author of “Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies.”

Part II: Keegan Kuhn & Kip Andersen, Cowspiracy

keegan-kuhnKeegan Kuhn is an award winning documentary filmmaker, video producer and professional musician based in the San Francisco bay area of CA. He runs First Spark Media, a video production company tailored to creating videos and films for non-profit organizations and conscientious companies. He is the director of “Turlock: the documentary”, “Something To Be Thankful For” and co-director of the groundbreaking environmental film “Cowspiracy: the sustainability secret”.

kip-andersenKip Andersen is the executive director of Animals United Movement. A non-profit dedicated to producing films and media promoting sustainable, compassionate and peaceful living. He is the co-director of the groundbreaking documentary film “Cowspiracy: the sustainability secret”.

 

 

TRANSCRIPTION PART I:

Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. How are you today? I’m good thanks for asking. Oh good news the weather the weather I always like to talk about the weather because here in New York City it pretty much determines everything and last week when it was cold and wet it was quite oppressive I was even feeling the pressure and it was this pressure, do you feel that pressure. Personally I think we’ve had a little release and everything is a lovely, light and lovely and I’ve opened up the terrace on my apartment, and I’m able to eat outdoors and that makes things so much lovelier and when it is all about food it’s just ideal to have healthy fresh beautiful organic plant foods and eat them beautifully presented outdoors and that’s what we like to do here at responsible eating and living headquarters and I like to share that with you and give you ideas of it other people can have fun with their nutritious delicious food too. But there is so much more about food and that what we are going to talk about in the next hour. Some of it good some of it bleak and let’s make the best of it shall we? Okay let’s bring on my very first guest, I’ve got Sailesh Rao he is the executive director of the non-profit climate healers an electrical engineer by training with a PhD from Stanford University Sailesh technology career includes service with AT&T labs and INTEL moved to action to address the global climate change challenge Sailesh founded Climate Healers in 2007, let’s welcome to It’s All About Food, Sailesh.

Sailesh Rao: Hello Caryn.

Caryn Hartglass: How are you?

Sailesh Rao: I’m doing great, how are you?

Caryn Hartglass: Good. We need to heal the climate how are we going to do that?

Sailesh Rao: You’re doing a great job of it already.

Caryn Hartglass: Well thank you but we need so many people. It’s so easy to get stressed because I want to do so many things and there’s only so many hours in the day. I want to hear what you are doing because it’s going to inspire us.

Sailesh Rao: Well the two main things that we have to do is go to a plant based diet.

Caryn Hartglass: Right on.

Sailesh Rao: And shop less.

Caryn Hartglass: What’s the second one?

Sailesh Rao: Shop less, don’t consume so much because basically our consumption we have been convinced it’ll cause us happiness but in reality that’s not true.

Caryn Hartglass: So you are telling me when president George Bush after the 9/11 event told us to go out and shop that wasn’t a good idea.

Sailesh Rao: No it wasn’t a good idea for the climate.

Caryn Hartglass: I don’t think it was good for anything. Well how do we do that? Let’s just talk about shopping less for a minute and then I want to get to my favorite subject food. How do we shop less? We live in a capitalistic society it’s all about growing the economy and we’re all supposed to be consuming and buying.

Sailesh Rao: Right and we’ve been told that that’s the way to increase our happiness and unfortunately shopping is about creating demand for products and every product leaves behind a whole bunch of waste. There is a documentary called Story of Stuff that goes into how much waste we produce for everything we buy and that’s causing the world to be destroyed, it’s in the process. So how do we shop less? You know I have a great story of how my parents use to do that. They always had a monthly shopping day so every Monday of the month they would just make a list of what they wanted to buy and then at the end of the month they would go and buy just what was on the list and more often than not they would cross out some of the items on the list when you really don’t need it. So that’s being very conscious of what you’re shopping and that’s what I do actually. I do it once year not once a month.

Caryn Hartglass: You shop once a year?

Sailesh Rao: That’s right. The day after my birthday.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow. Well we have to shop for food right?

Sailesh Rao: Oh yeah the basics, food and gas, things like that, but the additional shopping I only do once a year.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay so I think what you’re saying is we can shop for essential items but not the non-essential and probably the big gray area is what are the essential items because there are probably a lot of things that people think they cannot live without their flat screen TV in every room and a phone for every kid and cars for everybody, shop for new clothes, those are essentials. But if we did that wouldn’t that affect the economy which is already pretty unhealthy?

Sailesh Rao: That’s a good question you see the economy is really about jobs for people. It should be about satisfying all our needs whereas right now the economy is more about generating new wants from each one of us and then meeting those wants. So it’s really about satisfying the needs of corporations to sell products to us. So it’s been flipped around it’s no longer about meeting our needs in fact a lot of people who have needs are not having their needs met because they’re too poor to buy these things.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh well their needs aren’t being met for the things that are really important like healthy nutritious food, and medical care when they need it and warm coats if they live in a cold place. Yeah the essentials. And homes, there are more and more people that are losing their homes.

Sailesh Rao: Right

Caryn Hartglass: Right. So what are the climate healers doing to help us shop less?

Sailesh Rao: So we are looking at multiple ways of dealing with this but it’s really about enabling people to do it on their own. So we have to give them tools to have them do this on their own. So looking at it, you know, what kind of web-based software can be installed. So far we have been focusing more on generating gas and food issue because that I think it’s just as important if not more important than shopping less because to heal the climate you have to bring back the forest, you have to start sequestering carbon back on land where it stops being a greenhouse gas and instead is2 helping life regenerate. So as far as the shopping goes we haven’t really started anything formal but we are talking about it at the moment.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah I think it’s essential that we plant trees absolutely everywhere we possibly can and individuals can do that. One of the greatest stories of course was by Wangari Maathai who planted tens of thousands of trees in Kenya and won a novel peace prize after decades of being tormented by her government and her people. It’s a beautiful story but it’s just one example to show that we can heal the planet it’s just its going to take all of us to do positive things.

Sailesh Rao
Right and I actually work with people in Rajasthan, India. I can tell you in a lot of places you really don’t have to plant any trees you just have to leave land alone and nature comes back, the forest comes back you know. So this village in India they did that, they set aside 250 acres of common land and they put a fence around it so that the livestock could not get in there and the forest came back within four years. It didnt take too long.

Caryn Hartglass: When did they start it?

Sailesh Rao: They started in 2002. I had this before and after picture from 2002 to 2006 and you can see this massive change that happened in four years so it was amazing. And of course it’s still there now.

Caryn Hartglass: I was in Rajasthan in 2006 I wish I had known about that little area I would have checked it out.

Sailesh Rao: Yeah it’s new, Jaipur.

Caryn Hartglass: I remember seeing many women and children going to the water that was there in order to get water to bring home and it was not clean.

Sailesh Rao: Right

Caryn Hartglass: And I saw a lot of things, a lot of it was good that I saw and some of it was just unbelievable because we have so much here in the United States and we take for granted a lot of it. But there was this one village I saw, they lived so simply, they had actually just gotten cell phones but they were pretty much living on the land, their shelters were very simple and they looked so happy.

Sailesh Rao: I took my son to this village in Rajasthan and he told me exactly the same thing. He said – when I was their age I was not as happy as these kids are because they are just spending their whole time outside climbing trees eating the fruits, they are having fun.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Well do you think this is possible, to change the culture dramatically and the time that we need to make a difference?

Sailesh Rao: I not only think it’s possible I am convinced that it is going to happen.

Caryn Hartglass: And when is that going to happen?

Sailesh Rao: It has to happen within the next 15 years.

Caryn Hartglass: 15?

Sailesh Rao: Yes and it is going to happen in the next 15 years.

Caryn Hartglass: Oh good, I’m very glad to hear that. I talk about this a bit on my show, back in March I was invited to speak to 250 cattle producers in Nevada at a bull sell and there was a panel on climate change there and I was the lone vegan invited to speak and I learned a lot there but it made me see really how challenging change will be. When I was there in that culture people focused on things that had been in their lives for generations using the land as they’ve used it for generations although they’re instituting a lot more technology and doing intensification of raising animals unfortunately but they really didn’t see things the way I did.

Sailesh Rao: Yeah it can be discouraging when you go to places like that but you can see that there are signals coming to us from all directions telling us that this is the most important thing we need to change. So if you look up health, it’s becoming increasingly hazardous to eat animal products and people are beginning to see that. There is an entire town in Texas called Marshall were a lot of people have gone vegan because of health issues.

Caryn Hartglass: And the governor, or the mayor.

Sailesh Rao: The mayor yeah, the mayor is the one who initiated that.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, wouldn’t that be something if our politicians would lead, would really lead, and show us the way to go in terms of food and nutrition and lifestyle.

Sailesh Rao: Oh yeah, I am very optimistic about the local politicians because they tend to be much more closer to the people and they do things that are to the benefit of the people. The further up you go the more disconnected they become in my opinion.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes. Now you’re in California?

Sailesh Rao: I am in Arizona actually.

Caryn Hartglass: You are in Arizona okay. Things are pretty dry there.

Sailesh Rao: They are pretty hot here, yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes it’s pretty hot and dry. What are some of the things that people in your community are doing for the climate?

Sailesh Rao: We happen to live in what is rated to be the most unsustainable city in America. So I figured if we can make this place turn around it will happen everywhere.

Caryn Hartglass: Now who decided it was the most unsustainable place?

Sailesh Rao: There was an article in Grist. I don’t know exactly who did the study but it was a formal study by someone. So it rated Phoenix as the number one and number two was Tucson.

Caryn Hartglass: And what made it unsustainable?

Sailesh Rao: The fact that it’s a sprawling city, there is hardly any rain and there is a population increase happening and it gets hotter and hotter it is helpless. It is going to get another 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit increase in temperature for the next 20 years. So that makes it pretty unsustainable.

Caryn Hartglass: Right, so how do you cool it down and bring the water?

Sailesh Rao: Very simple we have to make it green again. And so if we can make Phoenix green again then we can make anywhere green again right? And we know that we can do that though formal culture techniques and bringing back the forest here is like bringing Phoenix back 200 years, that’s what it used to be. We deforested it and now we have to bring it back.

Caryn Hartglass: You mean it wasn’t hot and dry 200 years ago?

Sailesh Rao: No, no it wasn’t. It actually was the forest was cut down to grow cotton plantations and then the rain stopped coming and when the rain stopped coming then the cotton plantations gave away to cattle grazing so Arizona happens to be an open graze state so which means livestock can graze anywhere. So that really turned it into a desert.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah I don’t think people understand that cutting down natural forest do tremendous damage and we don’t have memory of the trees being in certain places and we didn’t know what it was like before. But half of the forest on this planet have been leveled and there are places where we are re-growing them but there’s all kinds of controversy with the scientist when it comes to climate change and deciding what goes on the carbon balance with the carbon dioxide, the methane gas that we are putting out into the atmosphere, the amount of carbon that cycles back into the soil and into the earth and down into the Geosphere and into the oceans and this carbon as you know moves around and around and some say that we’re imbalanced some say that we’re out of balanced. Imbalanced means that the carbon that goes into the atmosphere is enough to keep the temperature of the earth comfortable for human living and as we put more carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere a lot of us believe that we are making it warmer and it just seems so obvious to me, you cut down half of the planet’s trees the trees that are taking in the carbon and giving out oxygen is so obvious that we are out of balance and then to add to that we’ve leveled all these trees and we’ve put in its place more animals that are spewing carbon dioxide and fast tracking the fossil fuels out of the earth, burning them and putting them out into the atmosphere, it can’t possibly be in balance.

Sailesh Rao: You’re right.

Caryn Hartglass: I mean it’s simple I don’t have to be an environmental assessment specialist or any kind of specialist it just makes sense.

Sailesh Rao: You’re right we cut forest we do several things we release the carbon that was already stored into the atmosphere and at the same time we change rainforest patterns because forest bring their own rain so we change the impact on them so that place gets dryer and dryer as we cut it, in general and then eventually it becomes a desert once we use livestock to drain all the carbon from the soil and send it back up but now that the CO2 levels in the atmosphere are much higher than they use to be, forest are also able to sequester more carbon. This is why forest have actually taken up almost a quarter of the CO2 that we emit it and stored it in the land, in the soil. So there is a great potential for the forest to re-sequester this carbon back.

Caryn Hartglass: And now, are you originally from India?

Sailesh Rao: Yes, I am.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes, there is a lot of changes going on in India you mentioned this project in Rajasthan but India is a big country. And there are a lot of changes going on that’s positive. And some of the things we are concerned about here in the United States is countries like China and India becoming more like us. Making more of our mistakes.

Sailesh Rao: You are right that’s a huge issue because India used to be 90 percent covered by forest two hundred years ago and now the forest count is down to seven percent or less.

Caryn Hartglass: Seven percent?

Sailesh Rao: Seven percent or less. It’s pathetic what is going on now. It’s mostly from the consumption of diary. India does not consume much meat yet but Indians consume a lot of diary and the problem with dairy is that if you take a lot of milk but you don’t eat the beef the cows live for 20 years and they are literally eating up the forest in India. So India has the highest population of cattle on the planet. India has about 320 million heads a cattle and almost four time as much as the US and those cattle are doing damage to the forests in India.

Caryn Hartglass: Now you know what the United Nations would tell India to do and I know they are.

Sailesh Rao: Oh India is already doing that. India has become the largest exporter of beef on the planet.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, you could also intensify and go into animal intensification where there’s a number of things that you can do in terms of feeding the cattle and not allowing them to graze because unfortunately grazing puts out more greenhouse gas emissions than keeping the animals in a small space and feeding them some disgusting formula. And the governments are buying it, they’re saying okay we want to emit less greenhouse gas emissions so we are not going to let our animals graze.

Sailesh Rao: That’s a bit tough in India because in India cows are sacred for a lot of people so they won’t take kindly to factory farms springing up in India.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s good to hear.

Sailesh Rao: Yeah, but there are also drawbacks because then the cows are killing the forest and so the tiger dies. So the Tigers are impacted by the consumption of the cattle.

Caryn Hartglass: And how many people understand this?

Sailesh Rao: It’s becoming more well known in India in fact India is going through this process of accelerated knowledge where so McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken are coming to India and they’ve been active for maybe 15 years or 20 years and in the brief span of time the diabetes issues have skyrocketed, heard disease skyrocketed, obesity has skyrocketed and people are beginning to put two and two together because they knew what it was like 20 years ago and it wasn’t this bad. So they are putting two and two together and they are beginning to see, make the connection and see much quicker than we are in the U.S. so I am hopeful that people will wake up much faster because of that.

Caryn Hartglass : Yeah I hope so too. Now I can assume you’re a vegan.

Sailesh Rao: Of course.

Caryn Hartglass: Of course, I love that. Where you raised that way?

Sailesh Rao: I was raised lacto vegetarian. So I was lacto vegetarian for the first 40 years of my life and it was when I saw the impact of dairy on the forest of India that I turned vegan, until then I was in my own little bubble with a story that we are not really hurting the cow we are just milking her, that’s what I was told and I didn’t see the connections between that milk that I’m consuming and the tiger dying and also the fact that when you milk a cow you are literally stealing from the calf. I was always told that the calf gets to drink the milk first and then you took the rest for human consumption but all that is gone because in India you cannot afford to do that anymore. The demand for milk has gone up so much that the calf gets absolutely nothing. They put the calf away, even in the villages, after just 30 seconds and they tie the calf in front of the mother and the mother is licking the baby and they milk the cow dry and then they release the calf so the calf can go send a signal to the mother saying she doesn’t have enough milk. It’s heart wrenching to watch that. I watched that and I said that’s it and I’m never going to touch this again.

Caryn Hartglass: Now you said that you saw that. There are people that do it and they don’t.

Sailesh Rao
The trouble is the people that do it are not the ones that consume the milk so the people who do it are in the villages and they are doing it because that’s the only thing that the rich people want from the village. So they’re selling the milk and with the money they get and with the meager amount of money they get, they go and buy other necessities that they need. So the villagers are not drinking the milk.

Caryn Hartglass: You know that organization Heifer international?

Sailesh Rao: I’ve heard of them yes.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah so one of the things that they do is they get animals, they give them to villages in developing nations where people are very poor and it’s supposed to help them have something to sell and improve their livelihood but actually I think what they’re doing is like you were saying these animals destroy the terrain.

Sailesh Rao: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: In some areas they do more harm than good but it’s a very successful organization because their marketing is so appealing they show all these adorable cuddly little animals that people are holding and it taunts at your heartstrings because I think deep down we really do care about animals.

Sailesh Rao: Absolutely we do.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay so here you are you’ve got the climatehealeres.org you founded in 2007.

Sailesh Rao: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: And you also wrote a book called Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies. Can you just give me a brief summary of what that’s about?

Sailesh Rao: That’s about the metamorphosis that I believe is happening. This is the change that is going to happen in the next 15 years as return from caterpillars will conceal mindlessly into butterflies that redirect the planet. So it’s about the transition and why I believe it is going to happen. It’s a fascinating story because there are many ways to talk about the environment. Typically we people say everything is a complete mess and everybody needs to change and that doesn’t inspire people. Or you can say everything is perfect and nobody needs to change you just the opposite side and that’s not being realistic. And of course the third corner is everything is a mess and nobody needs to change which George Carlin for instance says that, he’s a comedian, and basically he’s saying we are all going to go away we are going to disappear from this planet so don’t have to change and that’s not good either. So the way that I’m trying to see this is everything is perfect and everything will change.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay I’m going to use that one. Everything is perfect and everything will change, I like that very much.

Sailesh Rao: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: Sailesh thank you for joining us half hour on its all about food. Love what you’re doing.

Sailesh Rao: Thank you so much Caryn.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay be well. All right we are going to take a quick break I’m Caryn Hartglass you’re listening to Its All About Food. And just remember everything is perfect and everything will change and then we’re going to take a little break and we’ll be back with Keegan Kuhn and Kip Andersen the co-directors of Cowspiracy.

Transcribed by Alma Yesina, 5/27/2014

TRANSCRIPTION PART II:

Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody, I’m back. This is Caryn Hartglass, and it’s time for the second part of It’s All About Food here on the 13th of May, 2014. Before we get to the main part of the second part of this program, I want to direct you to my nonprofit website, responsibleeatingandliving.com. On the lower right-hand side of the website, I’ve added a couple of things. One is, if you remember—I think it was a month or two ago when we had Mississippi College professor Elizabeth Brandon and her student Bilal Qizilbash talking about kale research. Well, we know have a kale research update subscription. You could go to our website, responsibleeatingandliving.com, go to the bottom right-hand side and sign up, and any time there’s an update on their wonderful kale research, you will hear about it first. So you can visit that. The other thing I just added is, you know we’ve got hundreds of delicious vegan recipes on our website, right? I’ve compiled my personal favorites, the ones that we make over and over again in our family. If you go, again, to the homepage, right-hand side, you’ll see Real Favorites, and that’s a list of all of our real favorite recipes. Just so you know, you might want to try some of those if you haven’t already. All we want to do is make this world a beautiful delicious place with healthy, plant-based food. But. Some people make it hard. And difficult. We’re going to now talk to Keegan Kuhn and Kip Andersen, the co-directors of a new documentary: COWSPIRACY. Welcome to It’s All About Food, Keegan and Kip!

Keegan Kuhn: Thank you!

Kip Andersen: Thanks so much for having us.

Caryn: Okay, now how am I going to know the difference between Keegan and Kip? Keegan, say hello.

Keegan: Hello, this is Keegan.

Caryn: And Kip, say hello.

Kip: Hello, this is Kip.

Caryn: Okay, I think Kip is a little higher-pitched maybe. We’ll see what happens. But you both sound great, you look great on the website! Let’s hear about this film. It’s scary!

Keegan: Yeah, it’s a big film. It’s a big, scary issue. The film is an environmental documentary following my co-director Kip Andersen on a journey, finding out what is the leading cause of environmental destruction around the world, and the truth is that it’s animal agriculture, raising animals for food. We go to the world’s largest environmental organizations, because if animal agriculture is really responsible for the leading cause of rainforest destruction, water pollution, ocean dead zones, topsoil erosion, and virtually every other environmental degradation that’s happening, why wouldn’t the world’s largest environmental organizations be talking about it? So we pose a question to them, and the responses that we get are… If it wasn’t such a deadly, serious issue, they’d be very funny.

Caryn: Well, we’ve been saying this for a long time, that why aren’t the major environmental organizations talking about animal agribusiness? One of the reasons I thought was just because they all like meat and they don’t want to give it up. But I think we’re going to learn through this film it’s bigger than that.

Kip: Yup. That’s definitely part of the reason, internal habits within their own offices all the way up to the very executive directors of many of these, that’s a big part. Also, a huge part is that they are businesses and what is their priority? Is their priority making a profit or saving the planet? That’s where the kind of blurred line is that we explore in the film.

Caryn: Now, you’ve implied in the trailer that you had some funding that was taken away.

Kip: Yes, we had some funding… It’s definitely a bit of a controversial subject, and we did have some funding dropped. They don’t want to be mentioned who they are, it’s part of a reason why they wanted to be dropped, but we basically had to finance this a hundred percent on our own, that’s why we started a Indiegogo campaign to get the funding so we can release this properly, so everybody can see it.

Caryn: Okay, we can’t give away everything that’s in the film obviously, but were you surprised with some of the things you learned? Or was everything the way you expected it to be?

Kip: Oh no, absolutely surprised. I think that’s the thing. We’ve done some small test runs of all walks of life that have seen this and even people who think they’re very well-informed on the subject are blown away. Things that you just can’t believe about wildlife and the ocean dead zones—we have a big section on the ocean. And then just about the nonprofits, when we go visit them. It’s shocking yet humorous, their reactions, and so it’s a fun journey no matter where you are on the scale of education on the subject. It’s a real entertaining and educational journey.

Caryn: Okay, I don’t want to pick on any organization in particular, but I was remembering a few times I would visit the Rainforest Action Network, just as an example. I remember years ago that they had some campaigns against animal agriculture because it was affecting the forest, the rainforest, and they were talking about destroying forests to grow soy to feed animals and also the destruction of forests to graze animals. I noticed that the focus changed to palm oil. I had to dig to find some old material on the animals.

Kip: That was a big, again, almost comical if it wasn’t so serious, in particular Rainforest Action Network. There’s a couple that definitely stand out. We will go into the destruction that palm causes on rainforests and where, but a lot of this documentary focuses on comparisons. We acknowledge fracking is a huge issue, we acknowledge palm is, then we compare it to animal agriculture and there’s just absolutely, virtually almost no comparison. Then you start talking and addressing this to these people like Rainforest Action Network, and they just simply do not want to talk about it.

Keegan: When we look at the numbers for palm oil. It’s incredibly destructive, what it’s doing to the Indonesian rainforests. The devastation is undeniable. But when we look at that globally, palm oil is responsible for about 26 million acres of rainforests cleared every year. Or actually today, I’m sorry, 26 million acres. But then you compare that to animal agriculture, and we’re looking at 136 million acres. We’re looking at this astronomical impact to our rainforests—which are the planet’s lung, they produce about half the planet’s oxygen—they’re being destroyed for cattle and to grow their feed crops, and yet all we hear about from the rainforest groups is palm oil.

Caryn: Right. Just a little bit more on palm oil. What are the main uses for palm oil?

Keegan: Palm oil—if you pay attention to anything that these groups are going to be saying—is used in snack foods. But a huge part of where palm oil goes is actually for animal feed crops. A very large percent is fed to the livestock.

Caryn: I thought I was leading to that answer. It’s a really important point, because a lot of times I read these really angry posts and articles on palm oil that are targeted towards vegans because we happen to have our vegan butter, like Earth Balance products that are made with palm oil. Earth Balance, just one little company, is really trying to please its customer base and working towards sustainable palm and all of that, but the focus is in the wrong place.

Kip: Definitely. It’s the same thing. A lot of people, especially who don’t have much knowledge on the subject, they do the same thing with soy. They say, “These vegetarians eating all this soy, that’s what’s causing the rainforests…” Like, no, no…

Keegan: When ninety percent of the Brazilian soy is fed to livestock, and livestock mostly in Europe actually.

Caryn: Right. Whew. Okay, so you have an Indiegogo project and you’ve raised, you met your goal. And now you’ve stretched your goal. What can people expect and what would you like people to do?

Keegan: We would love for people to continue to support the campaign. We reached our initial goal of $54,000 in six days, which was just phenomenal. We couldn’t have imagined there would’ve been such an outpouring of support. But we realize with more money, we can reach more people and we can actually do more with the film. So we created a stretch goal of $108,000. Right now we’re at about $85,000, which again is just phenomenal. We have about, I think, 22 days left on the campaign. If we can reach that $108,000 goal, we’ll be able to translate the film into ten or more languages. We want to create a dubbed version in German, Spanish, and potentially Mandarin. We want to make the film as accessible as possible. Part of that is creating a 50-minute educational edit of the film which educators around the world, from elementary school to universities, can use to educate students about the impact of this industry. That edit will be shorter, be more concise, it’ll have some new animations and graphs in it just so that it’s less of a story and more just the facts. And then that, hopefully again if we can reach our goal, will also come with a lesson plan. And again, just to make it as accessible as possible.

Caryn: Alright. You made it sound in the trailer that people don’t want this information to get out. So when the film does come out and when your educational version comes out, is there going to be trouble?

Kip: No, we get asked that question a lot. Our goal is people are going to be inspired. People, when you find out something, when you find out the truth, sure you might be shocked and initially scared, but it supersedes it by just being inspired of things that we have to do right now. A big part of the film that was really important when we were making this is that the end ends on a very positive, all solution-based, we can do this. Real actions, real companies that are doing things, transforming the planet as we speak today, like big time, funded by people like Bill Gates and big funders and we explore…

Caryn: Beyond Meat and Beyond Eggs.

Kip: Yeah, so all these new companies sprouting out and thriving. It’s basically jumping onto something that’s already happened. Are you going to be left behind, as well as the planet? I’d like to think it’s more inspiring than…

Caryn: Right. You say that you have some actions and solutions at the end of the film, and we know that there are some businesses doing incredible things. I love the message behind Beyond Meat and Beyond Eggs because they’re creating the same products. They’re just removing the animal from the equation, which is genius. It’s cheaper, using plant-based ingredients. What other solutions are out there, not that I want to give away the ending of your film?

Keegan: We focus on a couple different options and different things that people can do on a personal level. After the film comes out, we’ll see what these organizations do and how they respond. It’ll be a call to action involving how we get these large environmental organizations to start addressing it. But that’ll be… We’ll see how things play out with the release of the film.

Caryn: Well you know it all comes down to money, unfortunately. These organizations don’t want to bite off the hand that feeds ‘em.

Kip: That’s the thing what happened with Blackfish in such a quick amount of time. It does come down to money. With this, we’ve said we’re not only making a movie, but starting a movement that they can be successful. These nonprofits can be successful. They’ll get a lot of support by doing these things of switching focus to things that are really, really important. They can be successful.

Keegan: The thing is too, though, is that their focus—you look at their mission statement is about helping the planet. First and foremost, whether it’s a popular opinion or not, we need to be addressing animal agriculture. To go after these massive industries, like the fossil fuel industry, and try and put regulations on them, like that’s all very important. It’s absolutely essential we get control over the fossil fuel industry. But let’s look at what we all can do today on a personal level and regardless of how sensitive of a topic it is or how unpopular of a topic it is, it absolutely needs to be addressed.

Caryn: Well, sometimes it just seems so impossible when you have the Koch brothers wanting to support coal and mining and squash the solar industry by putting some exorbitant taxes on them. It just all comes down to money, and it seems so hard. But. There are little pockets of hope everywhere, and I hope COWSPIRACY really makes a big change. Now you guys are young. When did you get the message? When did you get this vision of how to make the world a better place?

Kip: Well it happened a few years ago and really just a simple Google… Well, it first started with a Facebook post and that’s what’s fun about the movie, kinda follows my journey of really what happened. I saw a post about the Livestock’s Long Shadow report in 2006 and I found I was blown away ‘cause at that time I thought I was doing everything, riding my bike and…hours, yadda yadda. And then once I found this out, I really explored this and the thing was, it was an easy Google search. This wasn’t like some detective sleuth. It kinda popped up quite quickly and I was blown away, one thing after another, and I said, “Wow, if this really is true and not some propaganda, then these environmental groups that I’ve supported my whole life – Green Peace, Sierra Club – they must be screaming about this.” And then I went on their websites and I was shocked—there was nothing. That’s kinda when it started. I started emailing them, calling them, like what’s going on? They just would not reply to me. If I wanted to give money, sure they’ll talk to me, but they would not talk. Eventually I’m teamed up with Keegan and with a camera eventually kinda just have to knock on their door and go in person because they didn’t want to talk about it. It’s a film about sustainability, which it is. They’ll talk about that all day, but once you start mentioning the animal agriculture, then it gets a little funny.

Caryn: I was very excited when that Livestock’s Long Shadow report came out in 2006, as were many, many other people because it was the first time that animal agribusiness kind of was seen for what it was, something that was a big polluter and affected our climate in a negative way. But unfortunately, the people that make those reports have changed their tune quite a bit since people jumped on that one statistic that 18% of human-induced greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture, and they’ve dropped that number, in more recent reports to 4.5%. I was recently on a panel with Frank Mitloehner, who is a professor at UC Davis, and he’s been working with the Food and Agriculture Organization on this. He is a big believer in animal agriculture intensification, talks about how efficient we are here in the United States, and how we’re doing such a great job using far less water and putting out less greenhouse gas emissions making cattle than the rest of the world, and the rest of the world needs to learn to do what we’re doing. The government’s behind him, and it is scary.

Keegan: Yeah. We actually interviewed Animal Agriculture Alliance, and {16:55} sits on their board, largest animal agriculture lobby groups in the country. We asked him about that, about these studies and these statistics and about efficiency, and yet the truth is, is that if you want to raise animals, the most ecological and efficient way to do it is in extreme confinement. Pack as many animals as you can into as tight a spot as possible. Restrict their movement, prevent them from burning excess calories, and you’ll be able to conserve as much resources as possible. Clearly, that’s not beneficial for the animals. If you care about animal welfare issues at all, it’s extremely detrimental so it leaves you one option.

Caryn: Plants.

Kip: Yup. That’s what’s interesting about the film too, is we cover the whole spectrum. We get into the whole grass-fed, we get into the organic. There’s some surprising, surprising results of a lot of these foodies who think they’re doing the right thing and in fact, maybe for the animals, but for the environment it’s actually the opposite. It’s just a weird situation.

Caryn: Yeah. People don’t realize that grass-fed, “humane” raising of animals for food is not good for the environment. It’s worse for the environment than animal intensification and the only choice, the only choice for all the reasons is raising plants to feed people directly. It’s so obvious. Okay. So where do you guys live?

Keegan: We’re in the San Francisco area, Berkeley-San Francisco.

Caryn: Lots of good eating there.

Kip: Yes, there is. We’re fortunate, very fortunate.

Caryn: Very fortunate. What are some of your favorites?

Kip: Favorite restaurants?

Caryn: Yeah. I’m turning the tide here, I wanna lighten things up. I’m getting a little too depressed.

Kip: Yeah, some awesome stuff, and they all do so great. They do so well, like Café Gratitude, Gracias Madre, Source. There’s a few in LA, there’s way more than San Francisco, which is weird.

Caryn: Yeah, I heard LA is taking over New York City, which I always believed was a vegan kingdom, here in New York City.

Kip: Yeah, yeah, and it’s weird because the Bay Area, it’s easy, but nothing like LA or New York. This is so funny, that’s kinda exploring how successful these restaurants do. You can’t even get on if you’ve heard of Gracias Madre, it’s all vegan, organic—

Caryn: Yep. It’s always packed.

Kip: —Mexican restaurant. Yeah. When they started, it took a couple of months, but now you can’t get in at all. There can’t be enough of these hip plant-based restaurants.

Caryn: Right. Veggie Grill is doing great.

Keegan: There’s a little company, Cinnaholic, which is an all-vegan cinnamon roll company, and they’ve just done phenomenally well. They’re based here in Berkeley, and they just started franchising. These are growing businesses, and these are real business models where people are getting into this not just because of the environment or the animal or health benefits, but because it makes good business sense. That’s why you see people like Bill Gates and Biz Stone, who are—Biz Stone is actually vegan—but someone like Bill Gates is getting involved in plant-based companies because it makes good sense from a business point-of-view.

Caryn: Yes. Now I just have to interject here. I personally promote a healthy, plant-based, whole, minimally processed diet which is ideal for health and if people want to junk food themselves out, it’s entirely their choice, but if they’re going to do it, it should be from a compassionate point-of-view and from an environmentally sustainable point-of-view. If you want to sugar yourself out and fat yourself out and white flour yourself out, go for it. But companies like Cinnaholic are the way to do it. Meanwhile, I’m gonna stick with kale salad.

Keegan: That’s what’s exciting though can be depressing, especially when we’re doing all this research with the film, but we’re actually to walk away feeling really inspired. It just feels like this whole shift in evolution, whatever you want to call it, it’s already happened, it really has. It’s so fun to see. I believe it’s happening at an exponentially quantum-fast rate. It really is. That’s a big takeaway from all this. Just every day you see something new pop out in the store, a new restaurant opening, new things on the news, so it’s exciting times.

Caryn: Now, did you primarily focus on environmental organizations in this film; did you talk to any people who were raising animals?

Kip: Yes, we did. We explored everything. We went to an organic daily farm, went to one of the nicest, most beautiful grass-fed beef down here on the coast. We’re fortunate. Where we live, all these farms are right here in the Bay Area, so we explored every part deeply. We want to leave no stone unturned so we did visit these places.

Keegan: And all the way down to backyard animal husbandry.

Caryn: Now, I know a lot of information is available online. We’re flooded with information, and if you really want to learn about how animals are raised, everything is online and some of it is really scary. I was just recently looking about how sperm is collected from bulls and how cows are artificially inseminated. It’s frightening, it’s almost pornographic, it’s obscene—I can’t believe these people do it. When you think about how animals are raised, every step of the way somebody’s had to figure these things out and they’re working towards making them more efficient, and when you see each step…it is profoundly creepy.

Keegan: We said earlier, it all comes down to money and how do you make something as efficiently as possible. If your concern is that bottom dollar, then you can let everything else fall by the wayside, whether that’s ethics or environmental degradation or health or worker’s safety, anything. If you’re concerned about making money, then that’s all you’re gonna focus on.

Caryn: Now do your actions and solutions, any of them include what these farmers and ranchers can do if they don’t raise animals?

Kip: Somewhat, yeah. We explore different types of farming: veganic farming…

Caryn: It’s funny. When I was on that panel with Frank Mitloehner, he didn’t seem to know anything about veganic agriculture, was surprised to hear you could grow plants without animal manure.

Kip: It’s funny too when I hear people say, “If the animal agriculture industry falls apart, there’s going to be so many jobs lost.” To actually go back so we don’t have to have these GMO industrial farms because we have GMOs to feed these millions and millions of animals, going back to this really grassroots level of organic farming, veganic farming, creates tons of jobs. Tons of jobs, rather than these huge, huge industrial farming pesticide compounds that only produce a few jobs. I feel the economy will be stimulated by the shift.

Caryn: Well, it’s all a shift and part of the shift is, efficiency is not necessarily the only parameter and is not necessarily the best goal. We could be a little less efficient, gentler on the planet, have more jobs for people, everybody’s happier. We’re not treating animals horrifically. We just need a little shift. And COWSPIRACY is gonna get us there.

Keegan: Thanks. That’s our hope, that’s our plan. We first and foremost need to get people informed. They have to be aware of the situation. For the most part, many people in our society aren’t aware of this at all. If you ask them, “What causes more climate change cars and trucks and boats and planes, or cows?” They’re gonna tell you cars, trucks, boats, and planes. But in fact, the livestock industry is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation sector.

Caryn: Whether those numbers are true or not, and I’ve read a lot of science and it’s really complicated and very confusing, one thing is clear: the energy infrastructure we have today is not sustainable and absolutely needs to change and the problem is, it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of money. In order to have a cushion and be able to get there without having some crazy tipping point where the world heats up and the game’s over, animal agriculture has to go away. That will mitigate climate warming.

Kip: It’s very important at the personal level too is to demand, whether emails or calls or whatever, to demand that these environmental groups—it’s not the animal agriculture industry, they’re not going to be the one to change, it’s the ones accountable that are doing the changes, they have the manpower, they have the actions and the practice of creating huge social change—to demand that Greenpeace, Sierra Club, and Rainforest Action Network, they address the situation immediately.

Caryn: Okay, we’ve got just a few seconds, so tell me when the movie’s coming out and where can we find out more about it?

Keegan: They can find out more information on cowspiracy.com, definitely want people to go there and check it out. We’ll be releasing the film, premiering in San Francisco on June 19 and then followed up by premieres all around the country we’ll be touring throughout the summer and then internationally as well.

Caryn: Great! Well, thank you so much for telling me about COWSPIRACY, for creating it and having the courage to do so, Keegan and Kip, all the best to you.

Keegan: Bye-bye.

Kip: Great, thank you so much.

Caryn: Okay, so that’s been another It’s All About Food show. Thank you for joining me, and have a delicious week.

Transcribed by JC, 7/23/2014

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