Part I: Elizabeth Brandon, Bilal Qizilbash, Kale Studies
Elizabeth Brandon a Mississippian and she grew up mostly in Brandon, but she lived in Brookhaven, Oxford, Cleveland, and Clarksdale. She received her B.S. in Biology from Delta State University in 1999 (Go Fighting Okra!) and her Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2004.
For her dissertation research, she studied the mechanism by which the tethering protein, p115, assembles coat and fusion proteins for the proper transport of secretory vesicles between the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi. During her postdoctoral training in Physiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, she studied the consequences of obesity on renal function and melanoma tumor growth.
There is some evidence that obesity increases melanoma growth, although the mechanisms by which this occurs are unknown. Her research with students at Mississippi College is focused on determining which growth factors and hormones influence melanoma growth and whether blocking or inhibiting these substances can slow melanoma growth.
“Bilal Qizilbash is a Masters of Science candidate in Biomedical Sciences at Mississippi College. He completed his undergraduate at Stony Brook University in Biology. Along with his master’s course work, he is part of Dr. Brandon’s emerging research team. Bilal is heading a pioneering research protocol studying the apoptopic effect of kale on malignant melanoma cells. During various stages in his career, Bilal has consistently demonstrated and honed in his leadership abilities. In Stony Brook, he was a Residential Advisor and won the Unsung Hero Award. Bilal approaches all that he does with ingenuity, imagination, and sincerity. In his free time, he donates his time and efforts to helping others. He also enjoys creative writing and is currently working on his book.”
Part II: Richard Schwartz at 80
Richard Schwartz is president emeritus of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA), after serving as president for many years. After over 35 years of promoting vegetarianism/veganism, animal rights, and environmental activism, he can speak from a unique perspective that can produce a game changer in promoting vegetarianism. Schwartz is the author of 4 challenging books, Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet, and Mathematics and Global Survival, and over 200 articles and book reviews and 25 podcasts at www.jewishveg.com/schwartz.
TRANSCRIPTION PART I:
we are it’s already April 1st, 2014, and I don’t have any foolish surprises for you today. I hope you are having a good April Fools day. I think we are going to have a fun but serious show, no tricks, I promise. This past week I was at the VeggiePride Parade in Manhattan which is a really lovely event. It was little challenging this weekend because we’ve been having all of this wonderful cold weather which looks like it’s finally inviting a little spring. Hello, who am I speaking with?
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: This is Dr. Elizabeth Brandon.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh hi, I didn’t bring you in the program yet! Okay, let’s jump right in it. I’m going to bring on my two guests and talk about my favorite subject for the next half hour, which is kale. We have here Dr. Elizabeth Brandon from Mississippi College, and she is an assistant professor there in the biology department, and Bilal Qizilbash. How do you say your name Bilal?
Bilal Qizilbash: Bilal Qizilbash, you said it quite right.
Caryn Hartglass: Qizilbash. Yes well I’m not going to try to say it anymore. It’s a great bunch of letters and I wish I could use it in Scrabble. Bilal is a master science candidate in the biomedical sciences at Mississippi College, and Bilal and I have a passion for kale I think. Don’t we Bilal?
Bilal Qizilbash: Yes we do.
Caryn Hartglass: So thanks for joining me here on It’s All About Food, let’s just jump right in to the work that you are doing at Mississippi College because it’s fascinating. So Dr. Brandon, would you like to give us a little introduction about your work with kale?
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Well actually, I didn’t start working with kale until Bilal joined the lab last year. Because he has not done research before, I let him work with some other graduate students on their research projects. Once he learned some techniques, he came up with an idea of testing the effects of kale juice on melanoma cells. And I said well why not? I have just recently come into this field so I’m very new to it. I have been kind of surprised by the results and I think it’s exciting!
Caryn Hartglass: I think it is too. Now Bilal, I can’t even remember when I met you, maybe two or three years ago?
Bilal Qizilbash: Yes it was close to two years ago at this point.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, and did you know much about kale when we first met.
Bilal Qizilbash: Actually, I knew nothing about Kale. It’s a funny story how it all began actually. That’s how all great things start, right? In regards to the kale, I knew nothing about it. I never even ate kale prior to us meeting. It was my mother who started doing this whole juicing thing and she was doing these wonderful fruit juices mixed with green bok choy and what not. She had me try some of her juices with her and I was like wow this is delicious! It was with strawberries and mangos, all wonderful things that I’ve had before, very sweet tasting juices. My mom was reading your blog and she said “Oh Bilal, do you want to try a hardcore juice?” I started laughing because I’m like yes of course, hardcore, let’s do it. So she gave me this green juice and I was like “This tastes awful, I never want to do it again in my life!” This is about four days into juicing however I noticed something unusual on the sixth or seventh day. When I went in the shower I noticed my skin tags were decreasing, smaller in size and number as well. Skin tags are fundamentally little tumors seeing transcription errors. And as my friends and I were growing older, we basically accepted it as a fact of life that we’re just going to get more and more skin tags. So we were talking about I was 25 at the time and a whole lot of my friends ranging from 22 up to 30, all of us as we were getting older, were getting more and more skin tags. So I say okay, why are my skin tags going down? So I started back tracking and thinking about anything I did in my life at that time. I ate my burgers and I really didn’t do anything special. When I started looking back I was like oh, it was the juices! So I started asking my mom what she put in the juices: Strawberries, mangos, all of the things that I’ve had before, cucumbers, apples, and ginger. But what I never had before was a thing she told me about kale. Kale is something I’ve never had before and I’ve never had these results as well. I started looking into kale and I couldn’t really find a whole lot of scientific research on it in regards to its anti-cancer properties other than its anti-proliferative effect. At that point I started looking into forums. I went through thousands of forums and I have to tell you, people are really, really vocal when it comes to what they are going through. You start seeing how the general trend of a lot of them get better when they start going to a more natural lifestyle in terms of improving their diet, getting more water and exercise. But one commonality that I noticed between all the people that actually started getting better and recovering was the common element of kale, which I exchanged myself and figured this one warrants further study. It kind of just fell back on the backburners because I wasn’t a researcher and didn’t really think much of it until I actually got to the lab and started doing some work. This kind of molecular compound kind of resembles something else, maybe this might work? And then we ran with it.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t know what it is but when people discover something, but if they don’t prove it in a clinical fashion and make it science based, they don’t get a lot of attention. There is some really valuable information out there. Fortunately, a lot of us tend just to eat kale. We don’t need a prescription for it and we can discover its benefits. But, I think the work that your doing is really important because I think a lot of people will benefit from it. So let’s talk now about what you are doing with kale and the results that you discovered.
Bilal Qizilbash: Okay so to put it really simple, it is a very simple experiment actually. We took juice from the kale and we put it directly on the melanoma cells. It actually induced apoptosis and I remember when I first saw it I was like no, this can’t be right. So we carefully repeated the experiments, over and over again I kept seeing cell death. To help you appreciate this fact, melanoma cells in general are pretty hardy cells and pretty tough to kill. So I’ve been working with kale now for over a year. And I kind of gotten used to seeing melanoma cells die because of this. It’s really kind of funny when you think of it because it really is that simple. It makes you wonder why no one has decided to try this before. There are so many components within kale. There’s kaempferol has actually been shown to induce apoptosis in glioblastoma cells, a type of brain cancer. Then you have molecular iodine that’s also present in kale, has been shown to induce apoptosis in human breast cancer cells. Also, it does not affect normal mononuclear cells. And then you have a ton of other things within kale as well, some flavonoids that they haven’t even named yet. All these things are working in concert, so basically we have three individual components that we could possible make a new wonder drug. We could take some sulforaphane as well as kaempferol and probably make the next wonder drug. But then I was wondering, how about if we go back to nature where instead of making our own recipe, nature has its own recipe for kale. So let’s test that in its natural form because it is immediately available and it is directly accessible to everyone. That’s how the idea came to be, and that’s the experimentation we did and are continuing to do.
Caryn Hartglass: Sounds great. Now Dr. Brandon, how is that you have the flexibility to do experiments like this. I mean I’m not that familiar but a lot of times there are grants and there specific goals you are looking to achieve.
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Sure. Well I do have a grant and there are some specific objectives that I’m trying to achieve. But because of the broad aim of the program, from the National Institute of Health that funds my grant, I have some room to explore. The second reason is that Mississippi College is not a research institution; we are primarily an undergraduate college. We do have some masters level programs, but we use research as the teaching tool. We teach full time and we do research when we can with students, as we can. Our primary goal with introducing students to research is to open their eyes to the possibility of becoming a professional scientist. We think exploration is absolutely essential because when people get the chance to discover something new, there is nothing like it. There is no other feeling like that in the world and you want more of that. You want to share what you learned with other people. So I do have money that I can use for projects like this. Bilal is doing the control experiments now with normal non-cancerous epithelial cells. Hopefully we will have some results with those controls in a couple of weeks. But this research that he’s doing is not very expensive, he has the juicer already. He made the juice samples and stored them in frozen vials in the freezer. The melanoma cells are currently being used for other projects in the research lab and so to me, this is a no brainer. Why not explore food like this in their naturally form because it is the right balance of chemicals that makes these foods so healthy, and even palliative or useful for healing in some cases.
Caryn Hartglass: So with your study on melanoma tumor growth, have you seen results like this like you’ve seen with the kale juice?
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: I have. We have played with the metabolism of melanoma cells and also have flexible with the fuels that they use. They can oxidize carbohydrates, they can oxidize fatty acids. They can even build the biological molecules that they need. But when the cells are stressed out, they can easily switch from one fuel source to another and that is an adaptive response that also happens. Cancer cells are no different, in this respect. We found that if we forced cancer cells or melanoma cells to oxidize pyruvate, then that induced apoptosis in the cells. The other things we’ve been looking at are inflammatory cytokines that may be produced my immune cells and trying to understand that paracellular communications that occurs between melanoma cells and immune cells, or cells like adipocyte. So this kind of Bilal’s research kind of dovetails with what we are looking at anyway so it’s a nice fit for our lab.
Caryn Hartglass: Well the thing that I noticed when I read the summary is the fact it is the whole kale or the juice kale that is having the impact that it does. So often in research, which is funded by pharmaceutical companies, and Bilal mentioned this before, companies want to isolate something so they can put in a pill and profit from it. It looks like a lot of us talk about this all the time but the whole food is actually the most powerful beneficial thing we can use.
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Right, and it’s the least toxic.
Bilal Qizilbash: I love that you brought that up actually. Let’s just throw some numbers on that to give you an idea of what’s going on. So we started one experiment with 200,000 cells and by around day four, the regular melanoma cells were at around 4 million cells. So from 200,000 to 4 million, we have these sonicated, which is a filtered format of the juice currently in the kale. Fundamentally what we did is we sonicated it with the sonicator, which is just vibrating it very quickly over 20,000 hertz to liberate whatever is in the cell membrane into suspension. Then we micro filtered it in a 0.22 micron filter so that there were some isolates in that, and that took the 200,000 melanoma cells starting off and they went by day 4 to 700,000. So you can just compare right there an immediate difference between 4 million and 700,000, that was a drastic drop. Now, speaking about the actual natural vegetable repeatedly, I’ve been doing this for well over a year now. Repeatedly, the natural vegetable in its whole format, we’re talking just directly from the juicer, consistently dropped the melanoma count to zero. It does it very rapidly in fact.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow!
Bilal Qizilbash: So even though the sonicator, which is a filtrate, so we’re talking about sulforaphane, kaempferol, quercetin, and a whole bunch of other things that were in there. But the whole natural vegetable has agonist and antagonistic factors combined in a natural balance. It’s wonderful that continually kills the melanoma cells down to zero. This is like I said by the day 4 reading, it was zero; sonicated, 700,000; and regular melanoma cells, 4 million.
Caryn Hartglass: Dr. Brandon, have you started drinking kale juice yet?
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Well I eat kale leaves! I don’t have the juicer but I like to put kale in my salad and I think the flavour is good. Bilal gave us some juice samples when he first started juicing and some of the students in the lab didn’t like the flavor very much, so he blended some pineapple in with it and it was really good. But I even like the raw kale juice. It’s one of those things that if you include it in your diet, along with a balanced diet with other fruits and vegetables, I think it can be very beneficial. There might be conditions where people want to increase their consumption of kale periodically in order to treat certain conditions that they have. I think obviously the next thing to do is an in vivo study with animals, using a tumor model to see if the application of kale juice directly on the melanoma cells causes regression in the tumors in the gene work.
Caryn Hartglass: So are you planning on doing a study like that?
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Well, we don’t have the animal facilities at Mississippi College, but we are about 15 minutes away from the medical school where there is a huge research institution. I have friends there that will probably be happy to get involved in a project like this.
Caryn Hartglass. How about human animals
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Well that’s fine too!
Caryn Hartglass: Because since it’s not a toxic treatment, you can provide people with an instant benefit. I personally don’t like to hear about animal experimentation, I know what goes on all the time. There are some that are less offensive than others and I understand that’s how we operate on it currently. But, I like testing on people.
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: That was the motivation behind Bilal’s publication of his research poster and his research results. An open science website, so that anybody has access to his research results and if they’re interested in trying whole juice themselves, they can. I think that’s a very important thing to do. Often times, it takes so long to investigate something scientifically and by the time the research results are actually published, you’ve missed a lot of opportunities for people to benefit from what you’ve learned.
Bilal: That’s why I published my work on the center for open science, as Dr. Brandon said. And actually speaking about human experimentation, we do actually have people experimenting on themselves. If you read the forum posts, a lot of the people with stage 4 cancer are kind of desperate. So you start seeing that they are willing to try almost anything and everything, including some people are ingesting cyanide pills. It’s not a very good type of experimentation but people are fundamentally experimenting on themselves at this point. Like I mentioned before when I was reading through the various blog postings and the forum postings, the common element of kale and people starting to get better. Usually one of the famous quotes that I had, happened a lot in one of the forums that the doctors would tell them there’s a dark side to this leafy green vegetable, which technically the doctor would be right with regards to goitrogens, when it comes to say broccoli. Or you could mention goitrogen is common in almost all types of natural products. It’s actually highest in soy so doctors are going to tell patients to be careful of goitrogens. They have to tell them particularly be careful of soy that have the highest levels of goitrogen. And guess what? Soy is in almost every processed food out there. So instead of telling their patients to be careful, the patients are telling their doctors they are getting better. The other thing with that is, another common thing in the forum postings is the doctors say it was a psychosomatic effect, which our research kind of shows, well it’s not. It shows that it’s not a psychosomatic effect and there is an molecular basis to this
Caryn Hartglass: Well it’s very frustrating to see the arrogance that often comes out from a lot of very reputable intelligent people, where they don’t want to see something that may be so simple and so pure, and not connected to a big profit giant.
Bilal Qizilbash: I think maybe arrogance, I’m not entirely sure if it’s all arrogance. Maybe it’s more ignorance because when I spoke with a few doctors about the goitrogen aspect, some of them did tell me you have to be careful of kale specific induced goitrogen. And I said actually there is some competitive research saying that the molecular iodine works competitively against that. But they are right if people starting gorging on broccoli, that’s completely right, you can actually start potentially impairing thyroid function then. But in regards to kale, like I said, there is iodine in it so it actually ends up acting in an antagonistic fashion to the goitrogen. So if people are really genuinely concerned about goitrogens, I would highly recommend it to be careful of processed foods more than leafy greens actually.
Caryn Hartglass: My understanding is it really isn’t a big problem. If people are aware that the only issue is iodine, and making sure that you get enough, you don’t really have to consume a lot to get enough. But this goitrogen issue is not significant. I remember hearing one study about a woman who has some serious problems and she was eating like 25 lbs of bok choy a day and nothing else.
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Oh my gosh!
Caryn Hartglass: It was really crazy. But you know that’s where you get some of the fears coming out when you have something really extreme. In most cases there’s nothing bad kale can do, especially when we’re comparing it to strengthen our own immune system to prevent disease. Then for those in are in a crisis, to be able to use something like kale juice and if it’s possible to use it instead of toxic chemotherapy. We all know with chemotherapy it’s a race between killing the cancer and killing you. We need a better alternative.
Bilal Qizilbash: We also need a cost effective alternative. Well, also speaking about toxicity, almost anything can be toxic, including water. To take water and go nuts with it, you can actually have a dramatic osmotic effect in the body. So in regards to toxicity, let’s say you just went and rapidly drank 17 gallons of water, you will probably kill yourself. That’s the reason why you wouldn’t, because of the toxicity effect, think of putting a warning label on a water bottle. It may potentially kill you. It can also drown you. It is depending on how you use it as well as the quantity, rate of ingestion, etc. There are so many nuances in there but the brain automatically regulates itself unless you have a psychosis. So fundamentally, we shouldn’t really have an issue unless like I said, you have a psychosis. Eating kale leafs; to overdose on it you would have to eat a lot of it and naturally people get sick of it. I mean even if you loved pizza you eventually get sick of it. If you eat too much pizza and you eat too many hamburgers, you will say wow, I don’t want any more burgers. I don’t want any more pizza. I don’t want any more kale. The brain automatically regulates that for you. Now taking it potentially in a pill form, will circumvent that that’s when you can potentially get into the real danger issue. Like 25 lbs of bok choy, that’s a lot of anything! Let’s say eating 7 lbs of burger, as much as someone might love the burger, you will eventually get fed up with it and you just can’t take any more. We won’t get into the chemical engineering aspect, let’s talk about Doritos because they are chemically engineered to not give you that satiety. So you can actually circumvent that but in terms of natural foods, they don’t have any type of specific chemical engineering to avoid that. So naturally your brain is going to be like okay buddy, chill with the kale.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I think kale is an amazing food. You are discovering how really wonderful it is and I look forward to learning a lot more about it. Now, I had asked you a few questions and I’m going to ask them again because I think what I learned was interesting. So you are using a pretty basic Breville centripetal juicer for your experiment right?
Bilal Qizilbash: Yes, I’m using the Breville Ikon.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay and there are lots of different models out there a many times people will ask me and ask others, what’s the best juicer? There are masticating juicers that actually chew the food, twin gear or single gear, and there’s the centripetal kind. People talk about the cell of the juice actually being destroyed with some kinds versus others and a lot of people promote the masticating juicer as the best, it’s the gentlest. But you’re using the centripetal juicer and you’ve gotten outstanding results with it.
Bilal Qizilbash: Yes, well with the masticating juicers, they’re wonderful for several reasons. It’s like a tool. You can get certain types of tools for certain scenarios. Centripetal juicers work best in particular with kale because it also simulates the actual chewing of the food really, really finely. It also activates the sulforaphane within in it, which is activated by chewing the food. Now that’s a whole separate issue because most people don’t chew their food properly. This will be simulating chewing your food super well. Also, the other thing is time factors. These masticators are much slower and a lot of people are really busy. So the centripetal juicers just end up being an excellent balance. You do get some oxidization but the oxidation ends up working to your advantage like I said when it comes to kale because it activates the sulforaphane.
So there are several different things in that. The reason why I use the Breville Icon in particular, not because it is a little bit more of a pricier model but it’s because I’m working on a cellular level. I needed to have consistency and consistent results so that’s why I decided to go with that. However, when you are just ingesting it, I would imagine a cheaper model or a cheaper juicer might do the same work but I can’t personally vouch for that because I haven’t personally worked with it. But working with the Icon, it’s been consistently very reliable in terms of the juicing, with wonderful results.
Caryn Hartglass: Who cleans your machine when you’re done making the juice?
Bilal Qizilbash: It’s a long process. Not that long actually, it’s quite easy. It takes proper planning. So I would put a garbage bag in the container so that I can just take that out easily and dump out the pulp and start scrubbing it. It takes someone about 15 to 20 minutes to clean up.
Caryn Hartglass: I just bring that up because a lot of people complain about cleaning the machine after making juice.
Bilal Qizilbash: Oh no, the whole reason why I had a little gasp there was because I was juicing kale in bulk. We’re talking about a lot of kale. I’m talking about well over 6o leafs of kale I was doing that time and that still took me 15 to 20 minutes to clean it up at the end. So I can imagine most people it would probably take 5 minutes cleaning up after themselves. It shouldn’t be terribly hard especially with the design of the Breville like I said, it’s very well designed.
Caryn Hartglass: So we just have a few minutes left Dr. Brandon. What are the plans left kale and your research in the future?
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Well we are going to try it out on some different cancer cell lines and evaluate its efficacy with those. We’re also going to look at the effect of kale on inflammatory cells. So the immune cells respond very differently sometimes, very low concentrations of chemicals. We would like to see how inflammatory cells become activated or become less active in response to exposure to kale juice. So I think that will be very neat.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely, well my understanding is that the cruciferous vegetables, the dark leafy green vegetables, do two things specifically and I look forward to more science to prove what I am about to say. They boost the immune system but they also help detox and take out things that are not good for the body, so I would imagine that would definitely be seen in the inflammation type study.
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Yes, we hope so and the thing that we will continue to do is publish the research in an open forum so that anyone has access to our research results.
Bilal Qizilbash: And in regards to the detox implications, there is actually studies that confirm what you are saying with regards to sulfur. It upregulates the smooth endoplasmic reticulum in the liver. So there actually are studies showing that it does have detoxifying effects in the body.
Caryn Hartglass: The last thing I wanted to mention is my understanding is in terms of a human consuming this food and getting the nutrition. A lot of the nutrition is fat soluble and it’s important to consume a little bit of fat with kale or other similar dark leafy green vegetables. So is there anything like that you might be including in your study to see if that improves any of the results?
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Well the solubility is less of an issue simply because those fat soluble molecules will probably diffuse across the cell membrane. You just have to make sure that you use a low enough concentration that you don’t overdose the cells. Whatever bioactive compounds are there, are very effective without the aid of any fatty acid mixtures in the medium or albumin to bind to some of those fat soluble molecules in the kale juice. It’s already very effective. I’d say that with sonicating the kale juice, the sonication will disrupt the membranes in the mitochondria and the chloroplasts, and it’s possible that some antioxidant molecules are liberated by this mechanical disruption. They’re still there; they’re just maybe exposed to the aqueous environment so that they have greater access to the cells.
Caryn Hartglass: Well I think this is very exciting and I look forward to more work coming up from Mississippi College, from Bilal and Dr. Brandon, and kale. There is nothing kale can’t do, right?
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Dr. Elizabeth Brandon: Thank you so much.
Bilal Qizilbash: Thank you for having us.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay go back to work! Thank you. Wow, really interesting information there. I’m a big believer in kale and I’m more of a believer now.
Transcribed on April 26, 2014 by Stefan Pavlović
Transcription Part II:
Caryn Hartglass: Hi everybody, we’re back. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you’re listening to the second part of It’s All About Food today on April 1st, 2014. How are you? I have to say that it’s been a rough few weeks for me, and as you know I was not doing very well last week. You can probably hear it in my voice that I’m recovering from that nasty bug that I had; and the body always amazes me at its ability to heal when you give it the tools it needs. I certainly needed a lot of rest…kale juice didn’t hurt! Good health is so important. It’s so good to feel good, and it’s so bad not to feel good. That’s one of the things that’s important to me here on It’s All About Food: talking about health and the simple things that we can do so that we do feel good for a very, very long time, and live a long, quality life. Now, I want to talk about living a long, quality, and healthy life with my next guest Richard Schwartz—President Emeritus of the Jewish Vegetarians of North America. After serving as president for many years, and over 35 years of promoting vegetarian, veganism, animal rights, and environmental activism, he can speak from a unique perspective that can produce a game-changer in promoting vegetarianism. He’s the author of four challenging books: Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, Who Stole My Religion?: Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet, and Mathematics and Global Survival, and the author of over 200 articles and book reviews, and 25 podcasts at www.jewishveg.com/schwartz . Richard, welcome to It’s All About Food!
Richard Schwartz: Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be on and kudos for all the great things you’re doing. I hope you continue to feel better and better.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you! Well, first of all, you’re turning 80 in May!
Richard Schwartz: Actually, my birthday is in April, but I’ll be away so the celebration is going to be in May
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, I see. What day is your birthday?
Richard Schwartz: April 10th.
Caryn Hartglass: April 10th. My birthday is April 22nd: Earth Day.
Richard Schwartz: I guess I’m about twelve days older than you then.
Caryn Hartglass: (Laughs) That’s right! Twelve days and a little bit. Well, you are certainly looking good. I want to know who did the cartoon of you looking like Super-Vegetarian.
Richard Schwartz: Okay, well that’s somebody our new executive director, Jeff Cohan, got. When I first saw that I almost burst out laughing, and it was really amazing. But, we almost need superheroes nowadays. The threats are so great: climate change, the epidemic of disease, the hunger. So that’s why it’s great that your program is on and well: we’ve got to get our messages out there as effectively as we can.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, I want to know how you have stayed so enthusiastic and so inspired about the same message for so long.
Richard Schwartz: Well, it’s like there’s no alternative. It’s very easy to give up because when you see that just this week there was a report from the Intergovernmental panel on climate change.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup.
Richard Schwartz: Things are bad already and unfortunately they can get a lot worse. A report just a few days before that an amazing, amazing thing that every single year in the 21st century is in the top 14—only one year, 1998—is in the top 14, other than the 13 years in the 21st century, and yet there’s so much denial out there and people saying “actually we’ve been cooling.” 1998 actually happened to be a very warm year, and not every year has been higher than that—just a couple. But every one of them is way, way up there. 2013 was either fourth or seventh, depending on which group you’re looking at, with slightly different ways of measuring. Every year in this century has been warm, and as I say, among the top 14. Every decade since the 1970’s has been warmer than the previous one, and we’re seeing the effects out there in terms of the droughts that affected more than half of the US this past summer. Of course, now in California, the mud slide in Washington, the super-storms like Sandy and Katrina, and the flooding. This has to become a number one issue, and unfortunately many people are not aware that animal-based diets and agriculture are a major, major factor. Largely because of the methane given off by cows; which in the 20 years of methane in the atmosphere it’s seventy two times as potent as carbon dioxide in heating up the planet. So, we have got to get that message out and it has to become a priority because if we don’t avert the impending climate catastrophe, I hate to think of the kind of world we are leaving for our children and grand-children, and all future generations.
Caryn Hartglass: Now, how did you get so smart? And when did you get so smart?
Richard Schwartz: I’m sort of just standing on the shoulders of giants. You have, as I mentioned, an inter-governmental panel on climate change. You’ve got 97% of the climate experts all agreeing and even more than that; it’s like 99.9% if you look at the refereed articles and respected journals. And that’s the important thing at every science academy. So, if I’m smart, it’s because I’m able to see what all these wonderful scientists are doing and just…I’m the middle person trying to spread the word between the climate experts and the average person.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, yeah, I’m right there with you. I know how important the grassroots work is: getting to individuals one by one by one. I don’t want to be pessimistic—I want to remain the certain amount of optimism and hope, but it definitely is a very challenging time and for many of us, we see that the solutions are really very simple. I think humans have a number of characteristics that may have been beneficial in some instances, but they’re detrimental when we talk about the environment. We’re very shortsighted. We don’t like to look very far into the future. We’re concerned about our own generation, our own well being, our own economics, and it’s really hard to look beyond that. Really hard.
Richard Schwartz: But it’s essential because we need that looking into the future. Unfortunately not just the future: it’s happening already, as we’ve mentioned. Almost every other day on the news, its like flood here, tornado, drought in this area, mud slide, and of course you can’t point and say everyone is related to climate change, but the thing is that there’s so many more when you add all of them up; they’re all consistent with what the experts are saying. Just last year, for the first time in human history, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 400 parts per million.
Caryn Hartglass: Yup.
Richard Schwartz: This part we know…there’s this wonderful, wonderful group called www.350.org, and the reason it has that name is that 350 is what climate experts think is like a cutoff point for safety. So we’re fifty points above that, and unfortunately increasing instead of moving back to that 350 level. So we could be very close if—God-forbid, we haven’t already passed it, to a tipping-point where climate change could spin out of control. So again, this has to be extremely important. When you realize that of course it’s not just that; it’s the negative effects of animal-based diets and agriculture on human health; and of course, the unbelievably poor conditions on factory farms; and causing deforestation; and water pollution; and very inefficient use of water and land and energy and other resources. That’s why I say, unfortunately, it’s like madness and sheer insanity. We need, as somebody pointed out, the moral madness or the moral passion as a biblical prophet. We have to be always respectful, but to challenge: what I’ve tried very respectfully to do in Judaism; but all the religions are based on compassion. I want to point out that number one: God’s earth has threatened us never before; and there is what I call the six mandates that point—religious mandates—that point to vegetarianism as the ideal diet. These are to take care of our health, to treat animals with compassion, be coworkers with God in protecting the environment, to conserve natural resources, helping hungry people, and seeking and pursuing peace: all fundamental to every single religion. And that’s why religious leaders and religious people in general should be in the forefront in efforts to increase awareness that we need to switch to vegetarian diets and, of course, vegan diets even more, for so many reasons.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, do you have any idea why religious leaders are not doing what you say they should be doing since it’s such a fundamental premise behind what most religions are about?
Richard Schwartz: Right. Well, first of all, I’m happy to say that there are some, of course, that are doing it; and more and more this is happening. And especially—it’s interesting—in Israel there has been a sure movement toward veganism in recent years.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m glad you brought that up. I was going to ask you about that; so if you can share any details I’d appreciate it.
Richard Schwartz: Okay, so yeah, that has been happening. But just to get back a bit more to your question: I call this a tragedy of religion. Religion has powerful teachings, but in general, they’re not being applied to the issues. That’s why in my book Judaism and Global Survival for example, and of course Judaism and Vegetarianism, and the other one, Who Stole My Religion? Applying Jewish Values; and again, this can be applied to other religions but Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet because there are such powerful teachings, but there’s too much of what, one of my favorites Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heshel call religious behavioralism, and that’s looking into it and saying “how can we apply the powerful teachings on justice, on peace, on sharing, on compassion, to a world that’s broken in many ways and needs these teachings today more than ever before?”
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, our world is definitely broken. So, what’s been going on in Israel? I’ve been reading all kinds of interesting things on veganism in Israel.
Richard Schwartz: Right. Well, there’s one guy you might have heard of—Gary Yourofsky, that’s been giving some talks there and some of these celebrities there have come out for it. It’s just…it’s been viral in(and) picking up; but on the other hand, there’s still a long, long ways to go. Its still a very small percent, but its been growing. Things are happening, but it’s got to happen much faster. They’re saying this has to become a central organizing principle, responding to climate change, to hunger, to thirst, and that’s the incredible thing to me. Mentioning hunger, for example, that with 20 million people dying from hunger and its effects every year and almost a billion people chronically hungry: it’s really shameful and astounding. 70% of the grain produced in this country—the corn, oats, soy, etc.—is being fed to animals destined for slaughter. And, what makes it to me more shameful is we’re taking healthy products (soy, corn, etc) high in complex carbohydrates and fiber—no cholesterol at all, no saturated fat—and we feed them to animals and end up with a product very high in saturated fat and cholesterol and devoid of complex carbohydrates and fiber. So, it’s really amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s lunacy! It’s just lunacy.
Richard Schwartz: Well, that’s why I say, we need the matins of the biblical prophets, and we want to hope that everyone listening to your wonderful program will go to their minister, priest, rabbi, and now very respectfully say “can’t we get this on our agenda?” “Can’t we have a study group about it?” Or maybe even give a sermon about it. As they say, God’s earth is threatened and we’re not, God forbid, saying to start a new religion—it’s in all the religions. They’ve got all the teachings put into practice and we should go to medical conventions and really challenge them and say, “Medical practice today is really medical malpractice if doctors do not tell their patients about the many medical benefits of plant-based diets.”
Caryn Hartglass: A lot of them even roll their eyes when you say that’s what you want to do; that you want to eat plant foods.
Richard Schwartz: That’s because they’re not educated for that, unfortunately. They’re educated more for cure rather than prevention: “take this pill for that, take this pill for that side effect, and take this other pill for that.” We’re a pill-popping society and we can prevent so many diseases, so much attention is on the Affordable Care Act. How do we pay for it? But we can save so much money with prevention and healthier people and things would be a lot better.
Caryn Hartglass: You were talking before about resources and water and what the land is good for, and I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but earlier, I was going to say earlier this month—but it was actually in March and we’re already into April—I went and spoke to about 250 cattle producers on climate change at an event sponsored by a livestock company. It was fascinating to me to be there, to tour the feedlot, and to see all the things that I so intensely don’t believe in – to see it actually going on in front of me. The thing that was amazing to me is how people did not see what I saw. We clearly came and looked at the same landscape with a completely different point of view and a completely different vision. So what I saw, I was in Nevada, and in this particular mountainous area of Nevada you have the mountains and the valleys and its very sparse and very dry. It’s very dry and desert-like. I kept looking as we were driving around this area – how could anything live here? And then I saw these feedlots which are really, really ugly. They’re just vast amounts of acreage of dirt fenced and those poor animals inside them. You don’t see a tree anywhere. When I was talking to these people about the importance of eating more plants and less animals and how devastating it is for the environment and impacting climate change, many people said to me “our land isn’t good for anything else but raising cattle.” And I said to some of them, but I wanted to say to all of them but I didn’t have the opportunity, “this land isn’t even good for raising cattle – you’re bringing in all the food. You’re not growing it there. You’re bringing in all of the water. That isn’t suitable for what you’re doing.” And they don’t see that.
Richard Schwartz: Right. And acres and acres of land in Iowa and other states are being used to grow those feed grains that you say are being brought in there. And of course, that is having such negative effects, and need a lot of irrigation water, and running out of water. Animal based diets, per person, takes up to 14 times as much water. There was a time when the aquifers have been shrinking, the glaciers are melting, and some of these areas may become a big problem for the future—shortages of water, shortages of food. But tying in with what you were saying, you’ve probably heard that expression “denial is not just a river in Egypt”.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right, that’s worth saying again. Denial is not just a river in Egypt—a drying up river in Egypt.
Richard Schwartz: Yeah, people just don’t want to know. But things are happening, some politicians are getting involved and realizing we’ve got to make these changes and we need leadership here to say: “we just can’t keep going on this way.” We’re on a path toward tremendous catastrophe and destruction.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. I haven’t had a chance to read the newest inter-governmental panel on climate. I guess it just came out or some of the information has just leaked out.
Richard Schwartz: Yeah, leaked out, and it will be out soon. But it’s a massive, massive report and you’re talking about hundreds of scientists and, in a way, it’s a conservative document because there has to be consensus among many scientists and also many countries. And it’s using documents from the last about three, four, five years perhaps. It’s indicating more and more floods and droughts and wild fires. Everything is connected with everything else, and we see that with the mud slide in the state of Washington.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m really glad you brought that up because I was thinking about that and how it’s such a metaphor for everything that humanity is doing. What I was reading about was that people knew that that particular area in Washington was prone to mud slides. They knew for a long time. And it was due to over-logging, to the point where they removed all the trees that were holding up the earth. In some ways it’s like a metaphor. We’re removing things from the planet that are holding us together; that are keeping us together. And at some point, everything is just going to collapse.
Richard Schwartz: Right. And some even say it’s like a giant Ponzi scheme, where things seem okay now, everybody is benefitting from the trees and making money perhaps; but there is disaster ahead. There is going to be a price to be paid. And again, happening already in terms of the mudslide, the droughts, and the wildfires and Hurricane Sandy here on the east coast, and affecting the entire world actually.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, we just have a few minutes left and I wanted to turn things around and talk about some things to celebrate. So, it’s going to be a big party to celebrate your 80th birthday, right?
Richard Schwartz: That’s correct.
Caryn Hartglass: Where’s that going to be?
Richard Schwartz: Okay, it’s going to be in Manhattan at a place called Madras Mahal, I think it is. If people want to find out more about it, they can go to the Jewish Vegetarians of North America—they’re the ones sponsoring it. Their website is www.jewishveg.com. If you continue to www.jewishveg.com/schwartz , that’s where, as you mentioned, I have over 200 articles and 25 podcasts, and a complete text of my book Judaism and Vegetarianism, and also Judaism and Global Survival. If people want more information, they can also email me at email@example.com. If anyone would like to volunteer to help out, there are so many things that need to be done and I hope they’ll contact me as well.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, well I always like the opportunity to celebrate, and I’m glad there’s going to be a big party for you. So now you’re going to be 80, you’re going to be middle age? You’re going to live to about 160 probably, so what are your future plans?
Richard Schwartz: Well, I hope I can still build a poetic statement. Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be, because there is so much to be done. Its almost like the days are just not long enough, there’s just not enough time. Well, we’re trying everything possible. Well one thing I am trying is to restore and transform the ancient Jewish New Year for animals. This is something that unfortunately started years ago when they had the sacrifices so we wanted to get away from that and transform it. Judaism, like many other religions, has such powerful teachings on compassion for animals, that God’s compassion over all his works, for example. The book of Proverbs says, “the righteous individual considers the life of his or her animal”. So, we want to increase awareness of that, and also the very, very sharp contradictions between the use of religious teachings and the realities on factory farms, and some of the other settings. So that’s one thing that I am just trying to get articles out and mainly increasing awareness that again, its essential that there be a major change in vegetarian and preferably vegan diets in order to combat a climate catastrophe. We have to respond with a moral passion, as biblical prophets, get this word out, and encourage listeners—write letters, speak to your politicians, religious leaders—and tell them, especially if you have children or grandchildren, that if you want a decent world for them we have to start today and turn things around.
Caryn Hartglass: That sounds pretty good. And that’s just about the best place we can end this program. Thank you for joining me, Richard Schwartz, and a very happy birthday to you in just a few days!
Richard Schwartz: Thank you very much! It’s always a pleasure to be on your program.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, I look forward to seeing you soon, take care.
Richard Schwartz: All the best, bye bye.
Caryn Hartglass: You too, bye bye. I’m Caryn Hartglass, you’ve been listening to It’s All About Food. Join me at www.responsibleeatingandliving.com where you can find wonderful recipes and an archive of all of these podcasts (and some of them are even transcribed!). So, have a delicious week, okay? Bye bye!
Transcribed 5/28/2014 by Alyssa Moody, edited by Joe Wilson 6/11/2014