Climate expert fears U.S. is playing an ‘ecological ponzi scheme’ by not recognizing food-based climate threats

Misunderstood and understated data contribute to incorrect climate policies

Dr. Sailesh Rao, CEO of Climate Healers, an environmental group with campaigns focused on animal agriculture’s serious threat to our climate, fears disaster as this sector’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to be “understated, misreported and misunderstood.”

Rich nations in the world continue to eat meat, contributing to the massive costs to our climate, our forests, our rivers and waterways, which are polluted with animal waste, Rao said. He told Sustainable Earth Eating that, the United States government is playing an ecological ponzi scheme that is destroying the planet,” when asked if he had a message for our President this President’s day, while recognizing the enormous pressures facing our White House.

Rao also points to “misunderstood data continuing to undermine our climate efforts— if you believe the problem is auto and gas pollution your policies are completely out of synch with reality.”

Rao says “time is short.” We need to get the world’s attention now to have policies that reflect the deforestation created to make ag land for livestock feed.”

87 % of greenhouse gas emissions come from raising livestock, growing their food

Rao said, the current trend is unsustainable:  policy makers rush to go solar and sell more electric cars, while 87% of greenhouse gas emissions arise from animal agriculture, including the enormous amounts of food and water livestock take while only providing 20% of the world’s calories.

Rao sees a Way Forward for America on Sustainable Earth Eating Practices—Still Dr. Rao, has faith that Americans, as a people still immersed in unsustainable food and industrial practices that are contributing to crises of personal health and world climate, will take decisive positive action — at least as the threat becomes more imminent. For the full interview with Dr. Rao,  see below :

Seeing a Way Forward for America on Sustainable Earth Eating Practices

Dr. Sailesh Rao, CEO of Climate Healers, has faith that Americans, as a people still immersed in unsustainable food and industrial practices that are contributing to crises of personal health and world climate, will take decisive positive action — at least as the threat becomes more imminent.

The way forward will be driven by human necessity, and right now it’s running through New York City, according to Dr. Rao.

Following is a Q&A with Dr. Rao on what’s happening (and not happening) with sustainable earth eating and why he ultimately has faith.

Q: Dr. Rao, this week we celebrated President’s Day — do you have a message to our current President and his administration in regard to animal agriculture’s impact on our climate? While the Administration has aggressive climate plans in Build Back Better, none that I am aware of include animal agriculture.

A: This has been truly disappointing, but understandable considering the pressures depicted in the Netflix movie, “Don’t Look Up.” However, I wish the Biden administration didn’t try so hard to continue the ecological Ponzi scheme that is destroying our planet. 

A “Discover Dairy” campaign with an “Adopt a Cow” program instituted in schools throughout the country in August 2021 to promote dairy consumption is not only opposed to the Biden administration’s climate plans, but also fundamentally racist. The genetic mutation that allows an adult mammal to digest lactase after weaning is a predominantly European trait. Therefore, dairy products are indigestible for most people of color. If the shoe was on the other foot, that is, dairy products were indigestible for most Americans of European descent, would the Biden administration have been so aggressive in promoting dairy? (cont’d on www.sutainableeartheating.org newsletter/

A: Goodland and Anhang [Livestock and Climate Change: What if the Key Actors in Climate Change Are…Cows, Pigs, and Chickens?] had detailed a large number of miscalculations in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s data when they arrived at their 51% estimate. However, while calculating the Carbon Opportunity Cost of the land use for animal agriculture, Goodland and Anhang had only accounted for the CO2 stored in above ground vegetation. The CO2 stored in above-ground vegetation can be tripled to account for the CO2 stored in the soil and root systems below ground, which leads to the tightened lower bound (87%) in the Climate Healers position paper. The UN FAO had completely ignored the Carbon Opportunity Cost, the largest component in the 87% estimate.  Q: We now have numerous climate and food scientists correctly calculating livestock production’s greenhouse gas emissions — can you detail what was missed before in highly miscalculated data — grossly understating greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture?

Q: Your efforts, and those of your collaborators, were front and center at COP 26 (2021 UN Climate Change Conference) in Glasgow. The “Cow in the Room” video, creation of “Vega,” and a website to continue the discussion — these were/are engaging, clear, understandable messages presented widely — does Vega have a second life back here in the U.S. and could you discuss those plans?

A: Vega is recuperating from her surgeries at the moment, but plans to be making appearances in the U.S. during the month of April onward.  She will also be traveling to India in August and attending the Himalayan Vegan Festival in Nepal and Bhutan in September. Of course, she is heavily invested in Food Healers day on November 19 but hasn’t decided where she will participate in the global celebrations.

  1. There is no doubt veganism is on the rise, even though it still remains a small part of the population’s choice in the U.S., while Europe is clearly ahead of us.  Amsterdam is projecting 50% of their population will be vegan by 2030 (now 39%).  They are heavily restricting unhealthy fast-food eateries in portions of the city near public schools, etc. Do you see a way forward for the U.S.?

A: I am enormously appreciative of the efforts of Mayor Eric Adams. The people of the U.S. tend to be slow at recognizing an imminent threat such as the Nazi regime or climate change, but once they do so, they tend to jump in with both feet and do the needful. Therefore, I do see a way forward for the U.S. through New York City. 

  1. Dr. Neal Bernard, President of Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, says climate is a real factor in helping people recognize the value of plant-based eating, which is immensely beneficial to people’s health. Do you feel personal health (reduction in heart disease, reduction in diabetes, reduction in certain cancers) is not well understood, but yet, climate impact is becoming more clear and a bigger threat in the collective psyche?

A: The twin threats of climate and ecological breakdown are becoming more focused in the collective psyche as the skies above the Bay area turn red from wildfires during summer, torrential rains wash away homes in Europe and wild animals invade neighborhoods in search of food as habitats get destroyed. Meanwhile, people tend to manage their ill health with a cocktail of drugs — metformin, statins and the like — until the personal crisis becomes unbearable. Even with smoking, it was the understanding of second-hand smoke that made smoking socially unacceptable. In the case of meat and dairy consumption, second-hand eating involves the destruction of the entire planet, not just the ill health of those who happened to get a whiff of the barbecue. 

Q: Do you think the food industry is going to be the way to change eating habits to make plant-based eating more popular — with burgers that are indistinguishable from animal burgers and growth in multiple products emulating seafood, chicken, etc.? Now some milk producers are also offering plant-based milk, for example.

A: I see the plant-based food industry as a transition step, but humans will eventually consume a whole-foods plant-based diet as default once we adopt a new system founded on health, happiness and harmony in place of the current system founded on death, disease and destruction. Our problems are systemic and no amount of tweaking can make death, disease and destruction a viable long-term plan for the future of humanity on this planet. 

Q: Obesity is growing in the U.S., with 22% of children and teens overweight. Federally funded school lunch programs do not offer non-dairy milk or vegan options, while large percentages of multiple ethnic groups are lactose intolerant. California has passed a law to change this that has passed its Assembly, but not its Senate. Can you comment on this progress?

Indeed, this is why I think system change will be necessary for us to reach a sustainable equilibrium with the planet. Obesity is growing in the U.S. because we are in a system that profits off death, disease and destruction — death for the animals, diseases for humans and destruction for the planet. 

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