It recently dawned on me that Bill Gates may very well be the most broadly knowledgeable person on the planet. Without a doubt, he knows vastly more than I do about most things.
But, there may be a handful of significant truths that he does not know -- truths that may alter -- or compromise our future as a species. His latest book, pictured below
, was published last week and it is already a #1 best-seller in many of Amazon's categories.
Although I have not read his books, I have read lots of articles about him and watched many of his videos. In all of them, I continue to be frustrated by the absence of wide open, "big picture" thinking on two pretty important topics:
- How we humans should be feeding ourselves
- A clear vision of how an ultra-sustainable civilization might look.
As for food choices, Gates may know more than anyone about the incredibly complicated processes required to produce plant-based meats that look, feel and taste like the real thing. But, he appears to be recklessly missing the crucial connection between those meat analogues and our own physical health.
His plant-based, highly-processed fake meats
definitely do not comply with T. Colin Campbell's
ultra-simple, life saving definition of the optimal diet for humans:
The closer we get to eating a diet of whole, plant-based foods, the better off we will be.
We're not just talking about eating better. We're talking about saving millions of lives and trillions of dollars on healthcare per year -- in just the USA, where over 70% of our healthcare dollars are spent on food-driven diseases.
Further, I am almost certain that those fake meat products could not hold a candle to whole plant foods when it comes to promoting vibrant health AND reversing many chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The key word that Mr. Gates doesn't seem to get -- when it comes to truly healthy eating is whole
. That is the word Dr. Campbell devoted his three major, best-selling books to explaining: The China Study
and Future of Nutrition.
As for the impact on the environment and climate change, it seems almost self-evident that the consumption of whole, plant-based foods (that require practically zero processing) would be far more environmentally-friendly than the myriad of energy-sapping, complex processes involved with the production, packaging, storage and distribution of meat analogues.
It all boils down to big-picture thinking. The question for Mr. Gates and indeed all of humanity is this:
How do we synthesize all of the knowledge in the world into a coherent action plan for a way of living that has the best chance of maximizing our chances for long-term survival as a species?
To be sure, we can't just encourage a worldwide process of willy-nilly replacement of all existing systems that support our extraordinarily wasteful and harmful lifestyles. We desperately need a "big picture" vision (a blueprint of sorts) of how an ultra-sustainable global civilization might look. Then, since we don't have time for a do-over, construction cannot begin until the system architects finish their work.
Back to Mr. Gates' formula for avoiding a climate disaster that he covers in great detail in his book. In this two-minute video posted on YouTube on 2-14-21, he sums up his way of thinking in this one simple phrase shown on the screen.
Again, I would argue that transforming almost everything
must begin with a vision of how the entire global civilization might look in a fully-sustainable world -- along with a timeline for how we might turn that vision into a reality.
So rather than trying to transform each of the human processes of today, perhaps we should step back and define the long-term goals we expect to achieve with our fabulous new set or living arrangements. For those goals, I was inspired by the thinking of Yuval Noah Harari in this eight-minute video that was included in SOS #94 that I posted last week.
Here is my short-list of goals that I would like to see in a future, almost-perfect world of the future:
- Food, clean water, shelter and clothing for every human on Earth, along with a chance to lead a dignified life
- An urgently-executed return by all of humanity to a universal respect for nature and all of her creations -- including forests, oceans, animals and all other living things
For the first one, we must begin with a vision for how we might accomplish that goal within fifty years -- which is likely all the time nature is going to give us. As for the second one, our future as a species almost certainly depends on how quickly we can execute a plan to live in harmony with the biosphere that gives us life.
Why fifty years? The slide below conveys just a few parts of the big-picture problem that we are facing -- along with a timeline for how quickly we must get things done. In a nutshell, as concluded by E.O. Wilson in Half-Earth, we simply must get out of nature's way when it comes to how we inhabit this planet and how we use and/or interact with her finite resources.
The science is telling us that we must accomplish all of the above well before the end of this century or it is very likely a game over situation for humanity. As for Mother Nature, she will survive and thrive indefinitely without us.
I use this slide in my talks to illustrate the urgency that Mother Nature is demanding. She talks about how we're doing so far in the Foreword of Outcry. And it ain't good.
As for the decline of the world's insects, the second chapter of Outcry contains some of the information referenced in the above slide. The following is the quote on this topic from the 2019 source article (The Guardian):
The 2.5% rate of annual loss over the last 25-30 years is "shocking", Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian: "It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none."
The Bottom Line. Homo sapiens appear to have a rapidly approaching expiration date -- and hardly anyone is talking about it. Oh sure, a great many people are talking about climate change. But no one has described a viable, overall system of human occupation of this planet that would give us even the slightest chance of longterm survival.
We threw out a few ideas along those lines in Outcry and asked a lot of questions -- in an effort to spark a global conversation on this most crucial of all topics.
Per Dr. James Lovelock, our future as a species is riding on how quickly we can shift to living in such a manner that actually improves the natural world -- a world that we have been trashing for the past two centuries.
So how do we get that done? We don't even know if it is possible, no matter what we do.
As we suggested in Outcry, our best hope begins with a vision of the most sustainable way of living that we can imagineer -- using today's technology. And it would help greatly, if one of the visionaries was among the wealthiest, smartest, most famous and most admired people in the world -- someone like Bill Gates.
To help jumpstart the conversation
, maybe Bill's PR team and the TED folks could put together a few round-table discussions with Gates and a handful of outside-the-box thinkers like James Lovelock, Yuval Noah Harari
, T. Colin Campbell, James Cameron, E.O. Wilson, Stephen Emmott
and Elon Musk -- all moderated by the top guy at TED, Chris Anderson.
For their first discussion, I would love to see them address humanity's most important question that is posed here on this image from Outcry.
Hopefully someone will send a link to this SOS Memo to Chris Anderson at TED -- a man who might be able to make that round-table discussion a reality sooner rather than later. It's about time that the most important topic in the world actually becomes the most talked-about -- by some of the most powerful and influential people in the world.
Then, after enough global conversation regarding what it will take to save our species -- an unprecedented coalition of leadership, wealth, and power will eventually come together and figure out exactly what must be done.
Much of the content in today's SOS Memo is similar to the message that we deliver in Outcry -- a message that includes a vision of how that new, sustainable civilization might look.
It all begins with the conversation, a word that was used over fifty times in our book. To my knowledge, Outcry remains the only book ever published that features an envisioned, totally-green, ultra-sustainable, super-desirable, future habit for humans -- along with steps for how we might get there using today's technology.