SOS #86    J. Morris Hicks    (12-31-20)  
Making Crucial, Complex Issues Simple

Due to inaction on the part of the world's leaders, my New Year's message gets more urgent each year. 

In a nutshell, this memo is all about making things simple when it comes to what we can do to give ourselves the best possible chance of surviving as a species. Here's a link to what I wrote this time last year. 

A little background. After earning a degree in Industrial Engineering and an MBA, I have enjoyed a lengthy career in business where my primary mission has always been to try my best to make complex things as simple as they could possibly be.

Some of my favorite professors stressed the importance of always trying to make things ultra-simple -- so that the least knowledgeable and/or least intelligent members of the team -- would have no trouble understanding the "big picture" of what we might be trying to do. 

So what are we humans trying to do now? We are trying to figure out how we can learn to survive and thrive in harmony with nature on this very special planet. 

The main problem that we Homo sapiens have -- is that the vast majority of the world's most powerful leaders have no idea that the future of our species is in jeopardy. Many of them talk about climate change, but none have come up with a workable strategy for transforming our grossly unsustainable civilization into an Earth-friendly one. 
The latest example. Earlier this week, on December 28, there was a climate piece published by the editorial board of the New York Times. It was entitled "
Joe Biden Takes Climate Change Seriously

While I do believe that the new Biden team means well, the climate-related moves they have made so far demonstrate their lack of a comprehensive, "big picture" understanding of what drives climate change and what we must do to even have a chance to slow it down. 

Honestly, the best part about the article was this colorful, nature-focused, Earth-friendly image of our nation's presidential seal. Too bad it's only a fantasy.

So what was my main beef with the article? Quite simply, this: In an article with well over 1,000 words, there was not a single word about our food choices. Of course, that omission was not a surprise to me.

To be honest, I would have been much more surprised had they chosen to actually mention our food choices -- the single most powerful action against climate change that all Americans, indeed all citizens of the developed world, could make on their own. 

That's because I do not know of a single world leader -- anywhere -- who understands that what we choose to eat has more to do with climate change than almost anything else that we do. Indeed, two World Bank researchers, Robert Goodland & Jeff Anhang drew this jaw-dropping conclusion eleven years ago:

"Our analysis shows that livestock and their by-products actually account for at least 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions." 

Their report, pictured above, was published in November of 2009 on

Of course, if the livestock industry is responsible for "at least" 51% of our human-driven GHG emissions, then that means that our choosing to eat animal-based foods is doing more to promote climate change than all other forms of human endeavor COMBINED. I use the word "choosing" for a reason. Read on...

Robert Goodland, The World Bank, Lead Author of Livestock & Climate Change
Of course, some will argue that the 51% number is way too high. What if it is a little high? What if it is only 25% or only 18%, as the United Nations reported in the their lengthy 2006 report, Livestock's Long Shadow?

Regardless of what you choose to believe, our food choices are the ONLY major driver of climate change that we as individuals can address independently. Some, of course, would argue that there is no way we can remove animal-based foods from our diet -- because they truly believe that we must eat lots of meat & dairy to be healthy. 

That huge misunderstanding is what led me, in 2015, to coin a term that I refer to as:

The Protein Myth 

Because of the mistaken, yet nearly ubiquitous, belief that humans actually need to eat animal protein to be healthy -- a host of incredibly powerful, plant-based solutions to the world's most serious health, hunger and sustainability crises never even make it to the table for consideration.
That protein myth results in what I refer to as Locked Brain Syndrome, a devastating condition that affects the vast majority of the world's most powerful and best-educated citizens -- a group that includes President-elect Biden and his team. 

The Bottom Line. I am not here today, on New Year's Eve, to bash our newly elected national leadership team. I am simply here to try to help jolt the entire world into thinking differently about so many aspects of of the way we live. 

Last week, I wrote about a presentation that I was preparing for the McDougall Climate Seminar that will take place on January 9. If you missed that memo, here is another link to it.

This week, my New Year's gift to you is an early look at the entire deck of forty-five PowerPoint slides that comprise the visual portion of my 20-minute talk referenced above. As for helping to make complex things simple, this is about the best that I can do.

For a more in-depth version of our best thinking about our best chances for surviving as a species, I invite you to consider sharing an e-copy of Outcry with your loved ones. 

Happy New Year!
J. Morris (Jim) Hicks

PS: As for the President-elect, here is a "giant" letter that I sent to him multiple times in early 2016 while he was running that Cancer Moonshot project. I even sent one on a "giant" poster board. All I got back was a "form" letter. 

On a personal note, after being introduced to Robert Goodland by my friend Colin Campbell about ten years ago, I was just getting to know him via email when he suddenly passed away -- on December 28, 2013. Since then, I have gotten to know his World Bank colleague, Jeff Anhang.

You can join my mailing list and/or find all of my previous postings by visiting the SOS Memos page on my website.

My first blog on the crucial topic of totally reinventing our civilization was posted 9-21-18 and heads the list below. It was all about GRATOLA, an acronym that refers to a "green region" corridor running from Atlanta to Los Angeles. 

Since then, I have posted almost 100 additional pieces on that topic, including this one on 9-4-19 in which I introduced the GBN (Great Big Northern) -- one 25-mile wide corridor along the USA's northernmost border that would theoretically be capable of sustainably housing ALL 300+ million Americans in an area the size of Oregon.

You can find all of my SOS Memos at this page on my website. Here are a few of them:
As always, I will continue to focus on this crucial topic - in my research, my writing and my speaking. 

Promoting health, hope and harmony on planet Earth

Moonglow J. Morris Hicks

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