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This is the 10th installment in our coverage of Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis In One Generation by Paul Hawken – and today we discuss the topic of Industry. From Big Food to Healthcare, Banking to Poverty, Plastics to Fashion – solutions are ready and ripe for implementation and it will take all of us pushing in concert to spirit forward significant change quickly. This episode will get you thinking about how you can be part of that positive movement for regenerative industries around the globe.
If you are new to the series, consider starting at the beginning with my pre-interview introduction to Paul Hawken. To make your discovery process easy, links to each Regeneration episode are included in chronological order below time stamps.
NOTE: You can also visit www.CareMoreBeBetter.com for access to the complete series simply by clicking on the Regeneration Category of podcasts.
01:00 Summary of Our Regeneration Journey So far
02:45 Industry = Degenerative and Extractive (but it doesn’t have to be)
04:50 Big Food – Edible Products or “Foodlike Substances” (Michael Pollan’s preferred term)
07:20 Healthcare Industry and The Big Pharma / Big Food / Obesity Connection
11:05 Banking Industry
13:40 Payday Lending vs. Floats – https://www.caremorebebetter.com/from-shady-payday-loans-to-floats/
14:44 War Industry – And The Big Question Who Benefits? And Can These Resources Be Re-Allocated Towards Regeneration
17:20 Politics Industry
20:27 Clothing Industry – Ending Fast Fashion and Our Reliance On Petroleum Based Clothing plus notes on Caroline Priebe’s work at the Center for the Advancement of Garment Making: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/fast-fashion-and-how-to-style-sustainably/
23:26 Plastics Industry and the LAUGHABLE Facts Around Our Overconsumption Practices
26:04 On Plastics: Upcycling Plastic – From Research To Industry
26:36 On Plastics: Promising Progress From Paris, France, Germany & Norway
27:54 Poverty Industry, Extreme Poverty + The Private Prison Problem
31:08 From Carbon Offsets To Carbon Onsets
Introduction to Regeneration: One Billion Climate Activists Strong: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/one-billion-climate-activists-strong/
Regeneration Interview with Paul Hawken: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-ending-the-climate-crisis-in-one-generation/
Regeneration Part 1 Oceans: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-1-oceans/
Regeneration Part 2 Forests: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-2-forests/
Regeneration Part 3 Wilding: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-3-wilding/
Regeneration Part 4 Nexus: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-4-nexus-climate-activism-tool/
Regeneration Part 5 Regenerative Agriculture: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-5-land-regenerative-agriculture-and-soil-restoration-to-reverse-global-warming/
Regeneration Part 6 People: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part-6-people-indigeneity-and-our-role-in-reversing-global-warming/
Regeneration Part 7 Cities: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part7-cities-green-architecture-living-building-challenge/
Regeneration Part 8 Food: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part8-food-localization-and-decommodification-to-end-the-climate-crisis/
Regeneration Part 9 Energy: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regeneration-part9-food-energy-renewal-use-and-storage-as-we-say-goodbye-to-fossil-fuels/
Climate Activism By Design with David Johnson: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/climate-activism-by-design/
Be A Green Change Leader with Anca Novacovici: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/be-a-green-change-leader/
Regenerative Agriculture with Tom Newmark: https://www.caremorebebetter.com/regenerative-agriculture-the-answer-to-the-climate-crisis/
Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis In One Generation was published on September 21, 2021 and is available at all your favorite booksellers. Visit the Regeneration website for details, resources, and valuable tools for anyone interested in becoming a climate activist.
Regeneration + Nexus: https://www.regeneration.org
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Welcome regenerators! This is the 10th installment in my coverage of Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis In One Generation by Paul Hawken – and today we’re going to step right to it as we talk about Industry. We’ll revisit Big Food which we covered in our recent interview with Tom Newmark, founder of The Carbon Underground and also in Part 8, when we covered Big Food and part 6 when we covered the subject of People. We’ll also dig into the industries of Healthcare, War, Fashion, Plastics and Poverty. Some of these topics are rather tightly knit together so there will be some overlap.
If you’re new to this series, I encourage you to start from the beginning. The easiest way to do this is to visit my website: CareMoreBeBetter.com and click on this, most recent episode. You’ll see entire show notes, and if you click on the category of “Regeneration” listed next to the episode, you’ll be directed to a page that lists out the entire series. Start from the bottom, and work your way on up!
When you visit caremorebebetter.com you can review transcripts, YouTube videos of my interviews with key guests including Paul Hawken, Tom Newmark, David Johnson and Anca Novacovici. Each of these guests is well informed on the subject of climate activism, sustainable business, and regeneration. Each offers more depth to the stories we – and in my humble opinion, these leaders are among the many we need to learn from and listen to.
While you’re on my site, you can even leave me a voicemail and share your thoughts by clicking the microphone in the bottom right-hand corner – or send me an e-mail note from the contact page. And remember – feel free to leave any questions you might have for Paul Hawken about this book and his work with Regeneration.org. At the end of this series, I’ll be submitting a list of community questions to him so he can answer them directly for all of you.
If you’re enjoying this series and podcast, I would love your support. As a listener supported show, every contribution helps us keep chugging along. You can become a Patreon supporter for as little as $2 a month, buy sustainable merch – or even make a one-time donation securely right on caremorebebtter.com.
I’m sure you can tell – this episode has the potential to get really bleak with all the problems facing us from a variety of industries. We know that cheap products don’t come without a cost on the environment, and the existing business model of most communities – that of capitalism and an extractive economy — doesn’t incentivize a more mindful industry. Industry accounts for 30% of global energy consumption – 95% of which comes from non-renewable resources – fossil fuels. For more on that, you can go back to last week’s episode on Energy.
But as with this entire series, Paul remains hopeful and encourages that same sentiment in all of us. That being said, we must acknowledge the simple fact that Industry is extractive – and as such is degenerative – the exact opposite of what we are working to achieve here.
“Every industry is a system, and every industrial system is extractive, whether it be for energy, food, agriculture, pharma, transport, clothing or healthcare… Extraction takes resources from the living world, which causes harm. The result is less life. Extraction is thus degenerative.”
- Paul Hawken, Ending the Climate Crisis In One Generation (p. 215)
While it will take time to shift from extractive economies, the writing is on the wall. Big companies have announced that they’re committed to becoming regenerative businesses. Used clothing is becoming more mainstream, championed by companies like Patagonia with their “Warn Wear” sold in store, right next to their new items – not to mention their ongoing commitment to repair damaged garments. The big question Paul asks us to think about is simply this: How do we come together, get it done, and make right the damage we have collectively done to communities around the globe and to our home planet? How can we reverse global warming?
The food industry is the largest industry in the world. We must all eat, every day, after all. But much of the “big food” we produce is only food in name. It’s food in the same way that cheese whiz is cheese. It’s perhaps better referred to as an edible product. Edible doesn’t mean nutritious.
Food shouldn’t cause metabolic disease – but highly processed edible products certainly do. Chips, Soda Pop, Fast Food, Bars, just to name a few. And these types of “big food” make “big money”. Their margins are better than raw foods. They are packaged products more than real food.
“While farmers large and small struggle to break even on a year-to-year basis, the top ten food companies never have a bad ear. In 2019, their revenue exceeded $500 billion. The bulk of Big Food’s sales come from ultra-processed foods, or, in Michael Pollan’s words, ‘foodlike substances’.”
As you might have guessed, I prefer to think of them as simply “edible”.
And let’s not forget — nearly 60% of the calories consumed in the US come from ultraprocessed sources. Trans Fats, Preservatives, Artificial Colors, Artificial Flavors – not to mention the glyphosate and other damaging pollutants that come along for the ride.
Paul introduces us in this chapter to a simple concept – something that won’t surprise you – nutritional hunger. What this simply means is hunger driven by the lack of adequate nutrition. This is a driver of overconsumption and obesity. When you don’t eat nutrient-dense foods, guess what, you’re still hungry. So what is the solution? Limit the production of foodlike substances or simply “edible products”. Yeah, you can eat it. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. In his closing paragraph in this chapter Paul states:
“The number one solution to human health and regenerative agriculture is to stop purchasing ultraprocessed food.”
I’m fairly certain you can imagine how that simple action by all of us can create big change.
Not surprisingly, the direct connection between Big Food and Big Pharma can be seen in our waistlines and in our declining health. For too long, allopathic systems have focused on treating the symptom and not the cause. So by shifting our perspective to create more healthy solutions, Big Pharma suffers. While we address our economic systems, we’ll also need to address how our healthcare system operates. Here are a few startling statistics:
- The worldwide adult obesity rate has increased six-fold since 1975
- 6% of adults over the age of 20 are overweight or obese in the US, leading the rest of the world which sits at 42.5%
- In 1980 Diabetics numbered 108 million globally and in 2019, that number had climbed to 463 million
At the same time, with rising temperatures around the globe and an aging baby boomer generation, now in their 70s, the incidence of deaths due to heat exposure are also climbing. Areas that never needed an air conditioner are facing heat waves of calamitous proportions. Just a few months ago – that was the reality in Northern Oregon, where ice and water stations were put up to support local communities that weren’t accustomed to such intense heat. Homes with poor insulation and no air-conditioning, and especially mobile homes became like ovens, baking their residents inside.
“The interlinking effects of rising temperatures, environmental degradation, poverty, displacement, disease, and extreme weather require a comprehensive medical response rather than a symptomatic one. Human health is an outcome of healthy food and diet, which is dependent on healthy soil, which is an outcome of healthy agriculture. Highly processed foods are low in nutrients and high in unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar. Diet constitutes the direct cause of obesity, diabetes and virtually all metabolic and cardiovascular disease. It is said that the United States cannot afford a public healthcare system, but it seems the United States can afford a public sick system, also known as Big Food”. – Paul Hawken, Ending the Climate Crisis In One Generation (p. 221)
By now, you should know there would be a silver lining. For one, we regenerative agriculture and agroforestry is on the rise. And – an entirely new field of medicine is emerging – one that takes us one step beyond the “alternative medicine” of yesterday – and that is Regenerative Medicine. At its core is a focus on the human microbiome. Since we have more foreign cells in our bodies than our own, restoring our gut flora is one major step towards solving health challenges even for people who have had terrible diets for a long time. Increasing consumption of fresh, healthy foods while supplementing with probiotics, omega-3s, phytonutrients, and multivitamins and minerals can work to be a part of the solution we need. More doctors and medical professionals are starting to understand the incredible power of a few supplementary tools to restore cellular health.
Simply put — probiotic regenerative medicine makes the microbiome more diverse and responsive – exactly the way that regenerative agriculture restores soil.
In last week’s episode I shared a confession – that I had just learned that JP Morgan Chase was the largest funder of big oil out there – and that has spurred my decision to switch banks – so it feels appropriate to dig a little deeper this week into the Banking Industry.
“Demands that banks stop financing fossil fuels are having an effect. In 2017, ING Group forbade transactions linked to any aspect of the tar sands. BNP Paribas announced that it would not finance tar sands or shale oil. These banks were joined by Societe Generale, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, Norges Bank (with its $1 trillion wealth fund), and others.” – Paul Hawken, Ending the Climate Crisis In One Generation (p. 225)
It’s really nice to see that big banks and big funds are taking notice – but they are also doing so somewhat selfishly. It makes good business sense. Returns on oil are way down, and returns on renewable energy are WAY UP. They see the writing on the walls and they’re investing in the future. And banks will need to do more than just focus on the energy sector if we’re to reach 2030 goals.
“If banks do not support investments that lead to net-zero carbon emissions, including regenerative agriculture, carbon positive buildings, afforestation and proforestation, it won’t happen.” — ibid, (p. 225)
But even if traditional big banks don’t come to our rescue here, innovative emerging banking systems birthed in fintech (financial technology) might. There are independent and green banks to choose from too. The Global Alliance for Banking on Values is a “people-focused international network of banks devoted to sustainable development.” See. There is hope.
And a fintech company that may change the system is called “Good Money”. They practice what they call “positive banking”. No minimum balance. No overdraft fees. No monthly fees. No ATM fees. Wouldn’t that be lovely.
Did you know that Big Banks in the US charged $34 Billion to their customers in 2017 for overdraft fees? This practice prays on the impoverished and contributes to a cycle of debt that is in my opinion, criminal.
So as I move my funds to another bank, I am deep in research, and taking suggestions. If you have a bank you love that you know is doing great things – tell me! I want my money to do good, even if it’s just sitting in a bank account. I’ll be sure to share my choice when I get there – and perhaps you can join me in ensuring your saved money is also doing good work.
As we transition to talking about the industry of war, Paul quotes a speech titled “Chance of Peace” by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. I’ll read it in its entirety since it’s so apropos.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed… The cost of ne modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than thirty cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of sixty thousand population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than eight thousand people… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
- Former President, Dwight D. Eisenhower in his speech “Chance of Peace”, 1953.
As you can imagine the costs of war have kept pace with the costs of building and infrastructure – and they have even gotten worse. Paul points out that with the resources spent on one B-2 bomber could pay for 75 middle schools, 72 solar power plants that serve 4.15 million, 36 fully equipped hospitals, and 281,000 electric vehicle charging stations. A single F-35 Lightning fighter jet costs 22 million bushels of wheat. A Zumwalt Destroyer has an equivalent cost of building new homes to house 58,000 people.
As you can see the costs have increased dramatically. And who benefits from this war industry? 164 countries have armed forces – and 32 ongoing conflicts are happening around the world. What would happen if these resources were instead employed in support of communities and in support of the regeneration movement? It may sound far-fetched, but if you think about the fact that military is already deployed to help handle the aftermath of severe storms and climate impacts like wildfires, it actually moves into the frame of possibility. We’ve seen their work in Puerto Rico, Australia and my home state of California in recent past.
So as we think about how governments play a role in reversing global warming and regenerating earth – let’s think about the politics of it all. The political machine is in fact an industry. It creates campaigns, it advertises. As a whole the Political Industry is known to downplay facts, push forward selfish agendas, and ultimately placate the populous they serve. This is demonstrated by the simple fact that while 2/3 Americans are worried about our climate crisis, policies and laws that would help reverse global warming are painfully slow to be adopted. And part of the reason for the discord we experience in the United States comes from the fact that we have a duopoly – a 2 party system – in which it is very difficult for a third option to win. This actually encourages negative advertising, smear campaigns, and stalls progress towards something greater. In this section, Paul shares thoughts on a ranked-choice voting system in primary elections to advance the top 4-5 candidates to the general election. Then when the final election occurs, we would vote in the same way, ranking our choices, say from the top 3. The winner would still be the person with the highest percentage of support, but it would be calculated a little bit differently. The beauty of this system is that it would focus on gaining consensus more and polarizing less. It would allow for third party candidates to become more mainstream. It would also ensure that the Nader-effect that played out in our 2000 presidential elections would not prevent a presidential candidate like Al Gore from becoming president. The will of the people would come first – which really is the way the whole system is supposed to work.
Like most things, this type of change will have to come from local elections first. One of the problems we see in our electoral system is that even when people are very unhappy with their political body, they tend to re-elect the incumbent – 85 – 91% of the time in fact. So… Perhaps there’s yet another way to run elections. California residents may recall. Ok. I didn’t mean to make this punny but it is. They may recall a RECALL vote for Gavin Newsom, our governor, earlier this year. The first vote was whether or not to remove Newsom from office. The second vote was a choice for who to replace him if he were to lose his seat. This might be another method for allowing existing candidates who have held their legislative seat for a long time to be voted out when constituents are unhappy. Should the incumbent keep their job? Yes or no? If they should be replaced, who should they be replaced with? This type of approach could really change things for the better.
The clothing industry is something I’ve covered in-depth in this podcast through an interview with Caroline Priebe of The Center for the Advancement of Garment Making in episode 14. We talked about her experience working with deliberative and thoughtful eco-minded designers like Eileen Fisher who is also featured in this chapter of Regeneration. Caroline introduced the concept of “heirloom fashion” and proposed a thought that certain items might even be so well made and durable they could be passed down from one generation to the next. We explored Fast Fashion and the many problems that surround it – but I’ll cover some startling facts from Paul’s book here – and link to that episode with Caroline Priebe in show notes for all of you. Here goes.
- Fashion is a $2.5 trillion industry, having grown from $500 billion in 1990
- H&M had 4.3 billion worth of unsold clothes in 2018
- Burberry burned $37 million of its products to prevent it from being discounted
- In the US, 35.4 billion pounds of garments were landfilled in 2020 (estimated)
- More than 60% of clothing is synthetic – it will not break down for hundreds of years
The New Textiles Economy invites us to change our habits and our thinking
- Phase out toxic chemicals and synthetic microfibers – both of which are found in our food and water
- Change the way clothing is made and marketed to shift away from a perception that clothing is disposable – and more of a durable good
- Radically improve materials used in clothing manufacture
- Move to renewable energy and renewable feedstocks such as biopolymer yarns (replacing petroleum based synthetics altogether)
H&M, while a major culprit in our fast fashion industry is committed to becoming carbon positive with their supply chain by 2040. They also have a closer-term target of converting their business to use only recycled yarns and sustainably produced materials by 2030. See? Even behemoth companies can change their ways – and the impact they have will be far greater than simple changes we make in our personal lives. This is encouraging.
And we can do better. We can buy local. We can commit to using and buying non-synthetic clothing. We can even buy used. In a few episodes I’ve talked about used clothing, including an exploratory conversation about moving businesses to embrace green strategies with Anca Novacovici in episode 33. I will also include a link to that episode with show notes.
Moving on to PLASTICS and I want to personally thank Paul for making me chuckle a bit with the statistics he shares. Some of the comparisons are almost comical – while seriously unfunny
- 407 million tons of plastic are produced yearly, 30% more than the weight of all humanity
- In 2019 American companies exported over a billion pounds of plastic waste to over 95 countries in an attempt to get rid of it
- A million plastic bottles are purchased every minute
And since we’ve just finished talking about Fashion – we need to also consider recycling of plastic bottles into clothing. My graduation gown from Santa Clara University this June boasted the claim “I used to be a soda bottle” but the impact of that kind of recycling can actually be terrible. As Paul notes:
“Clothing fiber made from recycled single-use plastic bottles has become a popular alternative to polyester, a petroleum-based fabric, but all polyester clothes shed microplastics when they are washed, which end up in the ocean, where they do more harm than if they had remained a bottle.”
– Paul Hawken, Ending the Climate Crisis In One Generation (p. 236)
So, what do we do with all the plastic? Fortunately, there are some solutions presently being explored from a technological perspective that can upcycle plastic effectively. This is done by returning plastic to its virgin state by heating it without exposing it to any oxygen at all, and another is to literally break it down into its original components at a molecular level and rebuild it from there. Another solution is to make clean and pure drinking water widely available so that people don’t resort to disposable water solutions. Paris, FRANCE is leading the charge yet again – as they recently took back water rights from private companies Suez and Veolia. They installed better filtration systems and installed thousands of free water bottle refill stations all around Paris – even offering still and sparkling options! By going from private back to public they improved drinking water quality and lowered costs to consumers. Incredible! Paris is committed to becoming the first city to be completely plastic-waste free – and they are well on their way.
We can also employ a similar strategy to that in Germany – where a hefty deposit is required on every piece of plastic sold. When you return the packaging any grocery store in a “reverse-vending machine” you receive your deposit back as a voucher that can be redeemed for cash. In Norway a similar method is employed. For reference, in Norway, 97% of the plastic is recycled whereas only 30% is recycled in the US. It’s time for us to follow Germany’s lead.
As Paul winds down the content portion of this book, he reminds us that poverty is an industry. Industries of all sorts extract value from poor people and redistribute that wealth. It’s undeniable. It’s reality. There is some disagreement about what extreme poverty really looks like. From the World Bank’s perspective having $1.90 a day is the threshold by which they measure extreme poverty. Impoverished people, living in destitute conditions are reduced to a number on a chart. And here Paul goes again with the comparisons. Again making me chuckle about how ridiculous calling this situation “poverty” really is. He shares: “One month on this low level of income would mean that a months’ wages would be enough to buy one Lululemon bra, the hood ornament on a Mercedes, or two bags of Purina Dog Chow (with real chicken).”
And while the quality of life in many communities around the globe have improved in recent years, we still have a long way to come. Challenges of racism, classism, persecution and conviction spirit more problems into our every day. Prison funding alone is an $80 billion industry in the United States. 2.3 million people are in prison and another 4.4 million are on probation or parole. We keep them down and we keep them poor. The privatization of our prison system – turning it into a profitable industry – is itself, criminal.
We need to reverse centuries of prejudice to rid ourselves of the poverty industry. Our biases propagate its existence. When we look at impoverished people as “other” as “different” it’s not long before we start to think of them as not as smart or not as able or not as deserving. These are fallacies. When any of us think like this, we’re flat wrong.
Offsets to Onsets
If you’ve flown on a plane, or even made a purchase at certain ecommerce stores, you are likely aware of carbon offsets. These are fees you pay to a carbon offset fund that is meant to offset the carbon created from your purchase, or flight, or hotel stay has generated – absorbing that same amount of carbon at some point in the future. But is it real? Does it really work that way? As Paul points out, Carbon Credits have become quite lucrative for sellers and brokers – which creates a financial incentive that may override the spirit of the product they’re selling. The promised offset isn’t always delivered. A forest fire might burn that forest that had planned to sequester carbon. The natural world can be that way, not always predictable. Offsets are not guaranteed. Their impact may be too far down the road to create the future we want. So, as we close the book, and get ready for our activistic journey, Paul asks us to think about Carbon onsets.
“Instead of paying off a promissory note for your carbon debt, an onset pays your debt forward. It makes a payment to another person or community, possibly disadvantaged , for a subsequent good carbon deed. Instead of simply neutralizing the emissions from the twenty thousand miles you put on your car for a hundred dollars and pay forward the extra money to a verified project that draws down extra greenhouse gas emissions while restoring degraded land and improving the well-being of humans and nature. While it may take a while to see the benefits accrue, the course of action is proactive, not merely neutralizing.”
– Paul Hawken, Ending the Climate Crisis In One Generation (p. 246)
This has been our 10th installment in our coverage of Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation by Paul Hawken and by now, I think you know what to do. Next week we’ll connect one last time on this work as we explore the very last section on Action and Connection – and it will be much shorter than this weeks behemoth.
As we wrap up… I have three simple asks. The TLDL version is this:
- Share this Episode on social spaces. You can do so from our website or wherever you’re listening
- Leave us a written 5-star review on your favorite podcasting platform or on our website
- And Lastly, if you can, become a Patreon member to support our efforts.
OK, One final ask. I guess that makes 4. I hope you’ll ALSO send me a note with questions for Paul, or thoughts on what we can all do to support this regeneration movement. The subject of Regeneration is such an important topic – and we’re all in this together. It’s a crazy race through space and time — and it will take our collective effort to push the concepts of regeneration into action.
Every action you take to support this movement – and the care more be better show certainly helps keep me motivated and producing content. Visit caremorebebetter.com for all the ways you can make a difference and support the show.
Thank you, listeners, now and always for being a part of this pod and community – because together, we really can do so much more. We can care more and be better. We can regenerate earth.