Bill Gates is no stranger to innovation, troubleshooting, and looking to the future. And what this entrepreneur-turned-humanitarian sees is a future marked not by the consumption of animal products, but by a gradual turn to a plant-based lifestyle.
Gates is a co-founder of Microsoft and along with his wife, Melinda, and father, Bill Gates, Sr., he is now co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
This organization promotes healthy choices and positive change around the planet. The Foundation’s website states that they “work to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” And it appears that adopting a plant-based lifestyle could be an integral part of this mission.
On January 29, 2010, Gates supported the plant-based lifestyle at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. In another video that has been broadcast on youtube, Gates discusses the future of meat consumption, noting that vegetarian alternatives are more efficient and healthier for the planet.
Gates, whose business prowess put Microsoft on the map, examines the supply and demand issue with our food system with the same business-oriented perspective that has helped Microsoft grow into a global success.
Gates states, “So all these companies that are taking these animal products – the milk, the eggs, the chicken, the beef – and actually coming up with a way of using largely plant-based material to make these things that are both cheaper, probably more healthy, less cruelty involved, less green house gas emissions. It is quite a phenomenal thing. People can be enthused for…any of about five or six different reasons….I think it’s a huge thing.”
Gates also discusses peoples’ reluctance to turn to a plant-based diet. “It’s one of those things that will confound the pessimists, because when they see this increased intensity of animal product consumption as part of increased income and it should be about what people want,” he stated in the video.
“The fact of innovation will give them the equivalent without those negative facts at lower prices.”
Gates concludes his speech by stating that science and innovation will soon become part of the mainstream dialogue. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation works for positive, healthy changes for people worldwide, and agricultural innovation and amendments are an integral part of this mission.
The funds invested through the foundation for agricultural projects range from sustainable land management to giving farmers a better education with a distinct focus on helping poor families feed themselves.
In addition to receiving support from Gates and organizations such as the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM), environmental studies support the benefits of plant-based diets. Henning Steinfeld, Chief of FAO’s Livestock Information and Policy Branch and senior author of the report, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” notes that “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”
The United Nations FAO report notes that meat and dairy production generate more greenhouse emissions than transport, occupies 33% of the world’s arable land and 30% of the total land surface, and drives deforestation to clear new pastures, especially in Latin America, where 70% of the Amazon forests have already been turned over to grazing. Meat and dairy production also pollute the water and undermine biodiversity, with 15 out of 24 important ecosystems assessed as “in decline,” with livestock identified as the culprit.
University of Chicago professors Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin state that plant-based diets are also markedly better for the environment, as plant-based diets use less fossil fuel. Eshel and Martin found that plant-based diets reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year – the equivalent difference of an SUV vs. a compact car.
Meat-centered diets require 10-20 times as much land as plant-based diets, with nearly half of the world’s grains and soybeans currently being fed to nonhuman animals to raise them for human consumption.
Meat-centered diets and animal agriculture also destroy agricultural land. Clear-cutting for pastureland depletes topsoil. Without root systems to hold the land together, topsoil is carried off and destroyed by the elements. Irrigation accounts for more than 80% of all water available for human use, resulting in widespread water shortages.
Pasado’s is delighted that Bill Gates envisions a future that is healthier, kinder, and better for the environment. Espousing the benefits of a plant-based diet dovetails nicely with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s desire to “work to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.” Together, we can work toward a healthier planet, beginning in our own kitchens, gardens, and neighborhoods.