Food as the New and Improved Pharma

The old saying “you are what you eat,” seems to have more often gone in one ear and out the other for most Americans. In modern society, there has been a serious disconnect between the quality and nutritional value of the food we eat and our health. That may finally be changing. A new branch of medicine known simply as “culinary medicine” seeks to put diet right at the heart of standard medical care. Tulane University even has a Center for Culinary Medicine. While it focuses on the traditional nexus of food and medicine (diabetes, obesity, heart disease), I’m hopeful that this is the start of a much broader look at this issue. That seems to be the approach of a new web site called “Dining with a Doc” that “celebrates food as medicine.”

Beyond connecting our diet to our health, we need to connect our diet to our planet. The impact of our meat-centric American diet on the environment is astounding. Studies show that more greenhouse gas emissions are produced from our industrial food chain than from the entire transportation sector combined. The optimal food choice for the planet is a plant-based choice. However, we don’t all have to become vegans overnight to make a difference. Just as switching to 25% wind power is better than nothing, reducing your consumption of meat and animal products by 25% is a great start.  Instead of a vegan diet, we can call this an “Eco Diet.”

Once you get it, you’ll get it. Making smart food choices is good for you and the planet you live on.  An Eco Diet cleans up your body and cleans the environment.  Need help? Just find a good nutritionist or a culinary doctor and you’ll be on the right path.


Time to Focus on Food

Turns out we should be focusing more on clean eating than clean energy. That’s the finding of a new documentary based on stats about greenhouse gas emissions. “Cowspiracy” shows convincingly that our industrial food system, especially the part that involves livestock, does more harm to the planet than possibly anything else. As far as greenhouse gases go, this sector produces more of them than the entire transportation sector. Maybe when we spent so much time lobbying for CAFÉ standards in DC, we should have focused on café food sourcing standards. Hopefully it’s not too late to turn our focus to food.

Despite inaction in Washington, we’ve made amazing strides in growing clean energy across the nation. The solar industry is growing by leaps and bounds while energy efficiency is becoming mainstream. In DC, we even got an increase in CAFÉ (fuel economy) standards under President Obama. Meanwhile, we appear to be floundering as a nation when it comes to deciding what we do about food. By food I mean the broad category that includes farming, livestock, delivery, sourcing, nutrition, advertising, and government subsidies. Because of this disarray, we have an increase in obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, the fish are disappearing, the Amazon is being chopped down, our water and air are being polluted, and yes, the ice caps are melting.

We need to elevate the dialogue on food policy just as we did for clean energy. There are so many amazing non-profits and food businesses that are already creating a buzz, as well as effecting real change. But to me, it seems that there is no unifying frame to convey the various food related messages – organic, local, plant-based, grass-fed, non-GMO, fair trade, etc. As authors Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador and Olivier Schutter point out in their article, “How a National Food Policy Could Save Millions of American Lives,” the Federal government has a role to play in shaping the agenda. The business community, local and state governments, farmers and other stakeholders all have a large role to play. The first step is to start the conversation – there’s no time to waste.

Cap and Dividend – the Greatest Idea for Fighting Climate Change that Nobody’s Heard of

Congressman Chris Van Hollen has a well-earned reputation of being one of the smartest people in DC. His bill to dramatically cut the greenhouse gases that cause global warming is just the latest exhibit to support this contention. Along with the Mike Tidwell at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN)  and Peter Barnes, Mr. Van Hollen has crafted a piece of legislation that solves the puzzle of fighting climate change while not harming the economy, and particularly lower to middle income people. The bill is only 28 pages (unlike the cap and trade bill of years past, which was over 1,000 pages) and puts forth a very simple proposition. The companies that create pollution upstream have to pay for permits to the U.S. government, which then takes 100% of that money and writes checks to every American adult. The framework would stay in place until we reach an 80% reduction in emissions, though that can be adjusted based on the latest science.

The beauty of the bill is its simplicity. It does not require a massive trading system, or thousands of pages of new regulations on millions of businesses. It simply requires the big guys upstream (think Exxon-Mobil) to pay, and then has the American people collect. A study by U-Mass Economics Professor James Boyce found that 80% of American households would come out ahead financially. That means, in effect, a “tax cut” for most Americans. And who are the 20% that might not come out ahead? The most affluent, who will easily have the ability to reduce their energy use and thus come out ahead as well.

So, what’s the problem?

Nobody outside of green circles and the Beltway will know a thing about this bill. It will not be brought up in the House, and there’s no Senate version. How can the American people embrace an idea they never hear about?

So, the #1 priority for climate groups right now should be to get the word out. We’ve got such a great concept that we should welcome debate on it in the public forum. To that end, here’s my idea:

Create a series of Lincoln-Douglas style debates in every Congressional district in the country. Identify our team of experts who will represent our side, and invite a rep from the other side. There have to be clear rules to keep the debate civil and organized. No screaming sessions. Invite local groups, the local media, and local officials. This will spark a lot of excitement among activists, will get the word out to the average American, and be a great organizing tool for advocacy. Unlike television or other media based ads, you can debate the points the other side brings up, and when we win these debates, people will not doubt the credibility of our claims. I volunteer for the Maryland 8th district. Let’s get it going!






How Intelligent Naivety Can Help the Climate Movement Part 2

A continuing series on Challenger Brand Credos and the Climate Movement

Sometimes, or I should say, for some audiences, emotion can be more powerful than facts. What intelligent naivety brings to the table is an ability to inject new emotion into a tired, or stale category. The climate movement definitely matches this description and could use a little more intelligent naivety.

In the book, Eating the Big Fish, they bring many examples of brands that brought new emotions into a category and did very well. Examples include Bratz putting an “urban sassiness” into the Barbie doll category, and Altoids putting “pain” into the breath mint category. The idea of putting new emotion into the category isn’t just about making something fun or different. As Eating the Big Fish notes, it’s about dramatically simplifying choices for consumers by creating new criteria for choice and thus giving them a new way of thinking and feeling about the category.

In the climate movement, we present consumers with far too many choices, from the fact-based scientific choices to the policy heavy legislative choices, and everything in between. Yes, we sometimes use emotion as in the times we try to use polar bear families as a way to illustrate the dramatic loss of sea ice from climate change. On the other hand, if you look at the broader “climate” category, there really seem to only be four choices at the moment – it’s happening , man is causing it and man can solve it; it’s not happening; I don’t know if it’s happening or not; or it’s happening but part of a natural cycle and we can’t do anything to stop it. In the climate movement, we of course made the first choice. What emotions does that choice evoke? I say fear is front and foremost. When we throw in the part about solutions, we put hope into the equation.

What emotions cause people to fall into one of these “choices?” Is it possible to get people to move from one choice to another (kind of like getting them to switch breath mints)? What would a marketing campaign, using intelligent naivety, look like if we were trying to eliminate some of these choices or get consumers to switch? What if we started with the premise that our campaign will not involve either trying to prove to people that climate change is happening? That would be an interesting way to restart the climate movement.


How Can Intelligent Naivety Help the Climate Movement?

Part 3 in my series on how adopting a challenger brand approach can help change the climate movement.

Now that we’ve got a good grasp of the climate brands, we can move on to exploring the first Challenger Credo, Intelligent Naivety.  The concept here is simple – sometimes the more you know about a subject, the less you are able to look at it with discerning eyes. This applies to messaging to non-experts, examining organizational structure, and coming up with the clichéd “outside the box” solutions that sometimes work the best.

Intelligent naivety refers to a person who lacks experience in a given category, but of course is smart and perhaps experienced in other related areas. For example, somebody who is an amazing communicator but doesn’t know anything about the energy industry could bring intelligent naivety to the industry and figure out a new way to motivate people to switch to clean energy. Some notable examples of people whose intelligent naivety revolutionized categories are Richard Branson, going from selling rock albums to starting an airline business, and Jeff Bezos, going from managing a hedge fund to starting Amazon as an on-line book seller.

In the climate movement, we could dearly benefit from some new perspectives. Many of us have been immersed in the field for more than a dozen years, with some leaders in environmental NGO’s harking back to the original Kyoto Protocol negotiations in the 90’s. Yet our “consumers,” the audience we want to reach has not had even close to the day-in, day-out exposure that we’ve had. So, yeah, how do we communicate to them in a way that makes sense?

As pointed out in Eating the Big Fish,  approaching a category with intelligent naivety allows one to step back and ask what they call the “upstream” questions that those of us immersed in the area have forgotten to keep asking. Basic questions like, ‘why does our movement have to be about this, and not about that,” and “why do we lead with this frame and not another frame?” I’m talking about the type of questions that go at the very beginning of our work, before we had all these NGO’s and other interest groups. A key approach for one with intelligent naivety is to skip over the part where we ask the public how they feel about the category (‘what’s your view on climate change?’) and go to the fundamental question – how can we change the relationship we have with the public as it currently stands?

A specific example might help clarify this vital point. A few years back, if you had done market research, including focus groups and polls with the public about what they want in dish soap, you’d probably almost only hear about more effective products, maybe at a lower cost, and maybe with less chemicals. In other words, better benefits to fit the typical “problem-solution” marketing approach. This is what I mean when I talk about asking the public about a category. In Eating the Big Fish, however, the author relates the story of method.  Eric Ryan, the company’s founder, found a way to change the public’s relationship with the category by asking more of a “why not” kind of question. His question in essence was, why couldn’t a household cleaning product attract the millions of homeowners who care deeply about their home’s appearance and style? The result, of course, was a line of products put in exquisitely designed containers that look good sitting on the counter in your re-designed kitchen. The main point is that Ryan couldn’t have poll-tested or focus grouped his product into existence because consumers wouldn’t have even articulated a need for a product like method had he done so.

What’s our equivalent in the climate movement? What questions could be right below the surface that the public can’t articulate just yet? The answers to these questions could change the very nature of the public’s relationship with the climate movement.


Defining our Climate Movement Brand(s)

Part two of my series on how adopting a “Challenger Brand” mentality can help the movement to stop climate change.

Before we go into the Challenger Brand credos laid out in “Eating the Big Fish,” we need to understand what exactly is the “brand” part of “Challenger Brand?”

Definition of Brand.  Brand used to simply mean the name given to a product or service, but now it has morphed into generally speaking, the consumer’s perception of your company or of a specific product. This perception can be based on values, quality, price, etc.  Seth Godin has a good definition:

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.

Considering those definitions, let’s try to figure out what our brand is in the climate movement.

Brand Description Strength Weakness Target Audience Best “Product”
Brand A Expert scientists or science-based groups Knowledge Communication Govt’, Intellectuals Reports, Statistics, Facts
Brand B Left wing activists fighting against “the man,” especially college age students. Passion Credibility Youth, deep greens Call to Action, Organizing
Brand C Serious policy wonks, politicians, and political insiders Access Vanilla Politicians, partisan elites Talking Points for Leaders
Brand D Renewable energy companies Economic Dev Financial Motives Geo targeted by jobs, business elite Economic argument
Brand E Wealthy individuals, actors, musicians, and other well-known celebrities Broad reach Credibility Youth, business elite Hipness
Brand F Other “progressive” type businesses Unique Voice Knowledge of issue Their consumers, politicians Hipness

There’s No Use Arguing

Here’s a reminder to my friends and colleagues in the saving-the-world work of fighting climate change – know your audience! Don’t bother arguing about climate change with people who think it’s a hoax or some plot to turn the world socialist. They will never be convinced to do the right thing. As a real-world lesson on this, allow me to share a recent Facebook exchange I had with my cousin’s friend. My cousin would never call himself a tea party guy, but his FB posts are filled with hatred for Obama, liberals, and environmentalists. I normally ignore most of his posts, but unfortunately took the bait this time. My cousin’s friend, apparently, is even more to the fringe. A recent post on his FB page has the headline, “New Evidence Reveals Obama and Hillary Found Conspiring to End Criticism of Islam in America.”

After reading the debate, I hope you draw the same conclusions I did:

  1. I need to ignore my cousin’s Facebook rants.
  2. We should NEVER engage the deniers in debate. It doesn’t get anywhere, unless it’s in front of an audience of persuadable people, but even then is likely not worth it.
  3. Their knowledge is only surface level. If any of us has even a small amount of actual knowledge, they are very easy to defeat.
  4. Al “Bore” is a great straw man character to create (I got dibs!).

I’m interested in hearing other conclusions we can draw from this, if any.

Out of privacy concerns, I’ve renamed my cousin and his friend, picking at random from a names dictionary I came up with Cousin Cletus and his friend Goober.

I’ll take a little Editor’s prerogative and point out that my mention of the ice melting in 100 years refers to Antarctica, not the polar ice caps. Otherwise, here’s the debate  exactly as it happened, with links to content as well.

Cletus shared a link via The Daily Caller.

June 13

SHHHHHH ! ! ! ! !


Study: West Antarctic Glacier Melt Due To Volcanoes, Not Global Warming

A new study by researchers at the University of Texas, Austin found that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is collapsing due to geothermal heat, not man-made global warming….

Top of Form

Goober:  AL effing Gore SAID the ice sheet would be melted by 2014 DUE TO carbon emissions. All you ever here from people who support this hoax when antithetical science is published that totally skewers the idea is “yeah well that doesn’t matter”. Its still……..fart.

June 13 at 9:13am ·

Gary Skulnik Amazing how the media can distort science. If you check out the press release from the actual scientists who did the study (and published it in the Proceedings of the Natl Academy of Science), you’d see that they don’t come anywhere near to the conclusion that a) global warming isn’t happening bc of man-made emissions, and b) global warming has nothing to do with the glacier’s ice melt.

June 13 at 10:27am ·

Gary Skulnik Check it out here:…/06/10/antarctic-glacier-melting/

Researchers Find Major West Antarctic Glacier Melting from Geothermal Sources | News

Thwaites Glacier, the large, rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, is not only being eroded by the ocean, it?s

June 13 at 10:27am ·

Gary Skulnik In fact, from their press release: “Knowledge of the heat distribution beneath Thwaites Glacier is crucial information that enables ice sheet modelers to more accurately predict the response of the glacier to the presence of a warming ocean.”

June 13 at 10:28am ·

Gary Skulnik Anyway, this paper’s publishing should dispel one myth at least – that anybody who “contradicts” the global warming conspiracy scientists and their illuminati allies will get “silenced.” These guys got published in one of the journals that is the engine, which runs the global warming “myth” machine. Hmmm… I guess the chief censor was asleep at the wheel the day they submitted the paper, or maybe he took a bribe of some really good sprouts, tofu and wheat germ.

June 13 at 10:31am ·

Goober: Amazing how MSNBC (the media) can distort science. Agreed.

June 13 at 11:01am ·

Goober:  weather patterns and hurricanes have been sited. I cited (due to what? Empirical research) there hasn’t been a major hurricane in the Atlantic in 8 years. Al Bore, via his information, cited the ice sheets would be GONE in 2014 and sea levels could increase as hight as 3 feet. The Northeast and Midwest just had one of the coldest winters on record. Then evidence comes out that a big chunk of the cap melting is due to geothermal volcanism. Then the other ice cap has seen to expand at a huge rate. Yet, the opposing view is dismissed.

June 13 at 12:04pm ·

Gary Skulnik wow, Goober, this Al Bore guy sounds like a whack job. Somebody should lock him up before he causes more harm. Strange, but his name sounds a lot like the former Vice President of the United States, Al Gore. Maybe they are connected like the way Superman is connected with Bizzaro Superman. You know, where everything is the opposite of our world? Al Gore – “global warming will cause the ice sheets to melt by the end of the century (ie. 2100).” Al Bore -“the ice sheets will melt by 2014!” Al Gore – “climate change due to ghg emissions will cause extreme weather patterns, but generally there will be a significant warming trend over the planet.” Al Bore – “you’ll never see a cold winter again!!” Al Gore – “the extreme weather conditions that will result from global warming may cause hurricanes to grow in intensity and frequency over time.” Al Bore – “we’ll be hit by 100 hurricanes a year on the eastern seaboard of the United States!”

June 13 at 12:32pm ·

Goober:  Al Gore Warns Polar Ice May Be Gone in Five Years: Very clever. But NO

Al Gore Warns Polar Ice May Be Gone in Five Years

Complete video at:… See More

June 13 at 1:02pm · Like

Goober:…/florida…/ And that should say ATLANTIC hurricanes. Very clever. But NO

Florida Hurricane Strikes In Sharp Decline

NOAA records going back to the 1850s show that Florida used to average about one…

June 13 at 1:04pm ·

Goober…/record-breaking…/24831365 Yeah we know. Its DUE TO warming. Got it.

One of the Coldest Winters in 20 Years Shatters Snow Records

Record-breaking temperature lows and snowfall totals mount as parts of the country remain in the stranglehold of winter’s icy grasp.

June 13 at 1:06pm ·

Goober: This is the best one where there is actual debate and no hysterical lies. It refutes a renound hurricane meteorologist with some others. Instead of silly diatribe

Are Category 4 and 5 hurricanes increasing in number? | Weather Underground

In September 2005, a paper published in Science magazine reported that worldwide… See More

June 13 at 1:29pm · Edited ·

Goober:  And one more since this is so much fun. Huge I’ve blocks were found floating in lake superior this week That may last well into the summer. But hey….Bizzaro

June 13 at 1:32pm · Like

Gary Skulnik Goober, indeed this has been fun and a good learning experience for me. Thanks for that. Out of respect for you, I clicked on all the links you sent and read them. After getting past the “ignorance of Barrack Obama” link and something about fighting the Borg on Steven Goddard’s “scientific” web site, I found nothing I didnt already know. The accuweather link also told me something I know, it was a cold winter. Finally, your last link looked like it might actually be a real scientific debate and I welcome that. The question of recent hurricane activity and global warming is unsettled, clearly, but there’s a lot less doubt about future activity. Of course, in the end, we are lighting a match to an infinitely complex system and hoping the results are ok. I’d rather not take that gamble.

June 13 at 1:44pm ·

Gary Skulnik Oh, but one last thing before I go (i will be out of pocket for a few hours, so have at it!)… the “Al Gore warns polar ice may be gone in five years” – did you listen to the clip or just read the headline? First, he’s talking about polar ice, as in the north pole, which indeed is heading towards being completely ice free within the next few years. There’s no debate on that. But secondly, he cites one scientist who based on his observations says the ice MAY be gone by 2014, but then in the next sentence he cites another scientist who says the ice may be gone by 2030. I know, it’s more fun to talk about Al Bore saying stupid shit, but that doesnt make it actually true in the real world.

June 13 at 1:49pm ·

Goober:  After that whopper of tale about the south pole (Editor’s Note – what whopper is he talking about? Al Gore’s comments were on the North pole), why should he or his sources be taken seriously. The North Pole had a massive loss in 2005, and then it stopped. It has not really shrunk since then, except for brief period in 2007 i think it said. Goddard? He cited the NOAA, which directly disputes your claim and Gore’s claim about storms. So what is it that you “dont already know”. (you didnt address the points, but contradicted yourself a tad) Then you said he said something about the year 2100, which contradicts both of his claims. (as the Southern ice cap area increases, though they dont know if that will be a quick melt yet). And to beclear I do believe there is something going on, because science has indeed shown temp increases. It the degree of man made input i hav an issue with.