top of page

The Avatar of Optimism: Dr. Sailesh Rao

Updated: Jan 17

Glen's first guest of the new year is Dr. Sailesh Rao, founder of Climate Healers, whom Glen calls The Avatar of Optimism.

Oxford's Intellectual Arena:

Fresh from a spirited and victorious debate at the Oxford Union, Dr. Rao takes us on a journey through the corridors of this venerable institution. Founded 200 years ago by rebels thirsting for discourse on religion and politics, the Oxford Union stands as a testament to intellectual rebellion. The recent debate, aptly titled "This House Would Go Vegan," marked the crescendo of its 200th year, a vibrant discussion that culminated in a vote and a victory for the vegan side. You can watch the debate here: "This House Would Go Vegan" Oxford Debate .

The Architect of Optimism:

Where does Dr. Rao's optimism for our planet stem from? As a systems engineer, he sees himself as an instrument, summoned to bring his expertise to the challenge. His optimism is grounded in the belief that the truth will emerge that animal agriculture is destroying our planet, that humanity will see that its self-interest is aligned with the interest of all life on the planet, that we are all naturally vegans, and that positive change is not just plausible but inevitable.

A Beacon for Climate Healing:

Dr. Rao is the visionary behind Glen attests to Dr. Rao's unparalleled expertise, having leaned on it significantly while writing "Food is Climate." The conversation pivots to the broader narrative, in which going vegan isn't just a choice but a profound contribution to mitigating all six planetary boundary violations.

Challenging the Narrative:

Dr. Rao urges us to see through the thin façade of the mainstream narrative on climate change, which focuses solely on fossil fuels. He insists that we see "the cow in the room," the myriad ways in which animal agriculture violates planetary boundaries. The podcast becomes a call to action, encouraging listeners to scrutinize the story, question the norms, and embrace a change far more important than driving an electric car--simply eating like the herbivores that we naturally are.

Listen to the episode here: The Avatar of Optimism

Listen to our other podcasts

DISCLAIMER: Please understand that the transcript below was provided by a transcription service. It is undoubtedly full of the errors that invariably take place in voice transcriptions. To understand the interview more completely and accurately, please watch it here: The Avatar of Optimism

Podcast Transcript:

RMEP Podcast (00:02.658)

Hello and welcome to the Glen Merzer Show. You can find us across all your favorite podcast platforms. You can find us on YouTube. And please remember to subscribe. And you can find us at Real where there are some good blog posts. You should check out that website, Real Today we are going to make nutritional history.

We are going to announce the discovery of the sixth macronutrient. This is important news. The history of macronutrients is that they used to say there are three macronutrients, fat, protein, and carbohydrate. And after a while, they wised up a little bit and they said, actually, there are two more, water and fiber.

because basically a macronutrient is what your body needs to absorb in order to live, and you need water, and you need fiber to live. But today we announce the sixth macronutrient, heretofore undiscovered. I have discovered it. The sixth macronutrient is optimism. And my guest today is the avatar of optimism.

He's the man I turn to whenever I need a dose of optimism. My good friend, Dr. Sailesh Rao Sailesh, welcome to the show. Thank you, Glen. Thank you for that introduction. Sailesh has just returned from England where he represented the side of truth.

in a debate at the Oxford Student Union. Tell us about that debate, Sailesh. Yeah, it was at the Oxford Union, which is actually separate from the Oxford Student Union. Oh, okay. The Oxford Union. But is it run by students? It's run by students, yeah. It's run by students. It's a debating society. That is the Oxford Student Union is a governing union for student matters. I stand corrected. No problem.

RMEP Podcast (02:20.77)

So the Oxford Union is a debating society that was started 200 years ago by a group of rebels who wanted to talk about things that the professors did not want them to talk about, especially religion and politics were the main things. And so they wanted to a place where they can openly talk about things that matter to them. Right.

So they moved out and they started this Oxford Union debating society in 1823. And they've since been meeting every term on the Thursday evening of every term. So during the week, you know, so this term, they had eight debates and ours was the last debate of the term. So it was actually the last debate of the 200th year.

Wow. Of the Oxford Union. And the premise of the debate was what? The topic of the debate, the proposition, was this house would go vegan. And there were four speakers for the proposition and four speakers for the opposition. And the way the Oxford Union debates work, it's like a parliamentary format where a speaker for the proposition speaks first.

And then the first speaker for the opposition speaks and then we alternate until there are only two speakers left. And then it's open to the floor for students to come and make their pitches, both for and against. It's interesting that this tradition began 200 years ago so that the students can talk about the subjects of politics and religion.

which are basically the two subjects not to talk about over dinner. And now 200 years later, the topic is dinner. What to have for dinner. So your colleagues making the case for the vegan diet, and by the way, we will put in the show notes the link so that everyone could watch this debate. I haven't seen it yet because the link isn't available yet.

RMEP Podcast (04:44.254)

But it should be available by the time this airs. So your colleagues on the vegan side were who? Well, it was Disha Hegde, the president of the Oxford Union for the Michael Maas term, 2023. So she has been vegan for four years. And so she started the case for the proposition.

And then the incoming president, Hannah Edwards, who will be the president for the next term, she started the case for the opposition. She was arguing that this house would not go vegan. That's right, yeah. She was arguing that this house would not go vegan, how inconvenient it would be for the house, how the milk has to be changed, everything has to be changed.

traditions are going to be overturned, et cetera, et cetera. So that was the case. That's the case she was making. The case against veganism was that it's inconvenient. Exactly. Right. And that reminds me of the name of Al Gore's climate presentation and inconvenient truth. That's right. So, and then who spoke next for the side of good? I spoke for the side of good.

So I was the first external speaker who spoke for the side of good, for the side of veganism, right? For the proposition. And then Dr. David Rose spoke for the opposition. So we all got 10 minutes each. Okay. We all got 10 minutes each. And after Dr. David Rose, it was Dr. Chidi Mbalga who spoke for the proposition.

And he is a London based physician? Yes, he's a London based lifestyle medicine physician. And he has appeared on BBC and a lot of media. So he's very well spoken. And so he did the great job of representing the health aspect of why we need to go vegan. And then the opposition, there was another student. Her name is Manon Hammond. And

RMEP Podcast (07:03.626)

She's a Welsh student and she spoke for the opposition. And and then it was open to the floor. And I think we had two speakers on either side, who spoke from the floor. What about Joey Carpstrong? Yeah, after the floor speeches were done, OK, then Joey Carpstrong spoke for the proposition and he made the ethical case for veganism. OK. And then Katie Hopkins.

got the last word and so she spoke for the opposition. And yeah, she was arguing why we shouldn't go vegan, the house should not go vegan. And those who made the case against veganism, did it all boil down to the inconvenient argument that being vegan is inconvenient? The inconvenience, culture, tradition, and Katie Hopkins was actually trying to make the case that it's debilitating, you know, it will.

We can human beings and we will, we will all get short. And I was actually, I mean, I was nudging Dr. Chitty and say, get up and show her how tall you are. Reminder how tall you are, because he was taller than anybody else. Now your granddaughter, has she been vegan since birth? Yeah, pretty much. Is she taller now than she was then? She's up to my chin. She's only 13 years old.

up to my chin. Yeah. And I'm just amazed at how fast she's growing. On a vegan diet. Who knew? Right. So afterwards, there was a vote by the students, right, on who won the debate. Right. So there was a vote and the way they conduct the vote is very interesting. Like all of us, we were all escorted out, all the speakers and, you know, escorted out and we went to the

bar where we were supposed to wait for the results. And then they put a poll in the door, in the middle of the door, so that if you walked to the left of the door, you were voting nay. If you walked to the right of the door, you were voting aye. Okay. Is that the 200-year-old tradition? That's the 200-year-old tradition. Wow. I mean, the place is full of memories and, you know, like, I think that

RMEP Podcast (09:31.394)

The days was the one that was used by Winston Churchill and stuff like that. Yeah, lots of memories, old memories in the place. So it's an entire court that belongs to the Oxford Union. So there are lots of buildings that belong to the Oxford Union. Okay. So anyway, this poll they put in the door and then there are two students who are counting both the S word and the no word. So there's one for the no word, one for the S word.

And so they have designated who's going to do the counting. And then at the bar, they announced it. And the result was? The result was 112 to 84. The eyes have it. All right. So this house would go vegan in the language of the proposition. Exactly. This house would go vegan. They use that tense would.

Is the house going to go vegan? Are there going to be any changes? Well, unless there is another debate and then the house flips its mind, the house is going vegan. From what I can tell. Will that change the food in the cafeteria? What's going to change? Well, the interesting thing was the dinner we had before the debate. So this is the tradition, right? So we, we gather there at 6.30 in the evening.

And then we have some drinks and then we have dinner. And then, um, the debate starts around eight o'clock. So the dinner was entirely vegan. Under-present vegan. Okay. For everybody. And that was part of the complaint that the, the site for the opposition kept making. We had to eat this stuff.

Right. It was actually delicious stuff. It was they had an eggplant dish as the main dish and soup and salad, you know, so and the dessert was also vegan. So, I mean, you've got a full taste of what vegan food, a vegan meal would look like for those who were not used to that. And I think it was they did a great job of presenting it.

RMEP Podcast (11:53.43)

I think the rationale was that the majority of people at the dinner were vegan, you know, therefore let's make it completely vegan. Okay. So. But that's the dinner before. Does anything change going forward? The Oxford Union. My understanding is that now this is this is partly what the incoming president was complaining about that you'd have to change the milk, the food.

bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast. That's what she was saying. Is that going to happen now? That's the implication of the house would go vegan, right? So we are going to try and help her out. And I'm going to write to her and say, is there anything you need, any questions you have? I'm happy to help you figure out how to do it. OK, so they're going to do it. They're going to stop serving animal foods at the Oxford Union.

at the Oxford Union. Yeah. That's my understanding. Okay. Yeah. That's my understanding. That will be wonderful. Now there are some schools with cafeterias colleges where they've made vegan the new default meal. Is that right? That's right. There are a lot of that. I think three schools, according to the plan based universities, people, the three universities that have, uh, the, by the students have asked for a hundred percent vegan campus.

based on environmental grounds. Because the students recognize that this is their future. And their future that is being destroyed by the animal agriculture industry. And they want to reclaim their future.

So is this part of what gives you optimism, these kinds of changes on college campuses? Where do you get your optimism from? Well, see, my optimism comes from the fact that everything in this journey for me

RMEP Podcast (14:04.618)

has been through sheer luck or through sheer you know coincidence or something or the other happens that I cannot explain and I feel like I'm being led and I'm saying if I'm being led I'm obviously being led in the right direction you know so which means that it is going to happen and I'm just an instrument I mean I'm a systems engineer right so it's someone's waking me up and saying hey I need some systems engineering

expertise to come to play here. So I'm saying how can I contribute to making this happen? Well, you've contributed of course by founding and I advise all our listeners to check out And Sailesh knows more about the climate than anyone else I know. And I leaned on his expertise heavily in writing.

My book Food is Climate. Do you see anything moving in the positive direction for the climate? Well, I see more open discussion of not only the food aspect of the climate, but all the other five planetary boundary violations.

RMEP Podcast (15:31.586)

for which we know absolutely that going vegan is the right thing to do for that. There's absolutely no question about that for the other five. And so the way the mainstream storytelling, which is basically all it is, right? So the story reporting and storytelling has been to ignore the other five, planetary boundary transgressions, just focus on climate change and then pretend that

that the only thing you need to do for that is fossil fuels. And I'm saying that this story is becoming so weak and so thin that, I mean, you got to see through it, you know? Yeah. With half a brain, we can see through it. And so they're trying to just make us, you know, stick to the same economic growth paradigm and just go and go buy electric cars and then pretend that we've solved all the problems.

All right. Let's run down what those five other planetary boundaries that they're ignoring are. Yeah. Okay. Number one, freshwater use and freshwater change. That's the least violated among all the six planetary boundary transgressions. And it turns out animal agriculture isn't very good for the water, is it? Absolutely. It's the worst, right? It's animal agriculture is an activity where

chopped down forests and then plant grass or soybeans or whatever, you know, plant mostly plant grass. So you converted so many of the forests into grasslands. And when you do that, you're going to turn freshwater into saltwater because you're going to reverse the water cycle of the planet, you know, which trees are very good at converting saltwater into freshwater. Yeah. And

Trees also contribute to rain through transpiration, right? Right, so that's what I mean. So they contribute to rain through transpiration and along with the water vapor, they actually also send out microorganisms which become the nucleus for a drop formation. So trees are literally creating the rain about themselves. Okay, and so what that does is

RMEP Podcast (17:55.666)

When you form raindrops, you create a low pressure zone above the trees and then that allows the water vapor from above the ocean to get sucked up over the forest and to create more rain for the trees. So it's not like the trees are just, you know, sending water up and then bringing that back down. No, no, they're actually sucking water from over the ocean and bringing it on top of themselves. They do that if they're part of a forest.

Right? This is what a forest does, a dense group of trees can do that together. And so when you chop down those forests and replace it with grass, then there'll be more microorganisms above the ocean than above land and the cycle reverses. Right? So it'll then take the fresh water from the ground and suck it up and pour it over the ocean. So it converts fresh water to salt water.

So we're losing fresh water and we're gaining hamburgers so we can have heart attacks. Exactly. It's not a good deal. Not a good deal. So that's the number one, you know? That's the first one. First, what's next? The next is land system change, which is, you know, we have exceeded how much land we can convert from forest to grasslands and still maintain the viability of life on the planet. Right? So...

Life is literally dying out in front of our eyes because we have taken too much of the land for ourselves. And so when we go vegan, we can return 40 percent of the land back to nature and that would restore the land system change, planetary boundary transgression. It will reverse it. Forty percent being the land surface that's being dedicated to grazing. Thirty seven percent is for grazing and then another six percent is for crops.

And I'm saying we probably have to keep 3% of that for the extra crops we have to grow for human consumption. And then the other 3% you can give back to nature. So that's the way I come up with 40%. Okay. So 40% of the land on earth is being dedicated to giving us heart attacks. Exactly. All right. So that's two down. What's next? The third is of course climate change. And that's the...

RMEP Podcast (20:24.918)

That's the fourth worst violation, fourth worst transgression. It's not even number one, okay? It's number four out of the six. And that of course, when we restore the three trillion trees that we cut, I mean, you can calculate them. Clearly you can reverse climate change, right? If the trees do half as much carbon sequestration as the other three trillion trees that are already on the planet.

And of course, when the trees come back, the soil comes back and the soil holds, is it more carbon than the trees? Yeah, the soil holds about a little bit more than twice as much carbon as the trees themselves. So the trees, there is above ground carbon and there is below ground carbon. And the below ground carbon is roughly the same amount as the above ground carbon. So that's in the roots. And then the soil holds about twice as much.

as the tree itself. And the worst enemy of the soil is animal agriculture. Exactly. Yeah. Man, the same darn profession keeps popping up. But isn't that great? Though it's very convenient, no? It's very convenient. That's why I did a PowerPoint once called the convenient truth. We just change this one thing and we solve so many problems. Right. Yeah. So in that sense, it's not a

It's almost a no brainer. It's easy to do and we can all eat the right way. We can start wearing the right clothes and we'll solve our problem. You know, the next one would be what? The next one would be the chemical pollution of the planet. OK, that is not directly caused by animal agriculture. But when we go vegan, we solve it. That's the beauty of it. Explain that trees.

are very good at storing the chemical pollution in their trunks. And the way they do that is they suck the water from the ground and the water has all this chemical pollution because we used up, you know, we poured it all into the environment and it's now sitting in the water. The trees then filter the water. As they pull the water from through the roots up to the leaves, they're filtering it every step of the way, like a carbon filter.

RMEP Podcast (22:48.942)

and they take all the chemical pollution in the water and they store it in their trunks. And the way I found this out was I was working with these villagers in India and the women in the villages used to die 80 years younger than the men, okay, on average. So their life expectancy was eight years less than the life expectancy for the men. And there was a professor who was studying that who was...

trying to figure out why this is the case. And he was a social scientist. And he basically finally boiled it down to the fact that the women were the ones who do the cooking in the house. Okay. And then he analyzed the cooking smoke and he found all kinds of industrial chemicals in the smoke. It's because the trees had

stored all those chemicals in their branches and the women were cutting the branches off and burning them. So he calculated that for every meal that the women were cooking, it was as if they were smoking one pack of cigarettes during the meal. That's the equivalent. So overall, if they're cooking two meals a day, they were smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. And so that's when I realized that

trees actually store the chemicals in their trunks. So if we bring back the three trillion trees that we have cut on the planet and restore them, they can clean up our chemical pollution. Then of course we need to start, you know, producing less chemical pollution and start being more cognizant of what we're doing to the environment. That's a whole transformation that needs to happen in our industrial processes. But at least the chemical pollution that we have put into the environment can get cleaned up.

if the world goes vegan. That's one side of it. So we are cleaning up the chemical pollution for the earth. But then we also, when we eat animal foods, all this chemical pollution is coming to us in concentrated doses. Yes. Because just like the trees do this, the plants also filter the chemical pollution and store it in their stocks. And when the cows go and eat the entire plant, they're gonna get the chemical pollution, right?

RMEP Podcast (25:15.958)

which they then store in their bodies and they accumulate. And as mammals, we are not very good at cleaning up our pollution. We are not as half as efficient, not even half, only one percent as efficient as trees. Right. You know, we store it in our bodies forever. When people make the mistake of eating fish, the pollution in the ocean.

bio accumulates in the fish as the bigger fish eat the smaller fish, and it just gets worse and worse. Right, yeah. In the ocean, we are eating like, you know, 10 layers of the hierarchy food web. So it's, so we get really high doses of pollution from the ocean if we eat fish, but same with the animals, same with cheese, same with dairy, you know, we get the chemical pollution.

So when we stop eating animal foods, we also lower the chemical pollution that we're eating. So it's good for us as well as for the planet to bring back the forest. So that's the fourth. Then the fifth one is nitrogen and phosphorus loading. So which is- How else about that? So that comes from the fertilizer we use for growing crops, for industrial crops. And since half the crops are-

really being grown to feed animals. When we all go vegan, we can reduce that as well. So you're sort of everything that is now being violated, we just pull it down to the green zone when we all go vegan. And if we support animal agriculture with our dollars, if we buy organic berries rather than conventional berries.

That means less chemical pollution and less of this problem with nitrogen and phosphorus. Right? Yeah. I mean, see, the more we do food for us so that we really don't have to go keep planting like we, you know, agriculture, we just let the forest produce us the food that we need. And it's just a matter of harvesting at that point. Right? So rather than harvesting with machines, it'll have to be people who harvest.

RMEP Podcast (27:37.414)

I say that, you know, when, uh, when you're not, um, making unnecessary things, you have plenty of time to go do the harvesting. Right. So it also brings contact with nature. Yeah. I'm guessing we're up now to biodiversity. Am I right? That's the number one. The reason it's number one is because all the other transgressions impact biodiversity. In fact, biodiversity just means life as we know it. And

These are all the other transgressions are transgressions because they're killing life as we know it, right? So life as we know it, we directly kill as well. And that's why it is the leading planetary boundary violation, planetary boundary transgression, because if we let that, see any one of these transgressions, if we let it fester, it can kill life as we know it, any one of them. And there are six of them.

right? And all six of them can be mitigated if we go vegan. This is why I say, obviously, we're going to do it. We are not a stupid species. Okay. Well, you know, that can be argued, but let's assume we're not. We're not. I mean, we are being woken up. So we're all being woken up one by one by one by one. So nature is doing a really good job. See, to me, nature is the perfect system design.

As a system designer, I'm in awe of nature. Everything is well thought out. It's as if it's been, you know, it's like a, if I were to design something like nature, I mean, my God. Oh, you'd win a Nobel Prize. I know. But so I think of all the work that we have done in system design, like the internet communications work that I was doing. And I'm...

I'm saying there's nothing compared to how nature does it. So to me, nature is the perfect system design. And so nature would have figured out how to deal with us when we are recalcitrant. We are finding it hard to give up these things when we have to, right?

RMEP Podcast (29:54.922)

Now, you've mentioned before that on this path, you feel like you've been led in different directions. Right. Tell us about that. I've been led. You know, like, see, I thought in 2009, I was in a sanctuary in the Western

RMEP Podcast (30:22.05)

Everything else is perfect, right? You just take human beings out and nature recovers. And it's beautiful how life, you know, it's the dance of life. That's what I was observing in the sanctuary and how much life there was in the sanctuary. When basically you take human beings out of the picture and that's really what she did, right? She just...

prevented humans from coming inside and just let the animals come and do whatever they wanted. Now this was a woman who owned land in India and wilded it. Yeah, it was a couple. It was a couple from New Jersey of all places. Oh really? Yeah. Of Indian ancestry? One the husband was of Indian ancestry and his wife was, I think she's half Native American and half European.

to Santa. So something like that. So anyway, they had come there and they had just bought this coffee plantation and they had turned it into this amazing sanctuary by just letting animals be and patrolling the land and making sure that no human being comes inside. So I thought that humans are the only species that there is a mistake in nature. Everyone else, every other species just lives and the planet thrives. Right? And then the next year my granddaughter was born.

and she immediately convinced me that humans also belong exactly like all the other animals.

So it was a feeling I got, okay, that we belong exactly as we are and that I was a fool for not having understood it. So that's what she kind of conveyed to me. So then I started looking into it and I realized she's right. You know, we do belong exactly as we are because we have been heating the climate for 10,000 years. And in the process, we have prevented the earth from ever going back another ice age again. So we have ended the Quaternary Ice Age.

RMEP Podcast (32:24.258)

the fifth major ice age in the Earth's history. We have ended it. So we should be congratulating each other and patting each other on the back for having ended the fifth major ice age in the Earth's history. You know, I gotta tell you, in all my life, nobody ever congratulated me for ending the ice age. Right? Right. You know, people can be ungrateful sometimes. It's true, right? So we have done it, okay? Our ancestors worked so hard to make it happen.

And we are the first generation to figure this out. See, that's what gives us this tremendous responsibility. We're the first generation to actually figure this out, that we have ended the Quaternary Ice Age. And we are actually the last. You're saying we're the first to figure it out, but how many people on the planet are aware that humans ended the Ice Age? Not many, even though it should be obvious. If you think about it, we've been in an Ice Age for...

for so long and now James Hansen has said that we no more ice ages until the humans go extinct. How does that mean? We have ended it, okay? We have ended it. And so now we have to congratulate each other and then say, now that we now realize we are overheating the planet, we can figure out how to, if we can heat it up, we can actually cool it too.

So we have the power to heat, then you have the power to cool. So how do you cool? Well, that's where the veganism comes in. And that's the vegan movement, you know, that's been growing strong. Right. So I say that everything is in place for us to solve our problem. Solve our problems. OK, everything is in place. And so my granddaughter was born to just slap me awake and say, hey, it's right there in front of you. You look at it this way, look at it as if.

We belong exactly as we are and you will see it makes sense. That's what she convinced me of. And so I say that, you know, she literally changed my life. Right. So these are the signs that I get, you know, that has happened to me time and again, and she's the one who, who made me give her a pinky promise that the world will be largely vegan by the time, by 2026. That's in time for her sweet 16, right? What a sweet 16. Yeah.

RMEP Podcast (34:50.862)

And she was there at the Oxford Union. She witnessed the debate and she was very happy and we won the debate. And so she's seeing these critical events happen in our lives. So I really think that we are being led. I'm convinced that we are being led. So this gives me tremendous optimism. Not only it's not optimism, it's really realism. So it's like I'm saying that

This is a perfect system that we are in and we are all actors in that perfect system. That's called nature. And we are all actors and mother nature, trust me, is going to slap us awake, whether we like it or not. She's got three more years, okay? So she's already doing a great job in 2023. I can tell you that. Everything is going like haywire and everybody is saying, what? Temperature is going to be- We're gonna take a quick-

break and we'll come back and find out how in the next three years this world would go vegan. We'll be right back.

RMEP Podcast (36:00.586)

All right, Sailesh, we've got three years till your granddaughter's 16th birthday, three years to turn the world essentially vegan. How are we going to do it? It's storytelling. Okay, storytelling. And it's actually then implementing new games and rules for the new games. Because this is how human beings we...

collaborate and we become so powerful as a species because we tell common stories that everyone buys into the same story and then we play common games Okay, and that allows us to coordinate our actions Okay, and so the stories we tell today are fairly violent stories it's about conquest who's who won over who and Um, we only remember the conquests. We don't remember the peacemakers

You know, so, and then we play competitive games today. Again, and that's how we have been hitting the climate. Competitive games, meaning in a finite competitive game, there's one winner and all the rest are losers. And we remember the winners. So we're constantly trying to figure out who is stronger than who, who is dominant over who. And in our games, we actually promote deceptions.

Because if you can deceive someone and win the game, you will get the most reward. And so we promote deception. And so this is the kind of system that we have created based on deception and domination. And that causes death for the animals, diseases for human beings and destruction for the planet. And that's how we have been heating the climate. And this is what I call a climate heating system. To create a climate healing system, you have to do the opposite.

So we have to do, because you know, whatever you're doing to heat, do the opposite, you'll start cooling. Right? So the opposite is, instead of deception, it should be honesty. Instead of domination, it should be humility. And instead of death, it should be health. Instead of disease, I mean, I'm sorry, death, it should be, you know, happiness, life, right? And then for, instead of diseases, it should be health.

RMEP Podcast (38:26.13)

and instead of destruction it should be harmony. So I call it the five H's from the five D's.

And so creating a system around the five edges is actually a fun thing to do. This is an extremely creative time for human beings. Having congratulated each other for ending the fifth major ice age in the Earth's history, we can now all get together and figure out new stories and new games. And these games have to be infinite games.

not finite games. Because finite games, the object of the game is to win the game. The object of an infinite game is to continue the game forever. Which is really what sustainability is. Sustainability is about playing the same thing forever. Continuing life as we know it forever. So we should be now creating infinite games and playing infinite games. And I say that, why wouldn't you participate in something so creative?

Why wouldn't we want to do that? Of course we would. So we just have to pose it to people like that. And so it's telling new stories, you know, and then playing new games that would allow us to get to where we need to go, you know, which is vegan world by 2026. I mean, I say largely vegan world by 2026, then we are on the way to recovery on the planet. All right. Well, let me be cynical for a moment.

We live in a culture where people watch television and they see the commercials for McDonald's and Wendy's and these unhealthy fast food operations. And it's part of the culture that people go to these fast food places. The statistics are overwhelming, so I've blocked them out, but so many times per week, so many millions of times per week, this is where Americans go.

RMEP Podcast (40:36.638)

Now you want to tell these healthier stories, these stories of sustainability, these stories of health, but how do we get it into the heads of these people who think that they should go to Chick-fil-A for lunch? How does this transition pass? Yeah, see, I don't focus on those who are going to Chick-fil-A for lunch. I focus on those who are willing to listen first, you know? So focus on them.

And you only need to get to maybe a quarter of the people at most. I mean, even if you get to a quarter of the people you've gone, I mean, you clearly are going to win this race. Okay. Because it turns out that 50% of the people on the planet just go along with the flow. They don't mind whatever, whichever way the planet goes, they go, you know, the rest of the people are doing this, they go this way. They go that way. They go that way. So 50% of the people are just following, right?

the trend. It's the trendsetters that you have to convince, the elites, the people who are, like the Oxford Union, right? You have to convince them and get them to come on board. So we have to convince the people who are conscious and then we could rely on the conscious people if there are enough of them to move the less conscious people. Yeah. People come along. A lot of people come along and there'll be some who will stick to

It's fine. And, you know, that eventually it will become like, you know, people that look down upon it and eventually it'll go away. Right. So to me, it's like, it's a progression of morality. One thing that gives me a little bit of hope is that animal agriculture is so inherently inefficient, so absurd that we, we grow crops.

then we feed them to the animals and then we eat the animals. And the amount of water it uses and the amount of land it uses, it's just an inherently absurdly inefficient system. But it's being propped up by government subsidies. And if enough people of the conscious people will stop

RMEP Podcast (43:02.47)

eating animal products, if we can get to that 25% that you're talking about, the economics of animal agriculture will fail once they start to lose 20, 30% of their market. Their margins are slim enough now, even with all the help of the government subsidies. And of course, if we could stop the government subsidies, that would be...

destroy animal agriculture too. Absolutely. So we should all work to try to end animal subsidies, federal subsidies to animal agriculture, but at the same time, if we could just cut demand by 20 or 30%, that industry will fail. Yeah. See, if you think about it, you know, right now, the dairy industry is already losing like crazy, okay? Yeah. It's being propped up by the government.

It's been propped up by government, basically by printing money. I mean, they can do the printing here in the US, but other countries, they're hurting because they have to prop it up with tax dollars. In the US, fortunately, we can print because other countries are buying our debt. We have no intention of paying back the debt. And I think everybody is beginning to see it now. So it's a highly unsustainable system.

right? And it's so, uh, and the good thing about this system is that you don't have to make it go down to zero. You don't have to kill it. You just have to make it stop growing. As soon as you make it stop growing, it dies.

It is so dependent on growth, right? So we have to then put in place the alternate system, the alternate games and the alternate stories that we tell. We need to put that in place before the old system dies. So this is why I say this is the job of the next three years for us to design the new system and put it in place and start playing it, okay? So that you have a smooth transition.

RMEP Podcast (45:18.414)

to a new way of living for those who are going to have to give up on the old one. And so to me, it's a great time to be alive. And so when I look at the positive side of it, so I also believe that whatever we focus on amplifies in nature. So if you keep focusing on the negative, we amplify that. And I say, let's focus on the positive and amplify that. And that allows us to.

to realize our vision easier. Well, Sailesh, you are optimism incarnate, which is why I enjoy talking to you. You are now a proponent of health. You lead a healthy life yourself. Your whole mindset is as healthy as the mindset of anyone I know. But you weren't always that way. You used to apparently smoke cigarettes. Yeah.

It's something I have trouble envisioning. So tell us your story about smoking cigarettes, when you did it, and how you stopped. Yeah. See, I started smoking when I was in college, because everyone was smoking around me and I started smoking with them and I got hooked very quickly. Was this at Stanford? No, no, way before Stanford. It was in India. Okay. At IIT. And

And then, you know, I didn't tell my parents. When I came to the US to do my higher studies, I was still smoking. Then I finally wrote to my mother because I wanted to get it off my chest. I didn't want to keep a secret from her. So I wrote to my mother and she got very upset. She wrote me this long letter explaining my birth and how I was a very sickly child, that I was a twin.

and my twin actually passed away at birth. And I barely survived. And she had to massage oil on my chest because I couldn't breathe. Now, before you got this letter, did you know that you had been a twin? No, I had no idea. I had no idea. So it was the first time I was told that she told me this. And that. So until the age of two, I used to have trouble breathing.

RMEP Podcast (47:44.138)

And she said, you are the last person who should be smoking. After all the trouble I went through with getting it to survive. And so she was on my case after that. OK, she would bug me. Every time I called her, she would bug me and ask me, have you quit smoking? And I would tell her, I'm trying. I really am. And I did try. I tried all kinds of things. I tried nicotine gum and tried patches. I tried

You name it. Anything newfangled that came, I would try it. Because I really wanted to quit. But I didn't do it. I couldn't do it. The addiction to nicotine was too strong? Was too strong for me. And I remember I even went for hypnosis. And I successfully quit for like two weeks getting hypnosis, after hypnosis. But then there was some stress at work, and I went back.

to smoking. So I always associated smoking with stress relief.

RMEP Podcast (48:50.123)

But then in 1997, February, my mother passed away in a sleep. She had a heart attack and she was only 60 years old. And I was devastated because that's the only thing she ever asked me to do. Quit smoking. So I went to my doctor and I said,

Help me out. I really want to do this for my mother in memory of my mother. And so he gave me something called Zyban. So it was like a tablet and it's like an antidepressant, I think. And he said, take this tablet and continue smoking. And 40% of the people will quit eventually. But I only took it one day, you know, and I quit. And I never touched it again. And...

And I even had nothing to do with the tablet, right? Had nothing to do with the tablet. I went and gave all the tablets back to the doctor. And he said, I don't need this anymore. So just give it to someone else as samples. And I really think that all along I had the capacity to quit. I just didn't have the mindset to quit, to see through what he was doing to me. And I tell this story because

Right now our mother earth is telling us to quit.

quit killing animals. You know, it's an addiction. And again, this time I do not want to wait until my mother dies before we overcome our addiction. Okay, we always have the capacity to overcome our addiction. And it's coming together as a community and helping each other quit. Okay, I didn't have that kind of support when I was trying to quit. I wish I had.

RMEP Podcast (50:51.282)

Anyway, so to me it was symbolic that happened to me, so that I can now tell this story to people saying, our mother earth is telling us to quit. Right. Okay. She's slapping us around saying quit. And we can pretend all we want that it's not animal agriculture, it's only fossil fuels, but you know, you know, there are six planetary boundaries and all six of them are yelling at you to quit animal agriculture.

So let's not come up with excuses for not quitting. Let's figure out how to help each other quit. Yeah. Do you see any progress in the international scientific community in recognizing that animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change and all those other transgressions? See, the other transgressions

It's easy to get people to agree. Okay. Because the way the system has tried to portray this, they've conceded on the other five. But they're saying, that's not the major issue. The major issue is climate change. They're trying to focus our mind on just climate change and then trying to focus our mind on just fossil fuels for climate change so that we can all go along with this growth, the green growth story, right? It's a con job that they're trying to do.

And I mean, as a systems engineer, I've seen through these things so many times before. People trying to con me into accepting somebody's patent as the best solution for something. Excuse me. No, I know it's not. So try another one. Look, it's we know, they all know, the scientists who have been working on this know that animal agriculture is the leading cause of...

almost every known environmental ill on the plant. They all know. Well, then why why? They cannot say none of them say it. They cannot say if they say it, they get ostracized. They don't get their funding. So it's the system that is. Keeping us all, you know, tied. Imprisoned and frog marched. We are all being factory farmed, OK?

RMEP Podcast (53:17.114)

Even the scientists having factory-formed. Yeah. And Frog marched into going along with the prevailing story. Yeah. Okay. And it takes a bit of courage and also...

devil may care attitude, you know that I don't care if I lose my funding And how many people can say that? Right. So we are lucky that we can say that you know I don't care if someone people don't fund me because I'm willing to do this work without any funding

Have you heard the climate scientist Michael Mann speak? Yeah. Seems like such a nice fellow. Right. And he's well informed on the climate. But I've never heard him mention animal agriculture. Yeah, see, they cooked up these conventions on how to measure and how certain things are going to be ignored, OK? Because nature is compensating for it anyway.

So we don't have to worry about it. Until of course nature stops compensating for it, then you have to worry about it. So they call it part of the natural cycle. And you know, the first thing that occurred to me when I started looking at climate change and the climate change science literature is that as an engineer, if someone comes and tells me this action causes CO2, this action causes CO2, this action causes CO2, I say, well, all actions have to be counted. Okay.

If you say, well, this action is part of the natural cycle. I said, wait a minute. In nature, is there something that goes and bottom-claws the ocean? I mean, how is that part of the natural cycle? They call the natural cycle things like the fact that animals breathe out carbon dioxide and trees breathe it in. But there used to be six trillion trees. Now there are three trillion. There didn't used to be.

RMEP Podcast (55:19.69)

1.5 billion cows, or a total of what is it, something like 25 billion farmed animals at any given time. So if we get to the point where there are a hundred billion farmed animals and there's one tree, is it still the natural cycle? At what point do they wake up and say, no, there's nothing about this that's natural at all? Yeah. I mean, it's about taking responsibility for our own actions. Okay. And I mean, I really believe, you know,

As an engineer, I'd say everything that you do, if you are doing it and you can change it, I want to count that because that's a potential solution right there. So if you're breeding animals and they're putting all the CO2 through their noses, you have to count it. You're responsible for bringing the animals into the world. If those animals were not there, that vegetation will still be there in the ground. Which means all that sequestration that nature did

would be reversing climate change instead of being emitted through the nose of an animal. So everything has to be counted. When someone says these don't have to be counted, I immediately put them as either corrupted or incompetent. Two categories. That's the only two categories you can go into.

RMEP Podcast (56:46.186)

The leading reason why animal agriculture is the number one cause of climate change is what we call carbon opportunity cost. It's what the world would look like if people weren't foolish enough to chop down forests to eat burgers to give themselves heart attacks. So what the world would look like would be trillions more trees, a lot more vegetation, healthier soil, healthier oceans.

And therefore so much more carbon sequestration that it dwarfs anything that the fossil fuel burning does. Right, yeah. So my calculation shows that if we just go vegan, you will see the climate cooling, even though you're doing all the other activities exactly as we do today.

And of course we don't have to keep doing all the other activities exactly as we do today. If we start regulating that, if we start reducing that, it'll cool even faster. So that's up to you, how fast you want to cool. But you can start the cooling by just going vegan first. And that's what my calculations are showing. And they're based on just simple engineering, in a competent engineering, where I'm counting everything. I start counting everything and it's part of

humans are contributing. And so I'm assuming that all the compensation that nature is doing today, it'll continue to do.

When we stop emitting, even when we don't emit these things, it will continue to do that. Which means we get a double dividend, so to speak. We're not emitting this and that sequestration still happens.

RMEP Podcast (58:37.398)

Bill Gates in his book on climate change discussed the possibility of ending animal agriculture, of not eating meat. And he dismissed it because he said, eating meat is so important to our cultural holidays. So he's willing to give up on the world because of the importance of the turkey at Thanksgiving or the burger.

and your life.

RMEP Podcast (59:11.566)

It's a kind of close-mindedness that's just breathtaking to me. What is so hard about having Thanksgiving, being grateful, without having a dead, abused bird at the center of the table? I have no idea what's hard about that. Yeah, no, it will happen. I mean, it is already happening in a lot of households, and it will happen in a lot more households year after year.

2026, I'm expecting half the households will have non-Turkey Thanksgiving. Yeah. So that's my goal. So what are the catalysts in the next three years? We've got three years, roughly to your granddaughter's sweet 16. What are the catalysts in the next three years that are gonna move us forward as a species to cool the climate? Yeah.

Unfortunately, I think it will be nature. So I expect what happened in 2023, 2023 was off the charts. You know, I mean, if you look at all the other years, yeah, storms, floods, all those things, like Chennai went through. So that's gonna get worse. It's gonna get much worse. So meaning every year, it's like amplification is gonna happen. And people are going to say, you know,

It's something we need to do differently, right? So at some point, the governments will have to get involved. Okay, because if the governments don't get involved, they just continue to go along, then they're going to kill us. They're gonna kill themselves too. It's not just us. So they're gonna kill themselves too. And so I really think that the governments at some point are gonna give up. And because they had 30 years of trying to make incremental changes and it has gone exactly nowhere.

In fact, it's gone exactly in the wrong direction. So I say that at some point, the corruption and the mismanagement, the miscalculation, all these things are becoming increasingly self-evident that everybody is getting fed up with what is happening in the UN processes, in all the UN meetings.

RMEP Podcast (01:01:36.21)

I remember, I have an example in India where the Kolkata metro was done just like the UN cops are being done, right? It was all completely corrupt. People are taking bribes and it wasn't getting built. So the cost of the metro was 12 times the budget and it was rife with political meddling.

And it was delayed like crazy. So it's like 20 years for the first trains to come out. And it was a mess. And then when they did the Delhi Metro in India, they gave the engineers who were doing the job, full autonomy, told them they'll be free of political interference, that they don't have to listen to anybody. They have the power to do whatever they wanted. It came in under budget, finished ahead of time.

and 99.97 percent of the trains arrive within one minute of scheduled time. It's the second busiest metro in the world. There's an example of letting people do their job with integrity and we can solve problems as human beings. We have done this so many times. So are we serious about solving climate change?

That's the question for the governments. Are we serious about solving climate change? And are we serious about the sustainable development goals? If you're serious about them, let the professionals do the job. Give them freedom to do the job without political interference, and it will get done.

Well, how would that work exactly? Let's say that we could convince the government to let you and a hundred colleagues you choose do the job. Thousands, you know. I mean, it's not just, you know. With thousands of colleagues. Yeah. But what you've got to do is shut down an industry. Shut down lots of industries. It's not just one industry. Lots of things that we are doing that we need to change.

RMEP Podcast (01:03:50.774)

We need to change how much pollution we're pouring into the environment every year. So we need to change our education system so that students are not being taught, this is how you build this process. This is how you build this machine. And because it's full of toxic chemicals that you're pouring into the environment when you do that. So you have to change education. So right now we have an education system that says, this is how we normally do things. And then we have a separate center for sustainability where we teach people how to do it sustainably.

I said, if you have a separate center for sustainability in your education institution, it's an admission that all the other things you're teaching children are unsustainable. Okay. Sustainability should be built into the education system, into every educational curriculum, right? So it's about changing everything. And that's where I would focus. I would focus on the education system first. I would focus on, you know, these making

the right things more affordable. So, you know, providing subsidies for organic agriculture, providing subsidies for healthy food being made available to people. So focus first on the health of humanity. That's what I would do. If I were an engineer and people ask me, how would you start with this? This is how I would start. Education system and healthy food and health of people being taken care of first.

And those are not so hard to do, right? Those are not so hard to do. And then the rest will come, you know? So it's like you take the first right steps and then others will come along and say, I can help you. I can, let's do the other stuff. Because I have seven strategic actions that we need to be doing. But these are the two most important actions. Okay. Well, let's hope that day comes soon.

We have three years. We don't want to disappoint your granddaughter. It'll happen. Yeah, because like I told you, it's always happened to me. You know, some is magic. There's magic in the air. All right. We'll let that be the last word. Thank you, Sailesh, for joining us. You can please check out his website at Subscribe to his newsletter.

RMEP Podcast (01:06:20.958)

Also check out real Please subscribe to this YouTube channel and we'll see you soon. Thank you so much.



Our Real Men Eats Plants Podcast Is Here!

You can listen to our podcast on any of these portals.

Apple Podcasts     Spotify     Stitcher     Amazon Music     Google Podcasts     RMEP Podcast Website Page

bottom of page