Letter to President Obama

I decided to write a letter to President Obama regarding my feelings of how animal agriculture is (negatively) affecting climate change and healthcare and suggested that he use his position and influence to move towards a more sustainable and healthy system of food production.

Since I've heard that politicians like handwritten letters, I wrote it by hand. Below is a scanned excerpt of the letter. The full handwritten letter can be found here: Page 1, Page 2 and Page 3. My address and phone number have been blurred out on Page 3.

 Excerpt from letter to Obama

I will be the first to admit that I don't have the best hand writing so I submitted a printed letter as well, the contents of which are slightly modified as I rephrased a couple of things from the handwritten to the typed version. Below is a copy of the typed letter I wrote to President Obama.

2/15/2015

Dear President Obama,

I applaud you and your administration for your recent action on climate change. As you are well aware of the severity of this issue, I won’t repeat why it is such an important subject to both present and future generations.

However, I would like to bring to your attention a very important piece of climate change action that is missing from your administration’s plan for solving this problem.

I am referring to animal agriculture. Not only do farmed animals produce methane (about 20 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas) and nitrous oxide (about 300 times more potent), they are a huge consumer of fossil fuels as well. One example of fossil fuel use in animal agriculture is the farm equipment used to grow animal feed. If the land, water and fossil fuels were used to grow plant-based foods for people, we would be able to grow enough food to feed over 800 million, or about 2.5 times the population of the United States.

Another example is the refrigeration of animal products to keep them from spoiling, which is the greatest use of electricity in grocery stores. Deforestation to graze animals or grow animal feed such as soy and corn, is yet another example. Trees, which serve as huge carbon storehouses are burned to make room for farmed animals, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.

In fact, according to a report by two World Bank environmental advisors, taking these and other secondary sources of greenhouse gases, animal agriculture is responsible for a stunning 51% of human-induced GHGs.

I am sure you have staff members who can easily verify anything I’ve said here. I have also included a list of relevant resources, which may prove useful.

As the citizens of China and India become more affluent, they are adopting a more western diet that is high in animal foods. If they were to match their per capita meat consumption to that of the U.S., it would prove disastrous to the planet. The U.S. has a great opportunity to be a leader in this area as we have been in so many others; in this case, by demonstrating and promoting a shift away from animal products.

Animal agriculture’s harmful environmental effects, while studied extensively, are not widely known, as most environmental organizations shy away from discussing it lest they lose their paying membership. You, fortunately, are not bound to any special interest group to speak out about the right things to do to ensure a habitable planet for future generations.

Additional positive effects of eliminating the consumption of animal foods are in healthcare. Some of the major causes of mortality in the U.S. are related to diet. While the Affordable Care Act is a good start, increasing costs will make providing healthcare unsustainable in the long run if we don’t find other means of taking better care of our health. Instead of subsidizing foods (such as meat, eggs and dairy) that cause diseases and increase our healthcare costs, we could do so much better by supporting those farmers to grow foods that are healthy for the planet as well as people.

A significant difference between adopting cleaner energy sources and changing our diets is that the former requires tremendous monetary investments and will take several years to implement fully, whereas the latter may be employed immediately at little to no additional costs to the average U.S. citizen. It’s a rapidly scalable and win-win solution we can no longer afford to overlook.

I hope, as you and your administration continue to push for cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels, that you will also empower people (such as those who routinely organize to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline) to be able to make a huge difference in reducing their own greenhouse gas footprints by telling them about harmful role animal agriculture plays in climate change, land and water pollution.

Our children cannot afford for us not be aware of all the solutions to the impending crisis that climate change will bring, including this simple solution that anyone can adopt right now – a shift away from animal products.

Sincerely,

Kamal S. Prasad 

I also included the following with the letter.

Resources:

The report stating that 51% of GHGs come from animal agriculture, and supporting documentation - http://www.chompingclimatechange.org/read.html

Industrial animal agriculture is one of the largest polluters of land and fresh water resources - http://www.pewenvironment.org/our-focus/land-1085/animal-agriculture-1086

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret – A documentary, for which I did some videography that showcases the harmful environmental effects of animal agriculture - http://cowspiracy.com/

Cutting costs and improving health: federal food policy reforms could save billions - http://pcrm.org/health/reports/cutting-costs-improving-health-federal-policy

Uprooting the leading causes of death in the U.S. - http://nutritionfacts.org/video/uprooting-the-leading-causes-of-death/

Kaiser Permanente recommends a plant-based diet for all patients - http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/files/Spring2013/Nutrition.pdf

Turning farms from feed crops to food crops benefits the farmers, people and the planet - http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/05/dining/the-seeds-of-a-new-generation.html

This last week I got a reply. The scanned copy of the letter from the President's office can be found here. I have transcribed it below. Please forgive any errors I may have made in the transcription and if pointed out to me, I will correct them.

THE WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON

August 12, 2015

Dear Kamal:

Thank you for writing. America depends on our farmers and ranchers to clothe our families, feed our people, and fuel our cars and trucks. Because of their hard work and know-how, we are enjoying the strongest 5-year stretch of farm exports in our Nation's history. My Administration is committed to expanding on this record growth by helping rural communities spur innovation, find profitable markets, and succeed in a changing climate.

I signed the Farm Bill to support our Nation's farmers and ranchers—those who grow our and help hardworking Americans put that food on the table—while reducing our deficits through smart reforms. This Farm Bill provides new opportunities and expanded markets for organic and locally produced foods. It provides crop insurance, so that when disasters strike, farmers don't lose everything they have worked so hard to build. And since fewer people are taking up farming, this law puts special focus on new beginning farmers and ranchers, including our Nation's veterans—assisting the next generation of growers and producers with getting off to a good start. Additionally, my “Made in Rural America” initiative is helping rural businesses expand, hire, and sell more products made here at home to the rest of the world.

As climate change continues to threaten our lands and the communities that depend on them, my Administration is joining with the agriculture industry to both prevent and prepare for the effects of a changing climate. We're developing biofuels, boosting conservation efforts, and working with farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture drives our country, and as long as I'm President, I'll keep striving to lift up those whose livelihood supports us all. To learn more about my plans to support rural communities, please visit www.WhiteHouse.gov/Issues/Rural. More intimation on farm loan programs be found at www.FSA.USDA.gov. Again, thank you for writing.

Sincerely,

(Signed) Barack Obama

I will leave it up to the reader to decide whether President Obama adequately addressed my concerns.

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