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  • I grew up on a small farm in Missouri.

  • We lived on less than a dollar a day

  • for about 15 years.

  • I got a scholarship, went to university,

  • studied international agriculture, studied anthropology,

  • and decided I was going to give back.

  • I was going to work with small farmers.

  • I was going to help alleviate poverty.

  • I was going to work on international development,

  • and then I took a turn

  • and ended up here.

  • Now, if you get a Ph.D., and you decide not to teach,

  • you don't always end up in a place like this.

  • It's a choice. You might end up driving a taxicab.

  • You could be in New York.

  • What I found was,

  • I started working with refugees and famine victims --

  • small farmers, all, or nearly all --

  • who had been dispossessed and displaced.

  • Now, what I'd been trained to do

  • was methodological research on such people.

  • So I did it: I found out how many women

  • had been raped en route to these camps.

  • I found out how many people had been put in jail,

  • how many family members had been killed.

  • I assessed how long they were going to stay

  • and how much it would take to feed them.

  • And I got really good at predicting

  • how many body bags you would need

  • for the people who were going to die in these camps.

  • Now this is God's work, but it's not my work.

  • It's not the work I set out to do.

  • So I was at a Grateful Dead benefit concert on the rainforests

  • in 1988.

  • I met a guy -- the guy on the left.

  • His name was Ben.

  • He said, "What can I do to save the rainforests?"

  • I said, "Well, Ben, what do you do?"

  • "I make ice cream."

  • So I said, "Well, you've got to make

  • a rainforest ice cream.

  • And you've got to use nuts from the rainforests

  • to show that forests are worth more as forests

  • than they are as pasture."

  • He said, "Okay."

  • Within a year,

  • Rainforest Crunch was on the shelves.

  • It was a great success.

  • We did our first million-dollars-worth of trade

  • by buying on 30 days and selling on 21.

  • That gets your adrenaline going.

  • Then we had a four and a half million-dollar line of credit

  • because we were credit-worthy at that point.

  • We had 15 to 20, maybe 22 percent

  • of the global Brazil-nut market.

  • We paid two to three times more than anybody else.

  • Everybody else raised their prices to the gatherers of Brazil nuts

  • because we would buy it otherwise.

  • A great success.

  • 50 companies signed up, 200 products came out,

  • generated 100 million in sales.

  • It failed.

  • Why did it fail?

  • Because the people who were gathering Brazil nuts

  • weren't the same people who were cutting the forests.

  • And the people who made money from Brazil nuts

  • were not the people who made money from cutting the forests.

  • We were attacking the wrong driver.

  • We needed to be working on beef.

  • We needed to be working on lumber.

  • We needed to be working on soy --

  • things that we were not focused on.

  • So let's go back to Sudan.

  • I often talk to refugees:

  • "Why was it that the West didn't realize

  • that famines are caused by policies and politics,

  • not by weather?"

  • And this farmer said to me, one day,

  • something that was very profound.

  • He said, "You can't wake a person who's pretending to sleep."

  • (Laughter)

  • Okay. Fast forward.

  • We live on a planet.

  • There's just one of them.

  • We've got to wake up to the fact

  • that we don't have any more

  • and that this is a finite planet.

  • We know the limits of the resources we have.

  • We may be able to use them differently.

  • We may have some innovative, new ideas.

  • But in general, this is what we've got.

  • There's no more of it.

  • There's a basic equation that we can't get away from.

  • Population times consumption

  • has got to have some kind of relationship to the planet,

  • and right now, it's a simple "not equal."

  • Our work shows that we're living

  • at about 1.3 planets.

  • Since 1990,

  • we crossed the line

  • of being in a sustainable relationship to the planet.

  • Now we're at 1.3.

  • If we were farmers, we'd be eating our seed.

  • For bankers, we'd be living off the principal, not the interest.

  • This is where we stand today.

  • A lot of people like to point

  • to some place else as the cause of the problem.

  • It's always population growth.

  • Population growth's important,

  • but it's also about how much each person consumes.

  • So when the average American

  • consumes 43 times as much

  • as the average African,

  • we've got to think that consumption is an issue.

  • It's not just about population,

  • and it's not just about them; it's about us.

  • But it's not just about people;

  • it's about lifestyles.

  • There's very good evidence --

  • again, we don't necessarily have

  • a peer-reviewed methodology

  • that's bulletproof yet --

  • but there's very good evidence

  • that the average cat in Europe

  • has a larger environmental footprint in its lifetime

  • than the average African.

  • You think that's not an issue going forward?

  • You think that's not a question

  • as to how we should be using the Earth's resources?

  • Let's go back and visit our equation.

  • In 2000, we had six billion people on the planet.

  • They were consuming what they were consuming --

  • let's say one unit of consumption each.

  • We have six billion units of consumption.

  • By 2050,

  • we're going to have nine billion people -- all the scientists agree.

  • They're all going to consume twice as much as they currently do --

  • scientists, again, agree --

  • because income is going to grow in developing countries

  • five times what it is today --

  • on global average, about [2.9].

  • So we're going to have 18 billion units of consumption.

  • Who have you heard talking lately

  • that's said we have to triple production

  • of goods and services?

  • But that's what the math says.

  • We're not going to be able to do that.

  • We can get productivity up.

  • We can get efficiency up.

  • But we've also got to get consumption down.

  • We need to use less

  • to make more.

  • And then we need to use less again.

  • And then we need to consume less.

  • All of those things are part of that equation.

  • But it basically raises a fundamental question:

  • should consumers have a choice

  • about sustainability, about sustainable products?

  • Should you be able to buy a product that's sustainable

  • sitting next to one that isn't,

  • or should all the products on the shelf be sustainable?

  • If they should all be sustainable on a finite planet,

  • how do you make that happen?

  • The average consumer takes 1.8 seconds in the U.S.

  • Okay, so let's be generous.

  • Let's say it's 3.5 seconds in Europe.

  • How do you evaluate all the scientific data

  • around a product,

  • the data that's changing on a weekly, if not a daily, basis?

  • How do you get informed?

  • You don't.

  • Here's a little question.

  • From a greenhouse gas perspective,

  • is lamb produced in the U.K.

  • better than lamb produced in New Zealand,

  • frozen and shipped to the U.K.?

  • Is a bad feeder lot operation for beef

  • better or worse than

  • a bad grazing operation for beef?

  • Do organic potatoes

  • actually have fewer toxic chemicals

  • used to produce them

  • than conventional potatoes?

  • In every single case,

  • the answer is "it depends."

  • It depends on who produced it and how,

  • in every single instance.

  • And there are many others.

  • How is a consumer going to walk through this minefield?

  • They're not.

  • They may have a lot of opinions about it,

  • but they're not going to be terribly informed.

  • Sustainability has got to be a pre-competitive issue.

  • It's got to be something we all care about.

  • And we need collusion.

  • We need groups to work together that never have.

  • We need Cargill to work with Bunge.

  • We need Coke to work with Pepsi.

  • We need Oxford to work with Cambridge.

  • We need Greenpeace to work with WWF.

  • Everybody's got to work together --

  • China and the U.S.

  • We need to begin to manage this planet

  • as if our life depended on it,

  • because it does,

  • it fundamentally does.

  • But we can't do everything.

  • Even if we get everybody working on it,

  • we've got to be strategic.

  • We need to focus on the where,

  • the what and the who.

  • So, the where:

  • We've identified 35 places globally that we need to work.

  • These are the places that are the richest in biodiversity

  • and the most important from an ecosystem function point-of-view.

  • We have to work in these places.

  • We have to save these places if we want a chance in hell

  • of preserving biodiversity as we know it.

  • We looked at the threats to these places.

  • These are the 15 commodities

  • that fundamentally pose the biggest threats

  • to these places

  • because of deforestation,

  • soil loss, water use, pesticide use,

  • over-fishing, etc.

  • So we've got 35 places,

  • we've got 15 priority commodities,

  • who do we work with

  • to change the way those commodities are produced?

  • Are we going to work with 6.9 billion consumers?

  • Let's see, that's about 7,000 languages,

  • 350 major languages --

  • a lot of work there.

  • I don't see anybody actually being able

  • to do that very effectively.

  • Are we going to work with 1.5 billion producers?

  • Again, a daunting task.

  • There must be a better way.

  • 300 to 500 companies

  • control 70 percent or more

  • of the trade of each of the 15 commodities

  • that we've identified as the most significant.

  • If we work with those, if we change those companies

  • and the way they do business,

  • then the rest will happen automatically.

  • So, we went through our 15 commodities.

  • This is nine of them.

  • We lined them up side-by-side,

  • and we put the names of the companies that work

  • on each of those.

  • And if you go through the first 25 or 30 names

  • of each of the commodities,

  • what you begin to see is,

  • gosh, there's Cargill here, there's Cargill there,

  • there's Cargill everywhere.

  • In fact, these names start coming up over and over again.