Welcome to 2020! In keeping with tradition, I’ve written this letter to kick off the new year. I hope you’ll take the time to read it. In Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” — a memoir of decadent Paris in the 1920s — drinks and delicious meals play a starring role. “Write drunk upon a nourishing meal, edit sober” served as a guiding principle in Hemingway’s life and work, and it is relevant for us at Simple Feast when thinking about how we can help solve the challenges of climate change. Allow me to explain.
We could have kicked off 2020 with a critique of the ever-failing, power-obsessed political system that says so much and does so little. In the past 10 to 20 years, late autumn has gone from being the rainy season to the fire season in California. Once again in 2019, we saw that state ravaged by wildfires. In Australia, countless fires have burned for months on end and have scorched the country to an unprecedented extent — and it is still only the beginning of their summer. More than 1 billion animals have been killed. The fires have emitted two-thirds of Australia’s annual carbon budget, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Unfortunately, the political leaders of Australia and the United States still refuse to take man-made climate change seriously and act accordingly.
During his first year as president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro has demonstrated that the mining and meat industries are more precious to him than preserving the Amazon, one of the world’s most critical “lungs” and sources of biodiversity. Operating under the slogan “the Amazon belongs to Brazil, not the world,” Bolsonaro is right alongside U.S. President Donald Trump in the race to be the world’s biggest political obstacle to climate policy action, as well as an obstacle to the progress of general respect toward our fellow human beings.
These same nations played the leading roles in a disturbingly futile climate summit in Madrid, Spain, making 2019 another wasted year in terms of climate action. No new carbon quota system was adopted. We saw no new and ambitious climate targets. And the rich countries didn’t dig into their pockets to help poorer countries with their green transitions.
A new prime minister was elected in Denmark in 2019, bringing with her a visionary minister for climate, energy, and utilities, Dan Jørgensen, who presented some of the most ambitious climate targets the world has seen thus far. Unfortunately, not long after, this same prime minister echoed a hopelessly outdated political message that continues to reverberate around the world, saying that the fight against climate change must not cost anything in terms of prosperity, growth, or inequality. Welcome to Utopia. Or rather, welcome to yet another episode of visionless policy that we have seen repeated time and time again since the scientific consensus on global warming was established in the late 1970s. The democratic election cycle makes it so consistently disheartening to follow politics, and the democratic process has failed horribly when it comes to the climate. There will be no real climate policy action until necessity forces the hand of power-obsessed politicians.
In other words, the serve is back in civil society’s court, which is perfectly fine because we know revolutions always start from the ground up. We must acknowledge that we all have to make changes, and that it is extremely difficult to change our behaviors. That’s why it is so important to implement policies that raise the expense of environmentally destructive life choices while making it less expensive to “live green.” Of course we must increase taxes on air travel. Of course we must increase taxes on meat — just as we tax tobacco, alcohol, and sugar — and lower the sales tax on vegetables. This shouldn’t be a political issue. It’s incredibly naive to imagine that technological advances alone have any realistic chance of solving the problems, especially in the short term. And, it’s just as naive to believe that without incentives we humans can make the immediate and huge changes that are needed to our behaviors. Changes necessary for ourselves and for the generations to come. The question is not whether it’s the job of politicians or the people to solve the problem; it has to be the job of both. However, it would be a huge step in the right direction to replace the pervasive political cynicism with visionary leadership that is willing and able to help make changes for the better.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’ve grown tired of hearing for years that climate policy measures shouldn’t cost anything. Allow me to offer a different and more positive narrative. The U.N. climate panel’s most important climate report ever was published in 2018, announcing that we have 12 years left to avoid catastrophic consequences of climate change. The report also makes clear that eating more vegetables and cutting down on meat consumption might be the most effective way to make a rapid difference.
In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission, whose members include many of the world’s leading universities and professors, proposed a diet for the future in the “Planetary Health Diet” report. The Planetary Health Diet consists of approximately 90% plants and 10% animal protein. It is a diet for the mutual health of humans and the planet. The report stresses the health benefits of this diet, further confirmation that what is good for you is also good for the planet. It’s a fairly simple conclusion, but it holds great potential.
The report is a continuation of the University of Oxford’s landmark 2016 study, which found that the healthiest diet for humans is not only the healthiest diet for the planet, but that a predominantly plant-based diet can provide health savings corresponding to 9% to 13% of gross domestic product! In Denmark, this amounts to approximately 200 billion Danish kroner, and in Sweden the number is about 480 billion Swedish kroner. So, let’s be honest. No political measure holds as much potential as doing something to ensure we eat more vegetables. And, just think about how much we could do for the climate with the money saved!
It’s not a fact of nature that our energy levels have to be spiking and crashing throughout the day, or that about half of all Danes and Swedes are overweight, or that high blood pressure and high cholesterol are a natural part of life after 50, or that the rates of Type 2 diabetes continue to skyrocket. It’s not inevitable that lifestyle diseases now kill more people than smoking ever has. These diseases continue to be mistakenly referred to as chronic diseases, despite the fact that medical science long ago established that there is nothing chronic about them whatsoever. They are primarily the result of our lifestyle choices, and they are reversible.
We started Simple Feast to be part of the solution. We started Simple Feast to spark a revolution in the name of health, well-being, and the environment. This brings me back to the 1920s and the festivity, cuisine, and poetry of Hemingway’s decadent Paris. We are here to show that the revolution can be a celebration filled with well-being and respect for each other and for the planet that is our home. We are here to show that the revolution can taste infinitely delicious and be fully enjoyable. Every new door you open can reveal new sensory experiences, and you never have to compromise on taste and well-being — au contraire! Taking a step into the kingdom of plants can be the most fantastic and energizing celebration. A celebration with so many more facets than the world from which we came. We are here to experiment, push the boundaries, and define the future of food, from the ground up.
From the very beginning, we set out to do the impossible. We have never permitted the use of any plastic. Although bioplastics are far from a panacea and recycled cardboard has its limitations, the use of plastics or recycled plastics is a step backward, not an innovative step forward. In 2020, expect more on that front from us.
When it comes to the food, we are 100% organic. We do not use any additives or treat our products with ultra-high temperatures. We do not add any artificial sweeteners or processed sugar. Nothing added, nothing removed from the plants. With rare exception, there is no processing of the ingredients apart from natural cooking techniques. We have explored, rediscovered, and further developed techniques that are, in some cases, thousands of years old. We are here to help as many people as possible on the journey to improved well-being and increased energy levels. We want our customers to have a greater connection to the farmers who grow our plants, and to live a life in greater harmony with the planet that is our home. We are here to make a difference and to make the road to a new food culture a celebration unlike anyone has seen before!
The journey is not without its challenges, errors, and setbacks. We will treat every challenge along the way as an opportunity to improve and grow. 2019 was a good year and strengthened our resolve to try out many new things in 2020. Although we will never achieve perfection, we will go even further than we ever dreamt was possible when we started out four years ago.
Thank you, sincerely, for reading this letter and for being a part of the journey. We are delighted to have you along for the ride. Thanks to all of you who write to tell us about the difference we’re making in your everyday lives. Believe me, your feedback inspires us incredibly here at Simple Feast. Please, continue sharing your feedback, both positive and negative. Without your help, we’ll never reach the goal. You and your family are the reason we’re here. And we will never forget that.
Here’s to a fantastic 2020!
Co-founder and CEO, Simple Feast