This week’s topic is: Healthy Soil for a Healthy Future with Dr. Joel Warsh and Rob Herring
I am so excited to have a very special guest, Dr. Joel Warsh, who is an integrative pediatrician, pediatric wellness activist and founder of Integrative Pediatrics, and Rob Herring, a writer, director, producer, cinematographer and an environmental filmmaker and musical activist. Listen in as Rob and Joel share how they’re trying to bring back healthy soil and a better environment when Western medicine and natural medicine partner together as one, and how you can join The Need To Grow solutions movement!
About Dr. Joel Warsh
Dr. Joel “Gator” Warsh is an Integrative and Holistic Pediatrician in Los Angeles, California. He grew up in Toronto, Canada and completed his undergraduate training there in Kinesiology and Health Sciences, before going on to earn his Master’s Degree in Epidemiology and Community Health at Queen’s University. He completed his medical training at Thomas Jefferson University and residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Dr. Gator has studied Holistic and Integrative Medicine. In an effort to provide superior patient care, he incorporates various methodologies into his allopathic medical practice. Dr. Gator is a certified Integrative Medical Practitioner by the American Academy of Integrative Medicine. Currently, he is studying Functional Medicine, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Homeopathy.
About Rob Herring
Rob Herring is an environmental filmmaker and musical activist. He produced The Relationtrip and Directed/Produced Nothing In Los Angeles, which received numerous Best Picture honors.
Rob worked on the critically acclaimed GMO OMG, and is a Producer on the follow up to the world famous Zeitgeist Trilogy. As a musician, Rob writes songs for health and eco activism, and he headlined the Rock For Nature concert in Berlin for 25,000 people. Rob is also a Certified Holistic Health Coach and is the co-founder of Integrative Pediatrics.
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Dan and Rob’s Interview
Note: The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate. This is due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.
Kimberly: Hey Beauties. Welcome back, I’m so excited to have two amazing guests in person here with me today. We have Rob Herring who is the writer, director, producer and cinematographer on the new film, The Need To Grow. We also have, Dr. Joel Warsh who is the medical advisor. He is a pediatric wellness activist. I’m super excited to pick both of your guys’ brains. Thank you guys so much for being here. We’re going to talk about the film. We’re going to talk about a lot of issues having to do with sustainable food and how it relates to our health and the health of our children.
Kimberly: Before we dive in beauties though, I just want to give a shout out to our fan of the week. Her name is [Haley B. Fowler 00:00:42]. She writes, “Kimberly makes me want to be a better person and live a healthier life. When I think back on the healthiest times of my life, it’s when I’m consistently listening and reading her content. She makes me a better person for myself, which in turn makes me a better wife and a better mother. Thank you, Kimberly for everything you’ve taught me and everything you’ve done for me. You are inspiring beyond belief. I can’t recommend this podcast more.”
Kimberly: Haley B. Fowler thank you so much for being our Fan of the Week. Thank you so much for being in our community. Sending you a huge virtual hug. I hope we get to meet in person one day. Beauties, for your chance also to be shouted out as the Fan of the Week, please take a moment or two out of your day and leave us a review on iTunes. It’s free. It’s easy. It’s just a great way to support the show energetically and help other beauties just like yourself. Find a show, which could possibly, truly benefit their lives. And just another quick shout to make sure that you please subscribe to our podcast that way you don’t miss any Monday interviews and any of the Thursday Q & As. It’s just a great form of self-care and getting that consistent motivation and inspiration in your life.
Kimberly: All right, so all that being said, I have these two gentlemen next to me on my couch, which is really exciting in my new home in Topanga. Thank you, gentlemen for coming all the way up here.
Rob Herring: Thank you for having us.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Thank you for having us.
Kimberly: Give us the overview of this new documentary, The Need to Grow, the basic premise of the film before we dive in. I have a million questions for you guys.
Rob Herring: Sure, sure. So, The Need to Grow came about out of working in the food system and looking at a lot of the problems that existed and seeing a lot of the frustrations that were there, rightfully so, a lot of anger at what is going wrong both in the ramifications for our human health, but also our environmental health. And so, me and my partner, Ryan Wirick had joined together. We actually didn’t know each other before then. We came together around the idea of could we make a film around solutions? And so, we were looking at solutions to the food system. What would be cool? What would be hip? What would be new and get people excited and engaged because really, that’s the end point, right. People need to care and be willing to step forward towards these solutions, put money towards them, pay for better types of food if anything is going to change, right.
Rob Herring: So, we looked at all these things and then we started to learn more about soil. As we were learning about the decline of our soils globally and that was an overwhelming issue. But, at the same time what we found was how interconnected soil health was to virtually every environmental issue. So, whether it’s obviously our food and our nutrition density that we get from that food and our own human health as a side effect, but also the ability for soil to hold water, so droughts, floods, but then carbon emissions in our atmosphere. Where are they going to go? We talk about carbon emissions all day long and reducing them, but we don’t talk about bringing them back. So, we looked at soil as a solution and the film follows some really cool innovators around these solutions. It’s a story-driven character thing. It’s not quite as nerdy as it may sound about soil. It’s really a people-driven thing, a human story.
Kimberly: But, it’s positive. You found in the film that it is possible to bring back healthy soil. Are you hopeful that this can happen in our lifetime?
Rob Herring: In our lifetime, yeah, well, we [crosstalk 00:04:14] have to kick it into high gear. The solutions exist now already. That’s the big thing. We don’t need to wait around for magical solutions to be thought up. We just need to take actions on the ones that already exist. So, whether the political will, will be there and whether the consumer demand will go there because ultimately these things are about money in the end, right.
Kimberly: Yeah, it’s commercially-driven.
Rob Herring: Political will as well.
Kimberly: Are the biggest problems, as you mentioned, the actual nutrient density of the food, but also feeding more people worldwide? Is it actually a quantity issue as well, do you find? Countries like Africa, if we took better care of the soil there would be more production, or are we talking the actual nutrient density of whatever food is growing?
Dr. Joel Warsh: I think it’s both, right. It’s the toxins that we’re using to create the soil, or to create the products that we’re using and to try to mass produce, and then also the decrease in nutrient density. So, if you combine those two and that’s where we’ve got to this problem.
Rob Herring: Yeah, the demand on food production, of course, is increasing as you mentioned, right. The more people there are on the planet the more mouths we need to feed.
Rob Herring: We’re doing that in a way currently that is… It’s really just about looking at the difference between dirt and soil. So, our dirt is the media, which has been stripped of life. So, dirt and soil are completely different, right. Soil is alive and in as little as a tablespoon of soil you could have 10 billion microbes living in there, right.
Kimberly: Yes, we actually have soilborne organism probiotics.
Rob Herring: Oh yeah, right. Those are the best ones because that’s what nature intended.
Kimberly: It’s where our ancestors got probiotics.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Exactly.
Rob Herring: Right, on food, yeah.
Kimberly: But now, most soil is unfortunately devoid of healthy organisms.
Rob Herring: Right, so as those organisms die, we lose the soil structure, the ability for it to hold water and nutrients and then it becomes like dust.
Kimberly: So, it’s not holding the minerals in the same way.
Rob Herring: Exactly, right. It’s just extract, extract, extract is where we’re thinking. So, if you just farm and pull out and pull out, then you’re only putting in, in conventional farming, a very limited number of elements that we’re putting back in, NPK, right.
Kimberly: It’s NPK. Yeah, you always hear that, nitrogen.
Rob Herring: Right, nitrogen and phosphorous, potassium, right, so we’re putting those back in. They may add in some other micronutrients depending on where you’re looking. But, most of those are synthetically-based. We’re not building the life in the soil that would curate the multitude beyond our awareness of even what’s going on under there. We are barely scratching the surface, even the top soil scientist will admit. I mean, we barely know how things work.
Rob Herring: But the point is, is when that life is gone, when the biology is gone then you have a situation that will lead to erosion. You’ll have a situation that’ll lead to just harder and harder to grow out of unless you put more and more inputs.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Those inputs are artificial for the most part, right?
Rob Herring: Yeah.
Dr. Joel Warsh: So, it’s not the same thing as having just a cow graze on the land, and then take a poop and then letting things regrow. And so, we’re not giving it that time to do it naturally.
Kimberly: That was my question. Obviously, organic is becoming more popular, biodynamic to some extent, but not on a mass scale. But, is that one of the solutions is just to support organic? I mean, how do we bring back soil on a mass scale with all this growing population. I mean, there is so much soil, so it just seems like a huge issue to overcome.
Kimberly: I’m sure, obviously this is what the film is about and how to do it on that kind of scale. But, we think about, oh, you know this farm where the animals are. We’re composting and the animals are pooping. It’s going back in. It sounds really great, but when you think about, what, it’s seven billion people on the planet now, how does that scale?
Rob Herring: Right, so I think the idea unfortunately we’re trapped in is the idea of industrial agriculture and just efficiency in terms of quantity, quantity, quantity. We’re at this point where we’re growing lots of food in a monocrop situation for miles and miles and miles one crop, which not to mention it’s very non-resilient to something coming in and possibly wiping that out, especially if it’s the same gene like a genetically modified version of a crop. So, biodiversity really is the key. That’s what we’re finding, is that when that’s curated then you have higher production.
Rob Herring: But, we don’t want to get so caught up, I think, in just producing more and more quantity because we can produce quantity of these commodities like corn and soy, canola, cotton, all the genetically modified varieties. And then, we pump them into foods that are the junk foods and foods that we shouldn’t really be eating, all the processed foods, right. We’re shipping them around the world, so when we localize, I think has… There is a misconception of round industrial agriculture because the majority of food in the world is grown by small and family-owned farms. People think that it’s corporate Big AG that actually grows the food, but-
Rob Herring: … That’s just a marketing.
Kimberly: Again, if we look back a couple steps we know a lot of the corn and soy is going into animal feed.
Rob Herring: Yeah, exactly.
Kimberly: We’re largely plant-based here, we’re not all or nothing. But, a solution is if people were to eat less animal food and more plant-based food it would help diversify the crops potentially. What do you guys think?
Rob Herring: It’s tricky because it’s not a black and white issue.
Rob Herring: I think the main thing that I would love in the plant-based community to embrace is that we need to be really careful in what we’re vilifying in terms of animals because we’re really talking about conventional factory-farmed, CAFOs where these factory-farmed are horrific. There is no question they’re the most pollutive thing in the world. We need to end that.
Rob Herring: There is also another way that you can raise animals, right, in regenerative holistic grazing that is actually in harmony with how these animals evolved with the landscape. So, it’s a tricky topic to navigate because it’s a whole new type of education and around what is possible. We have to remember these grasslands, especially in North America, they evolved with these ruminant animals, with cows, with bison.
Kimberly: Well, I guess the complexity is because of the exploding population and portion size and needs to the point of what we just saw with the Amazon Rainforest, so much land is being cleared. So, from an environmental perspective, we know, oh great, factory farms the animals are suffering, the methane gases, so on and so forth. But, if we say, oh, we’ll pasture-raise is the answer then there is a lot of deforestation that goes along with that unfortunately.
Rob Herring: Right, and part of it, yeah, is because [crosstalk 00:11:39] it’s land that hasn’t been grown on in suitable ways that wouldn’t need you to then leave it and move on to the forests and then have to deforest, slash and burn a new area. We continue to expand because we’re destroying the life in the soil in most of the places that we farm.
Kimberly: I see.
Rob Herring: It’s like we need more fertile grounds, so we chop down a forest.
Kimberly: Do you think if we rebuilt the soil in the existing grazing land, they would, deforestation wouldn’t be as much of an issue, or an issue, I mean, with given the population?
Dr. Joel Warsh: It would help, of course. [crosstalk 00:12:15].
Rob Herring: It would certainly help, yeah. I mean, I think so much of the deforestation is still to grow for meat consumption unfortunately.
Rob Herring: Yeah, it’s hard to separate them because the demand and the distribution of food I think is just as important of a piece of this conversation because we waste so much food.
Rob Herring: And so, when we’re talking about feeding the world, is it’s not just a matter of how much we grow. It’s a matter of how much gets to people.
Kimberly: How efficient the crops are, sure.
Rob Herring: Yeah. I mean, 40% is the estimate of how much we waste. I think it could be higher than that. So, if you think about 40% of the food, it’s very easy for people to imagine a big pile of food and taking 40% off the top and throwing it into the trash.
Rob Herring: But, you have to also think of 40% of the carbon that was used to grow it, 40% of the water that was used to grow it, 40% of the human energy. I mean, everything that went into that 40% or possibly more was for no reason, so that needs to be a huge part of the solution.
Dr. Joel Warsh: We’re also so disconnected from it now. I mean, one of the main things is, I think is we need to really get back to what you were saying with localization and getting people to do their own farms, have their own gardens, have school gardens.
Kimberly: Right, instead of relying on just the government.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Instead of relying on just the government, or Whole Foods, or a big store. That’s what we’ve become used to.
Kimberly: So, you guys are encouraging more home gardens, growing your own vegetables?
Dr. Joel Warsh: Yeah.
Kimberly: My last house, we had our beds. We just moved them here.
Rob Herring: Oh, cool.
Kimberly: Yeah, we’re getting back into it.
Rob Herring: Great.
Kimberly: I think growing your own vegetables is incredible. Even if people don’t have that much space and they can grow some of their vegetables or some of their herbs.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Right, and that’s one of the big things in the movie too showing about towers and growing things at home and everything like that.
Rob Herring: Like you say, you don’t have to grow 100% of your food, and that’s actually, in many cases, probably not the solution that people should be striving for.
Kimberly: No, especially they’re not for big families.
Rob Herring: Right. I’ve known people who have tried to do that and a lot of times it’s not ultimately for their own mental health in the end because they’re stressing so much around this idealistic thing and they’re losing social connection, but it’s just too much stress to do. So, what can you grow? What will that offset from how much needed to be grown somewhere else and shipped to the grocery store?
Kimberly: Right, and plus, you could then control your own soil quality.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Correct.
Kimberly: So, there is more nutrients in your vegetables.
Dr. Joel Warsh: There is such amazing, nutritious vegetables that you can grow even in those urban farms. In the film it’s amazing to see how huge and massive and totally different the vegetables could be even from just something out of a parking lot.
Kimberly: Whoa! Wait, so is the gist sort of take it into your own hands, or do you… Are you interested in some way lobbying the government to put more resources back into the soil, or a combination?
Rob Herring: Sure, yeah. The film really is story-driven piece of these three heroes and follows three different scales of solutions. So, one of them is a little girl. We follow her from age six to about 12. She represents the no excuses story because she’s doing activism and starting school gardens and [C libraries 00:15:42] when she’s eight years old.
Rob Herring: She doesn’t have access to a ton of resources to get this done, but it’s just a great hero example of what you could do if you just committed to making a difference in your own community.
Rob Herring: Then we have this urban farmer that Dr. Joel was just referencing, Erik Cutter.
Kimberly: Which city is he in?
Rob Herring: He’s in Irvine.
Rob Herring: So, Southern California, yeah. What he’s doing is, he’s developed his own system of really concentrated nutrient density. That’s the big piece for him. Again is, looking at the connection of human health as a big piece of this and so, it’s a zero waste off-grid farm that has totally organic. There is no pesticides. But, everything is going back in, so the composting piece is a big part of it. But, he’s able to grow with fewer inputs and more nutrient dense in ways that we haven’t seen a lot of in our journeys around the country.
Kimberly: Is he adding microbes back into the soil. Can you bring back dead dirt into soil?
Rob Herring: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Kimberly: Is it expensive?
Rob Herring: No, no, it virtually should be free. There are, of course amendments and products that you can buy that contain microbes, or there is beneficial bacteria, but then there is fungus and micro rise of fungi and all these different things that we can add in. Sure, you can get them. But, if you just get the culture of it started, the bacteria of it started and you get composting, these things just arrive.
Kimberly: Come back.
Rob Herring: Yeah.
Rob Herring: It’s very cool when you start to see earthworms come back and then it sets the stage just for more and more species to participate. That’s the magic of nature is it will do it because these microbes are essentially everywhere.
Kimberly: Why aren’t they doing it already? Or, it’s being depleted because of conventional farming because you said monocrops basically, pollution too, I imagine. All the drainage going in and is destroying [crosstalk 00:17:53].
Rob Herring: Oh, yeah.
Dr. Joel Warsh: It takes time, right. It takes time to compost. It takes time to do things appropriately. You can’t get the yields that you would get if you do it the proper way.
Rob Herring: Well, for the most part, it’s just easier, right, for people and cheaper to not do some of these forms of agriculture that take a little more [crosstalk 00:18:18] like you’re saying, yeah, that take personal input and just a different strategy. Then a lot of people, I think are, no is an option. And so, we have this thing of out of sight, out of mind where our food waste is just sent to a landfill. This is a huge piece is what can you do at home right now if you’re not a farmer, or anything is just figure out how to get your food waste into a compost, either your own or find somebody who does. And that is then taking that extraction that we’ve done out of the farm that someone else did, right, and then saying hey, I’m not just going to now put that in a trash, in this giant landfill where it’s going to emit greenhouse gases, methane, nitrose oxide, CO2.
Rob Herring: We know that landfill emissions are some of the biggest contributors to climate change, period. And so, can we take that and make it into a solution? So, we can actually rebuild soil and then you can use it in your own garden, or someone else can use it on a school garden, or a community garden, or wherever it ends up. But, the idea is you’re not creating the conditions for that food waste to become part of the problem. You’re instead cycling it back in. That’s got to be the thing is closed loop and let nature complete the cycles. Right now, all we’ve done is-
Kimberly: [crosstalk 00:19:42] It’s just disjointed.
Rob Herring: … pull it, yeah.
Kimberly: I interjected, but the third story is a more macro on a mental level. How amazing would it be if the government added some actual protocols? Like, all these big farms had to compost, or had to put the [crosstalk 00:20:01] back in?
Rob Herring: It’s starting slowly, right. So, the third story is a man named, Michael Smith who is a amazing visionary inventor that will surprise you if you watch this film where you see all these areas of pop culture that he’s touched over the years through different technology contributions that he’s made. So, he invented the first 3D animation that was bought by Disney and used in Aladdin. He digitized Pink Floyd and The Beatles for the first time. He worked for NASA, FBI. He made some of the first three music videos ever. He’s working on video games, AI for Grand Theft Auto, FIFA, Madden, Halo, all these famous games.
Rob Herring: And so, he was looking at how do I apply this software technology to natural systems? What if we treated natural components as we would characters in a game? Instead of creating the AI that would have your opponent shoot you, or shoot a goal against you, or even your teammate work in harmony with you and pass the ball back and forth in a soccer game, what if algae and carbon and water and these different natural components were able to communicate in a way that would optimize their efficiency?
Rob Herring: So, he developed a system called The Green Power House that is off-grid, runs entirely on waste that would otherwise go to a landfill. It creates enough electricity to power 100 homes off of just a quarter acre system, so it outperforms solar. But, it’s also sequestering a ton of carbon every day. The real kicker is that it’s regenerating these soil components that would take hundreds to thousands of years, maybe more, and he does it in a matter of days. And so, when we’re talking about regenerating soil fast enough to save the world, this is a really big-
Kimberly: A viable solution.
Rob Herring: … solution.
Kimberly: It would just have to be adopted on a bigger scale.
Rob Herring: Yeah.
Kimberly: So, back to the problem for just a minute since the soil has shifted. How do you compare it to ideal pristine soil that would have the microbes growing in it and have all the minerals? I want to segue to you for a moment, Joel, really focusing on the children aspect. But just in general, is it, I mean, can you quantify it? Is it 80% more nutrient dense? Is it 20% more in general from the conventional farming that we see is not organic and just done in mass. What difference in our health does it actually make? Why do we care this much about soil?
Rob Herring: Right, so the estimate at least from what we’ve degraded is somewhere close to 70% of the soil on the planet is dead or dying.
Rob Herring: And so, the UN had done a big study, international study and one of the UN officials had estimated that we may have around 60 years of soil left at the rate that we currently deplete our soils. So, how do we catch up fast enough? In the US, we’re destroying soil about 10 times faster than we could create it.
Rob Herring: So, the nutrient thing is going to vary from farm to farm, but we know that even just the food that you would bite into 40 years ago that our parents and our grandparents were eating, some of those nutrient levels are, I don’t remember the stat of the top of my head, but like 40% or-
Kimberly: 40, yeah.
Rob Herring: … more that we’ve lost from certain nutrients where you’d have to eat twice as much. In some foods it’s much more than that where you’d have to eat 10 times as much.
Dr. Joel Warsh: We’re seeing fruits and vegetable that are completely degraded of multiple nutrients. So, I mean, there are so many nutrient deficiencies in children these days that we were never ever seeing before.
Kimberly: Which ones, Joel?
Dr. Joel Warsh: Vitamin D, zinc, selenium, magnesium. Almost everybody when you test them will be on the lower end, especially even vitamin D, things like that. And so, we’re just not getting the nutrients from the soil that we used to be getting. Obviously, vitamin D you get from the sun, but we’re just in general not getting…
Kimberly: What if these families are eating organic though? It’s better.
Dr. Joel Warsh: It can be better, but it depends where you’re getting it from because organic means they didn’t spray it with any chemicals, but it doesn’t mean the soil [crosstalk 00:24:29]. It could be from terrible soil. We are literally made up of what we eat and even if you’re eating an apple, if there is not the nutrient density that you need in that apple, then it still doesn’t mean you’re going to get the nutrients that you need. It still might be better than eating a candy bar.
Kimberly: Well, it’s better than eating a pesticide-sprayed apple.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Right.
Rob Herring: Certainly.
Kimberly: So, beyond organic, are you suggesting going to the farmer’s market and talking to, making… I mean, how do we know that the soil is good even at the farmer’s market? Would you say, if we assume it’s a smaller farm, it will generally have better quality?
Dr. Joel Warsh: I don’t think you do know unless you get to know your farmer. And if you get to know where your food actually comes from, if you can actually go the farm and you see them making it, if you’re making it yourself, that’s really the only way to know.
Kimberly: But, how do you even know the soil is good? How do they know it’s good?
Dr. Joel Warsh: You can see how they do it.
Rob Herring: Right.
Kimberly: Or the rotation.
Rob Herring: Well, there are some metrics. Yeah and you can tell. What are their inputs? Are they really cultivating biology, I think is a great point. What are they doing? Are they using regenerative practices? So, you could ask your local farmer’s market. Just a big tip right away, I think a lot of people assume when they go to a farmer’s market that everything is organic there just because it’s a farmer’s market.
Kimberly: Not everybody has the [inaudible 00:25:43].
Rob Herring: A lot of them are not. It doesn’t mean they’re not using organic practices because-
Kimberly: Some of them can’t.
Rob Herring: … certification.
Kimberly: It would take seven years to convert.
Rob Herring: Yeah, it’s expensive. Yeah, it usually takes, yeah three years. So, some people might be doing it. And then, there is just a level of trust, okay yeah, you’re not using pesticides, great. You’re not certified. Do I trust you or not? Fine. But, when we’re talking about organic, like Dr. Joel was saying is just being organic means that it’s free of these pesticides. It doesn’t mean at the end of the year they’ve built more soil than they started with. It doesn’t mean that it’s nutrient dense.
Kimberly: What if it’s biodynamic?
Rob Herring: Then you have a better chance of them actually cultivating nutrient density.
Kimberly: Isn’t the nature of biodynamics that cycle?
Dr. Joel Warsh: If they get that certification, then yes.
Kimberly: I mean, it’s hard to find, isn’t it?
Dr. Joel Warsh: It’s very hard to find because it’s not… It’s a lot more expensive to do it that way. I mean, you’re not going to get nearly as much production. It has to be a super small scale.
Rob Herring: And specialized. Yeah, I don’t think enough people just are educated on how to do it probably.
Kimberly: Yeah, I just feel like for a lot of our listeners there is like, oh, I’m not going to be able to find biodynamics where they live.
Rob Herring: That’s okay.
Kimberly: But, they can seek out farmer’s markets as much as possible. You can grow your own food as much as possible.
Rob Herring: Yeah, exactly.
Dr. Joel Warsh: I think that’s one of the bigger messages in general is not to get to frustrated with this. You don’t have to eat everything biodynamically, if you take one small step in the right direction. If you aren’t eating organic and you eat a little bit more organic, or if you’re not eating anything organic and you just pick one thing like, strawberries and make that organic than that can make a difference for you. And if everybody starts to do that then we slowly move in the right direction. And then, maybe one day everything will be biodynamics or maybe you’ll have your own garden and you’ll have 10 fruits or vegetables that you can have that are completely perfectly done.
Rob Herring: Yeah, it’s about a revolution of people understanding that food is important and that participating in the food system however that is. It could be that you convert your lawn into a garden. It could be that you support your local farmer’s market, organic farmer. It could be that you take your food waste and donate some of it, or get it into compost. Whatever that step is for you, that’s the solution for you, right. Meeting people where they’re at and not shaming them, not guilting them. But, what is the next level up for you to recognize that food is the thing that keeps you alive, right? It’s the thing you participate in probably about three times a day or more.
Rob Herring: When we talk so much in this country around energy efficiency, energy, energy, everyone is looking at gasoline, and electricity and those types of energies and we don’t acknowledge that it’s not a metaphor to say that food is energy. It’s literally the energy that powers the human race. So, if we were going to lose energy somewhere, well, food is the most important one, all right. We could exist theoretically without some of these other ones. We can’t live without our food systems. So, anytime politically, culturally that anyone is talking about making something more energy efficient, we keep ignoring the food system. It is the biggest destructor of our planet and it’s the biggest opportunity for us to heal the planet and heal ourselves.
Rob Herring: So, why that isn’t the top is tricky. There is a lot culturally that goes into that, but it needs to become something that people are more engaged with and it’s not just, yeah you just eat whatever you eat and that’s just, you move on with your day. I’m sure a lot of your listeners are conscious of their food.
Kimberly: I was going to say, yeah it’s rising awareness, rising consciousness. A lot of us are talking about nuances, but even just getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables in the first place with all these food deserts and getting them out of boxed, packaged foods is the first step. But, then beyond that it’s the quality and understanding the soil, the nuances.
Dr. Joel Warsh: It’s important to note that it actually can make a huge difference on your health, even small changes. There was a recent study out of Berkeley where they took the urine samples of a bunch of participants, and looked at the chemicals and toxins in the urine. Switched them over to eating organic for two weeks and the chemicals came down by 90% in the urine in two weeks. It’s a huge difference that you can see even with just a small change. So, you don’t have to do it for everything, but if you can make a few small changes. The Environmental Working Group publishes every year, The Dirty Dozen, so you can look at that.
Kimberly: Last year we announced it together out of our juice shop.
Rob Herring: Oh, cool.
Kimberly: Yeah, they’re amazing.
Dr. Joel Warsh: It’s amazing. And so, you can go and say, okay, well, let’s look at this list. What are the biggest contributors of pesticides, lets, if we’re going to go to the store and buy strawberries and kale and whatever else.
Kimberly: Yes, and then they have The Clean 15.
Dr. Joel Warsh: So, you can make those changes of five of those and that can decrease your pesticides by 10, 20, 30% and that might be enough of a difference to actual improve your health. We’re seeing such a chronic disease epidemic right now, and a lot of that most certainly has to do with the toxins that we’re exposed to. One thing you have some control over is your food.
Kimberly: For sure. One thing I’m really passionate about to me, it is not all or nothing, but we know so much of the environmental toxins do come in through meat that people consume, dioxin, all of these, PCPs, mercury a lot, so just going back to that idea that the land can be… If we focus on efficiency and a lot of the feed is going to feed the animal and all the water it takes to sustain it. To your point, Joel about small steps, even if somebody doesn’t want to be fully plant-based, reducing their meat intake would be huge for the environment-
Rob Herring: Huge.
Kimberly: … and the soil, I imagine.
Rob Herring: Yeah, and the meat that you’re going to continue to consume, if you choose, can you get it from a holistic grazed farmer who is actually understanding how that cow, that bison, that whatever is integrated into natural ecosystems and therefore, participating in the regeneration of that land and not caged in an absolutely, horrific life?
Kimberly: I would say the regeneration part is important because, have you guys seen Cowspiracy?
Rob Herring: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kimberly: If you talk to Kip and [Keegan 00:32:05] and those guys they say the whole deforestation part is such a problem. It would have to be someone that a farmer, and again, I don’t know how practical this is on a large scale, but someone that’s regenerating the land instead of contributing like we see in the rainforest, more and more land being torn down for grazing land.
Rob Herring: Right, and there are ways to regenerate soil without animals on the landscape, and there are ways to do it with. I’m not here to tell anyone to eat a certain way. I personally, I’m not super stoked on the idea of dividing cultures of people that all want the planet to heal and vilifying one way or another. To me, the exciting thing would be to come together to close animal factory farms.
Rob Herring: And then, we can argue more about our differences around landscape.
Kimberly: But then, the way to close the factory farms, which I think all camps would be for is to reduce how much meat you’re eating.
Rob Herring: Exactly.
Kimberly: Because otherwise, it’s just not practical for how many humans there are and the amount of land, so people will just have to change their eating habits. I mean, if look at the portion size, how much. They did this measurement. I was in the Middle East a couple months ago. We were in the room with The Last Supper in Jerusalem.
Rob Herring: Wow!
Kimberly: They actually were able to measure the portion size from The Last Supper. Have you guys heard this?
Rob Herring: No.
Kimberly: To modern day and it’s 32 times more, or some crazy number, how much more humans consumed. I mean, we’re bigger.
Rob Herring: Sure.
Kimberly: But, just the amount more.
Rob Herring: Oh my gosh, yeah.
Kimberly: As a medical advisor for the film, Dr. Joel, it’s really interesting. I know you’re a holistic pediatrician. We have a lot of mothers. We have a lot of people like you, Rob that has nieces and nephews and obviously I’m a mother and we care about future generations. So, awareness for you I’m sure is key. And with your patients you see, like you said, a lot of issues when people aren’t getting the vitamins and the minerals that they need from the soil. I’m just interested in how you guys came together. This is very environmental energy. How did the medical part come together with this?
Dr. Joel Warsh: Yeah. I think everything is connected and that’s where for me the knowledge that I have and I have learned over time integrating regular Western medicine with alternative or natural medicine is not something that’s very publicly known. I mean, we’re really focusing a lot on Western medicine these days and one of the big things is really we need to get this out there. Rob comes at it from a very different and unique perspective of being a filmmaker, but he’s very interested in health and so, the partnership was a natural partnership.
Dr. Joel Warsh: It was very easy to see because we need to work with everything in cycle. We need to work on the kid’s health, but you can’t work on the kid’s health unless you have good food. You need to have good food, you need to have good soil, so it’s all interconnected. And so, attacking this from different angles is, I think really the solution in the long run because we can’t just say, oh well, let’s just change the soil and do that in a vacuum, or let’s have healthier kids and do it in a vacuum. It takes awareness. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes activism to do these things. And so, that’s where that partnership came out of.
Kimberly: That’s really cool.
Rob Herring: Yeah, I agree. Human health and environmental health need to just be one and the same thing, in my opinion, and because the things that are bad for the environment are bad for humans. Things that are good for humans are good for the planet. We know that it is an inseparable issue because to me the biggest environmental solution in many ways is mental health and human health because if we have people that are depressed and feeling immobilized and don’t want a future or don’t see that as a potential than of course, we’re not going to [crosstalk 00:36:08] heal the planet in the ways that we need too, yeah.
Kimberly: What you were just saying reminds me of Ayurvedic saying, “As is the micro, as is the macro.” When you look at these ancient medical systems, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, there is such an emphasis on the elements. We’re [inaudible 00:36:26]. We’re part of the elements and the earth element is so important. And if the earth gets imbalance than the air and the wind and the fire and everything else does as well.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Right. I mean, we’re part of this ecosystem and this cycle and we forgot that. We’ve dissociated from food and dissociated from nature and that’s affecting our health. It has to be. The latest statistics are at 50% of people or more now based on the CDC numbers have a chronic disease. Most of those are on several medications. Kids now, the number is very bad. It’s about 50% of kids have a chronic disease. That’s coming from somewhere.
Kimberly: 50%, yeah.
Dr. Joel Warsh: That’s scary. I mean, we didn’t even really have autism, or didn’t know much about it when we were growing up, and now the numbers are 1 in 30, or 1 in 40. Stanford was saying that they’re thinking the numbers are going to be like 1 in 2 in the next 10 years.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Where is that coming from?
Dr. Joel Warsh: We see it all the time where kids will come in and be sick with chronic disease for years. And if you just go back and you think about things more holistically and you change up their diet, a little more exercise, a little more sleep, decrease the stress, they get better. They’ve been in the regular Western system for so long and they’re on medication, medication, medication, and not going in the right direction. When you take it from a more global perspective you see, oh, they’re actually just not eating very healthy. They’re just eating junk food every day.
Kimberly: Right. You’re putting that bad fuel in, what is the output going to be?
Dr. Joel Warsh: Right. As soon as you change that, they start getting better. Kids that have had these diagnoses for 10 years are totally better.
Kimberly: Wow! Wow!
Rob Herring: Well, it should be obvious, right. Hopefully, we get to the point where something like something that you put into your body could affect your health.
Kimberly: Where do you think it’s coming from, deficiencies, environmental toxins?
Dr. Joel Warsh: It’s coming from deficiencies, toxins, everything. It just has to. It has to be environmental change.
Kimberly: Why has it shifted so much, yeah?
Dr. Joel Warsh: Because the environment has changed so much in such a short time. We never evolved to live in the world that we live in. Evolution takes generation and centuries, but all of a sudden we have all these chemicals and all these toxins. We have all this technology. We’re not a part of the world, the nature in any way and we’re mass producing everything and so, we’re just not built of the same nutrients that we were in the past and so, our bodies are suffering because they’re just deficient in things.
Kimberly: Most doctors still, and most pediatricians still don’t really talk about food.
Dr. Joel Warsh: They don’t because we were not really-
Dr. Joel Warsh: … taught a ton about it. I mean, we’re obviously taught about nutrition deficiencies and what does a vitamin C deficiency look like? That’s scurvy. But, you’re not really taught about what [crosstalk 00:38:58] does it actually mean to eat healthy because that’s just not part of the curriculum. It’s not because doctors are bad people, or, oh, I don’t want you to be healthy. No, we’re just not trained on this stuff.
Kimberly: It’s not the focus.
Dr. Joel Warsh: When you’re seeing patients every two, three minutes, you don’t have the time to actually get into it to discuss these important topics, which are not small topics. Nothing is on an island, it’s everything together. So, you have to go through and look at everything holistically and that way you can work on a specific child because everyone is an individual, but we need to look at these things more holistically.
Kimberly: Yes, exactly, instead of, oh, are you exercising, and doing well, make sure you take a multivitamin? Most people are taking synthetic multis.
Rob Herring: Right.
Kimberly: It’s just glossing over this whole huge thing.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Right. I mean, we have kids that come in for let’s say, a bad rash. They’ve had it for 10 years. Well, you can keep putting steroid cream on it and there is nothing wrong with doing that because you don’t want a kid to have a rash, but if they have that rash because they’re allergic to dairy, if you don’t think about those things, then the kid is just going to keep having a rash because they’re going to keep drinking milk. But, if you take that problem out, they get better.
Dr. Joel Warsh: It’s a very common sense way of thinking about things, but we’re just not doing that as often in medicine because it’s not really the way we think. We think problem, solution, disease, treatment. And now, well, what do we need to do in our life to be more healthy, so that way our body can heal itself?
Kimberly: I have the most amazing OBGYN, but he’s never asked, oh, what are you eating while you’re pregnant? Back to this conversation with a lot of these issue and I mean autism is a really complex issue. We don’t know exactly what causes it, but if you look at what’s happening, I imagine what you’re eating and what you’re exposed to when your pregnant would have a huge impact [crosstalk 00:40:49].
Dr. Joel Warsh: I’m sure it has to. Autism is probably a lot of things. It’s a catchall diagnoses.
Dr. Joel Warsh: It’s definitely multifactorial. There is probably 5,000 different things that cause autism and autism is different for each kid. But, there is no question, I’m 100% certain that what we are doing has some contribution to it. It has to. I mean, it contributes to everything. Whatever we’re eating, the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, that affects everybody and it certainly affects children in utero. It certainly affects moms and it certainly affects kids. And whether you are born and it’s happened in utero and that’s why you get autism, or something that happens as you get older and you’re exposed to. I don’t know. It’s probably different for each kid, but how can you dissociate those two things? There is just no way. It’s so obvious that what we’re doing is contributing to it, or causing it. We just don’t know why, but that’s one of the most logical reasons.
Rob Herring: We’re stuck in a system, I think like, the scientific modality is very much one to one. Like, what caused it, what’s the effect, right? When you do a study it’s like, you should have only have one variable and then find the cause. We’re so caught up in finding, or blaming one thing.
Kimberly: Right, and that’s implicit.
Rob Herring: Yeah, it’s just like when we were looking at what caused colony collapse disorder with bees. Everyone wants to find the culprit of everything, so that they can simplify, and categorize it, take that out, move on and let’s go. But, yeah, it’s systemic. It’s like there is so many factors as we’re seeing and it’s understandably confusing. And so, we have to be careful to not get overwhelmed by it because nutrition is even still such an argued science and you could see one study that will tell you this thing.
Rob Herring: And one study the exact opposite, so we have to recognize bioindividuality is a big piece of this. What’s great for you may not be great for your friend, so you might not be making the right recommendation for someone else just because it worked for you, and understanding that we need to have an innate wisdom and listening to our own bodies, I think just getting more in touch with how these things work with us. Are we paying attention to our energy levels like, what may have caused a rash? What did I eat, or get exposed to, or even think, or feel that when I was starting to develop a certain condition. Food is one and emotions and mental health are a huge part of it as well. And so, it’s not going to be simple, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be daunting and scary to navigate either.
Kimberly: I agree. As a nutritionist, I will say that I agree there are many different individualities, genetic constitution, activity levels, whatever. But, I do think it can be not simpler necessarily, just like everything should be really simple. I personally take issue with any diet that demonizes natural foods. They’ll come to my juice shop at Four Seasons and be so scared of eating a banana.
Rob Herring: Oh wow!
Kimberly: Because there is some natural sugar. But then they’ll do triple, quadruple the protein powder. We live in this age where people are so fixated on numbers.
Rob Herring: Sure.
Kimberly: And they get away from nature.
Rob Herring: Oh, yeah.
Kimberly: I think that is back to that awareness and consciousness. Don’t be scared of the food that comes from the trees. Everything is micromanaged so much.
Rob Herring: That’s the innate wisdom. Yeah, if you were to have the awareness of how humans evolved and grew up-
Kimberly: Part of nature.
Rob Herring: … into the planet, you’d probably recognize that something processed elsewhere in a lab and a factory as compared to something that grew in natural systems as a plant. One of those things is probably going to be easier for your body to use and actually make those nutrients bioavailable and digest and integrate without causing inflammation and causing problems.
Kimberly: And just all the co-factors that we don’t even understand yet and the ways that nutrition works.
Dr. Joel Warsh: I always find that so funny because it’s very common in regular medicine where the natural thing is villainized and the regular medication is not. Something as simple as elderberry. Oh, how could you give this. This one time and we heard this story about this kid that got really sick because they did elderberry. Well, you should take this medication with this long list side effects. And sure, every single thing out there has risk and we shouldn’t just Willie-Nillie just take natural things because there is some risk to everything. We need to work with people that know what they’re doing. But, there inherently has to be a much lower risk to natural things than a medication. And if you can try something-
Dr. Joel Warsh: … natural first, why not? You don’t want to do the natural thing if you’re super sick. There is lots of great things in the medical world that we have created to help people when they’re super, really sick, so it’s not one or the other. But in general, especially for chronic things, try the natural things first. Just because there is not a ton of research doesn’t mean it’s not good for you. It’s just never been studied.
Kimberly: Yeah, the money and the funding might not necessarily be there.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Yeah, so it’s funny.
Kimberly: Well, thank you guys so much for sharing so much, amazing, interesting and information and knowledge and wisdom. So, tell us where we can view the film? We will have a link directly in our show notes.
Rob Herring: Sure, yeah. So, the film came out in October 2019, just last month. It’s narrated by Roasrio Dawson, also one of our executive producers. It is at theneedtogrow.com. You could find out more about it, or right now it is on Amazon for US viewers or Vimeo globally. We have it translated into seven languages currently.
Kimberly: Amazing. Well, congratulations, you guys.
Rob Herring: Thank you.
Kimberly: Thank you guys so much.
Rob Herring: I appreciate you having us here.
Kimberly: It’s great to hear about awareness and thinking about these issues, but also presenting solutions, so it’s not just doom and gloom and oh, we’re screwed. But actually, hey, this is positive and these are things we can… these are steps we can take.
Rob Herring: I promise it’s a hopeful film.
Kimberly: Love that. I don’t want to be depressed. Our kids are screwed.
Rob Herring: Every time I’ve watched it there has been standing ovations at the end.
Rob Herring: So, you don’t see that too often.
Kimberly: We hope it will inspire you guys as well.
Rob Herring: Beautiful.
Kimberly: To get engaged in some capacity whatever that is for you.
Rob Herring: Well beauties, we will link directly to the film as well as information on Rob and Dr. Joel, so you can find out more about their work as well. Thank you guys, again.
Dr. Joel Warsh: Thank you.
Rob Herring: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.
Kimberly: Thank you, beauties for tuning in. Remember to take great care of yourself. I hope you enjoyed the interview. Make sure you check out the show notes over at mysolluna.com. We’ll be back here Thursday for our next Q & A podcast. Until then remember we have daily inspiration on Instagram and @ _Kimberly Snyder, and lots over on the website that you can check out. Lots and lots of love, see you guys soon.