Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Interview with John Mooter, Chair of EarthSave Cincinnati

Finally it is here. President George W. Bush’s last day as President of the United States and the beginning of the newly elected Obama Administration. After eight long years of secrecy, law-breaking, and lies, a figure who has promised to put this country back on the right course is being sworn into office. The country is indeed at a crossroads as the promise of “change” finds itself at a standoff with crises too numerous to address all at once. People have latched onto the idea of hope that Obama has promised throughout his campaign and you can feel the tension and yearning for something new in city after city.

From house parties in San Francisco, to people taking Tuesday off work in Des Moines, to people talking about what party they will attend right here in Cincinnati, it is evident that people are placing their trust in this new Administration. As I sat in Tucker’s Restaurant and listened to people discussing what their plans were for the Inauguration, I wanted to see how a local progressive organization felt about what an Obama Administration may mean for causes that have virtually been ignored over the last eight years.

EarthSave Cincinnati is an organization that is affiliated with EarthSave International. They describe themselves as an organization which is primarily concerned with plant-based nutrition, compassionate treatment of animals and the overall general health of the population. This past Sunday they held their monthly vegan potluck at the Clifton United Methodist Church and had a discussion entitled “Messages for Obama”. Attendees broke up into small groups to discuss what they feel an Obama Administration should address during his time in office. After the meeting, I spoke via telephone with EarthSave Cincinnati’s Chair, John Mooter about the meeting and what EarthSave Cincinnati hopes an Obama Presidency will accomplish. Rush transcript is below and if you subscribe to this blog in a reader, you should be able to listen to the interview as a podcast or you can listen below:

CC: Could you just start by giving a background on EarthSave Cincinnati again and some of the issues the organization worked on in 2008?

JM: Yes. EarthSave Cincinnati is part of EarthSave international which was founded by John Robbins. John Robbins wrote a couple of books the first book he wrote was “Diet for a New America” and the second was “The Food Revolution” and both books deal with a movement toward a plant based diet for the health of the planet and human health and also for, let’s see, the animals themselves through compassion. Robbins was actually an air to Baskin' Robbins the dairy people, and he gave it all up and he kind of went a different direction. So That is kind of how the group got started and then little local chapters formed and we are one of the local chapters, we have been around for over 10 years. This last year we’ve had speakers on lots of different things, we are interested in people learning how to make their own gardens, city
gardening, we are interested in mercy for animals which is a group which tries to improve the condition of animals on factory farms or get people to stop eating animals, one or the other.
Also environmental issues to improve the environment through diet, so it is mainly a group about diet and it is mainly educational. It’s not a forced thing. We have potlucks that are vegan but of course a lot of people come who aren’t necessarily vegan but maybe lean in that direction or are somewhat sympathetic, so it is a broad base of people. I’m not sure how many members we have but we average anywhere from 40 up to 80, 90 people. Last year we had Will Tuttle come who wrote “The World Peace Diet” which is an exhaustive study on the plant-based diet and what factory farming has done to the earth and is not really being discussed by a lot of
these other environmental groups, like Al Gore, you don’t hear them talk about it at all, it’s just in the background. Our interest with Obama, you know part of it, he answered a question by someone from Vegan Outreach which we saw on YouTube, where he showed that he understood the impact of factory farming on the environment which kind of made us excited to think,
you know at least he is aware of it. So that was kind of good and that kind of got the ball
rolling. When we had our core group meeting we decided that since it was so close to this inauguration that maybe we would just have a group discussion. Usually we have a speaker come in something like that, you know we might have someone talking on raw food or whole
foods or cooking, different things like that, but this time what I did was I had about six or
seven people fascilitate each table and then each table kind of discussed everything. It wasn’t all food realated, people talked about more efficient cars and a lot of things that everyone else is talking about. What was interesting is one part where people disagreed is someone said “lower
gas prices” and other people said “make the gas prices higher” so people don’t drive as much…so you know better transit and a lot of other things that other groups might discuss.

CC: Sure, sure…so, all these people getting together, “Messages for Obama” I guess was the theme of your meeting...

JM: Yeah, yeah, right.

CC: and so, with everybody’s input, what were some of the core messages that you hope to address in letter form, or other forms, to the newly elected President?

JM: Well, we would like to see more of a movement toward local, plant-based type agriculture
as opposed to this agriculture that we have now, we would like to see improved lunches where instead of 35%-50% saturated fats, that they follow the guidelines that they, the government themselves, have established. Which they are not, you know, I taught for 35 years and I
couldn’t believe what they feed kids in school…

CC: Sure, sure

JM: and yet they have this pyramid and talk about all these plant foods, but what plants are they getting…like ketchup…I’m being a little sarcastic, but better lunches or alternatives
and just move toward better foods in schools is one of the things that EarthSave have been
involved in that for many, many years they even have a healthy lunch program. Of course they would like it to be all plant based but they also work trying to get more whole foods and whole
grains and fresh fruits and vegetables in schools.

CC: Do you feel that corporate influence, cause I know that a lot of times different
contracts as far as putting vending machines in schools…

JM: Yeah…right

CC: are often involved in the decision making process. So how do you work to combat such a huge element…

JM: Well, it’s a big problem and when I was in school McDonald’s and them would come right in there. Of course we oppose that, I don’t know what can be done, it’s something that we would
like to see go away.

CC: Sure, sure.

JM: Obama, I can’t remember exactly what he said when he answered the question from this lady from Vegan outreach, but he did talk a little bit about agribusiness and its emphasis on meat and dairy and that that should change. In other words we are subsidizing all these things…

CC: Sure, sure

JM: and telling people that’s what’s good for them and all the medical sciences disagreeing and pretty much agreeing with our stand I would say. There are varying opinions but whole foods
and plant based seem to be the way that things are going with Colin Campbell in this China
study, put out a book on that and John McDoughlal and Dean Ornish, there are so many books on reversing heart disease, Dr. Ethelstein, the list just goes on and on. These are all medical doctors now that are changing more to the low-fat plant-based diet. So those are all things that we would like to see happen in schools with education and adults as well. There’s a group, the Cancer Project, which is actually a cancer charity which works from the standpoint of diet rather than drugs and that type of thing…chemotherapy and all that. So, that’s sort of been our
emphasis at EarthSave more of preventative medicine.

CC: Sure. Do you feel concerned at all, there is so much talk about this country being at a crossroads with the economy being in the trouble it is in and the two
wars and the environmental issues that people are talking about…what would
you like to see Obama make his top priorities as he kind of moves into
office, because there really is so much to tackle initially.

JM: Well yeah, (laughter) personally I would like to see him get the war out of the way.
That would be my first priority which I think will probably (unintelligible). After that I don’t know, there is only so much one man can do. I’ve heard commentators say that the average American would give him two years to get something straightened out, I think that is being somewhat patient, I think it is going to take a lot longer.

CC: You know, some progressive groups have been critical of some of the decisions that Obama has made so far from his…

JM: Yes.

CC: …vote on the FISA legislation to some of his nominees for Cabinet positions. Are you hopeful that the issues that EarthSave cares about most are going to be
constructively addressed by the new administration?

JM: I just don’t know, and I do understand we’ve had some people angry about some of the things you’ve just said. There are others that see him as having to incorporate a lot of
different people with a lot of different perspectives and views and therefore in order to get something done he can’t just cut these other people out. So I kind of understand both and our hope is that some of what we would like done, will get done. Of course we want to be actively involved…we think it is up to him, we think it is up to us.

CC: and at least have a more open dialogue about it now with the new administration…

JM: Yeah, our group is more specific more diet related so we are just dealing with one area, there are so many others.

CC: Sure, sure. I guess more on a local scale with local school districts, any plans in 2009 to address, you know you mention nutrition in schools and things of
that nature…

JM: Yes.

CC: Are there any school districts that you have seen that are at least open to dialogue of incorporating more whole foods with nutrition?

JM: Yes, I’ve heard…I haven’t been real closely involved in that, but I’ve heard that some of the private schools, I don’t know if it was Seven Hills or Ursula or a couple of those, that have moved in that direction. I don’t know about locally, I’ve heard stories of some schools that have adopted whole foods and they talked about the graffiti going away and the grades going up, which doesn’t
surprise me. I really don’t have a whole lot of information on that myself, now Mary Ann Lederer might know more about that than I would…

CC: Ok.

JM: Who you can also, I mean she will gladly talk to you, she loves to talk.

CC: Ok great.

JM: I don’t know if you have called her yet, but…

CC: I have not, but I…

JM: Well she is home, you know she is in a wheelchair. She was injured a long long time ago, but she is very bright and very interesting to talk to if you have the time.

CC: Okay great. I will have to reach out to her as well and see what she has to say as well.

JM: Absolutely.

CC: Alright, well I guess just to sum up, at this time next year, what do you hope
will have been addressed in 2009 and where do you hope that EarthSave Cincinnati kind of stands this time next year?

JM: Well, I’m hoping that some of these food issues will have been addressed, that some of
these (unintelligible) like Tyson Foods, which is a leading polluter and I think the Clintons are actually involved in that as well, that some of the special interests in the meat and dairy industry will be addressed and of course the war, that’s the main thing. I would say those two things.

CC: That was John Mooter, Chairman of EarthSave Cincinnati. EarthSave Cincinnati is a group that was formed to promote eating plant-based foods, sharing concerns for the environment, compassionate treatment of animals, and improved greater health.

John Mooter mentioned that EarthSave Cincinnati will be writing a letter to President Obama based on the input from this past weekend’s meeting and will share it with the Beacon within the next month. For more information you can visit: http://cincinnati.earthsave.org/

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