More than 1,000 children a year to receive tailored treatment as part of pilot early intervention scheme
Tue 16 Nov 2021 01.00 EST
Specialist NHS clinics for severely obese children and young people are to be set up in England as part of an early intervention scheme to help tackle an issue costing about £6bn a year.
A pilot of 15 clinics across the country will provide more than 1,000 children a year, aged between two and 18, specialist treatment to support weight loss.
Tailored care packages developed with their family will include diet plans, mental health treatment and coaching, with early action aimed at preventing long-term health problems such as type 2 diabetes, health attacks, strokes and cancer.
The rollout of the pilot delivers on the NHS Long Term Plan ambition to treat children for severe complications related to their obesity, avoiding the need for more invasive treatment.
Obesity affects one in five children in the UK and can increase the likelihood of a child developing serious health issues such as type 2 diabetes, liver conditions and early heart disease. Children who are severely obese can also develop difficulties such as breathing problems, sleep issues and mental health problems.
In England, the number of children living with obesity doubles from the start of primary school to the end of primary school – with latest data showing that one-fifth of children aged 10-11 are obese in England.
At the new clinics, group sessions will be provided with a full clinical team, including support from dieticians, psychologists, specialist nurses, social workers, youth workers and a paediatrician. The services will identify the factors causing obesity in children, considering their mental and physical health.
Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, said: “The pandemic has shone a harsh light on obesity – with many vulnerable young people struggling with weight gain during the pandemic. Left unchecked, obesity can have other very serious consequences, ranging from diabetes to cancer.”
The new services “are a landmark moment” in efforts to help children and young people “lead longer, healthier and happier lives”, she said.
The pilot is based on an existing service in Bristol Royal hospital for Children, which has been supporting children in the area since 2018. The Care of Childhood Obesity (CoCO) clinic has treated thousands of children from across the south-west since its launch.
Julian Hamilton-Shield, a professor of diabetes and metabolic endocrinology at the Bristol hospital, said: “Using a team of experts from many disciplines, including specialist dieticians, social support workers, and mental health professionals, we can pinpoint the exact causes of weight gain and create tailored treatment plans for each child to help accelerate weight loss and address the complications caused.
“The creation of these 15 new clinics across the country demonstrate the NHS’s commitment to help tackle obesity and provide more local access to specialist weight management support for children in England.”
Available evidence shows younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer, putting themselves at greater risk of 13 different types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes. Children living in the most deprived areas are more than twice as likely to be obese than those living in the least deprived areas.
Annual cuts of 2.5% would keep aviation’s contribution to global warming at about 0.04C, research suggests
A modest diet in our flying habits would be enough to level off the global heating caused by the aviation industry. That’s the surprising conclusion from a study, which also warns that if the aviation industry continues to grow at current rates then it will be responsible for around nearly 0.1C of heating by 2050.
Taking a flight adds to global heating in two ways. The first is from the direct effect of burning jet fuel and producing carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere. The second is from indirect effects caused by tailpipe emissions in the upper atmosphere, resulting in cirrus clouds that trap additional heat and complex chemical reactions that alter the balance of greenhouse gases such as ozone and methane.
Working out how much global heating aircraft cause is complicated because carbon dioxide hangs around for thousands of years (meaning a flight taken in 1950 is still contributing to global heating today), while the indirect effects (clouds, contrails and the like) are much shorter lived – usually less than a year.
Milan Kloewer, from the University of Oxford, and colleagues from Manchester Metropoliton University took both the direct and indirect heating effects of aircraft into account to model the aviation industry’s contribution to global heating up to the year 2050. They found that to date aircraft are responsible for 0.04C of global heating: about 4% of the 1.2C temperature increase humans have caused since the Industrial Revolution. If aviation continues to grow at about 3% a year then it will have caused 0.09C of heating by 2050.
But their results, which are published in Environmental Research Letters, also show that if we were to reduce air traffic by just 2.5% each year (resulting in about 50% less air traffic by 2050 compared with 2019) then the aviation industry’s contribution to global warming would remain about 0.04C, resulting in a relatively insignificant amount of additional heating between now and 2050.
This is because more than half the warming caused by aircraft comes from the indirect effects – contrails, clouds and chemistry. And the fall in these indirect effects would balance out the warming caused by the continued rise in carbon dioxide.
“Any growth in aviation emissions has a disproportionate impact, causing lots of warming,” said Prof Myles Allen at the University of Oxford, a co-author of the study. “But any decline also has a disproportionate impact in the other direction. So the good news is that we don’t actually need to all stop flying immediately to stop aviation from causing further global warming – but we do clearly need a fundamental change in direction now, and radical innovation in the future.”
In the week we host Cop26, our outmoded sewage system is causing an even bigger stink
Sun 31 Oct 2021 06.00 EDT
The majestic shores and tinkling streams of our island kingdom are engulfed by filth. I am self-constipating to stem the tide of sewage, reducing my own filth output by eliminating fibre and water from my diet, and eating only dairy products, and so should you if you are a true patriot. Laurence Fox has already switched to a diet consisting solely of shirred eggs, baked in his own individual porcelain ramekins, while his Reform UK co-face, Richard Tice, has vowed to eat only bar-snack pickled eggs from “a rightwing pub, with free speech and rightwing comedy, and only British food, and no vaccine passports, and no masks”, until the filth tide retreats.
But mass public self-induced constipation is not a long-term answer to decades of chronic underinvestment in filth infrastructure by privatised water companies. I am, however, already seeing massive personal savings on my toilet roll and Toilet Duck expenditure. In fact, my toilet is so rarely used now I am thinking of encouraging an actual duck to live in it, though gathering the eggs might be a challenge.
Normally, a national filth engulfment would be a handy metaphor for political corruption. But we have reckoned without Boris Johnson’s Covid-Brexit government’s ongoing talent for making nightmare reality and puns about “this septic isle” aren’t up to the task of addressing the magnitude of their complicit criminality. I sit down to a breakfast of six coddled eggs and, keen to complete my column so I can prepare a light lunch of 30 blockage-inducing persimmon fruits, ponder the irony of the situation.
In the week we host the Cop26 climate catastrophe conference, on the success of which no less than the future of all life on Earth depends, Johnson dismissed his own government’s recycling policy as useless to a class of bewildered schoolchildren; Shipley’s Conservative MP, Philip Davies, said our attempts to reduce Britain’s emissions are “utterly futile, virtue signalling gesture politics”, drawing emaciated polar bears and dead Northumbrian seabirds into a culture war against the imagined hessian-munchers of north London; a clockwork contrarian called Mike Graham, on the Conservatives’ client radio station talkRadio, appeared to suggest that concrete, like trees, could be “grown”; and 268 Conservative MPs voted to block a Lords’ amendment aimed at preventing water companies from discharging 3.1m hours’ worth of sewage, based on last year’s filthometer readings, into filthy Brexit Britain’s filth-filled seas and rivers. Was it only in May 2018 that Michael Gove sniffily declared we could have “higher environmental standards outside the EU”? Was it only that year that Johnson stated he was “leading the way in protecting the world’s oceans”? Were they lying? God forbid!
Apparently, Brexit Britain’s broken supply lines mean the water purification chemicals aren’t getting through. But principally it appears that water companies can’t be expected to pay the £150bn needed to fix their outmoded sewerage system, which they have run into the ground since 1991 while paying £57bn to shareholders, so they have to funnel the filth-spill into our rivers and seas. You don’t have to be Joseph Bazalgette, whose public sewerage system emerged from the Great Stink of 1858, to see that decades of investment, rather than decades of dividends, could probably have averted the problem; you don’t even have to be his great-great- grandson, Peter Bazalgette, who pumped the cultural sewage of the Dutch reality TV show Big Brotherinto our homes, to recognise the asset-degrading actions of the water companies as evidence of a corrupt kleptocracy; you probably don’t even have to be his other great-great-grandson, Edward Bazalgette, who played guitar on the Vapors’ 1980 sensitively Asian styled song Turning Japanese, to know that the moral response to the filth crisis is to make the water companies correct their neglect and not to pass the costs on to the consumer. And yet the Conservatives’ justification for supporting the ongoing filth-discharge was that as the customer will have to pay for the sewage system upgrade it’s best not to bother with it after all.
I gobble down my persimmons and head out into Dalston high road to find more. Even the most fashionable north London health food shops seem to have no persimmons left, but is it evidence of Brexit shortages or of patriots attempting to solidify their bowels? Hopefully, the delegates at the Cop26 won’t find out about the British filth crisis or Johnson’s latest gaffes. But, given that we recently learned the Irish border agreement, in his oven-ready Brexit deal, was laid down with the premeditated intent of being broken, who among the hopeful international idiots coming to Glasgow to save the planet would trust either Brexit Britain’s words or deeds.
Meanwhile, in September 2020, an unnamed purchaser imported 30,000 tonnes of Dutch sewage sludge, containing Dutch human waste, to spread on British arable land, a process illegal in Holland itself. It appears Brexit Britain’s farmers could become the grateful recipients of millions of tonnes of European excrement. Unlike many moaning Remoaners, I graciously accept Brexit was the will of the people, but we need joined-up thinking to make it the unqualified success it can be. Why are we discharging our own British excrement directly into our British waterways at the same time as buying European excrement to spread on our land? Shouldn’t we just pull over, whenever we feel the urge, and defecate patriotically into our own British fields al fresco? Nothing speaks of Brexit’s sunny uplands more movingly than the image of Ann Widdecombe, with her bloomers round her ankles in a Kent market garden, shatting on to some strawberries. I can’t find any more persimmons anyway and eggs make me sick. Gardyloo!
Rescheduled 2022 dates of Stewart’s 2020 tour are on sale; stewartlee.co.uk/live-dates/ He also appears with director Michael Cumming at live screenings of King Rocker, their documentary about Birmingham’s post-punk survivors the Nightingales, in cinemas in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds in November and Decemberlinktr.ee/kingrocker
Conservative LDP along with coalition partner Komeito retain control of parliament, defying expectations
Sun 31 Oct 2021 21.45 EDT
Japan’s ruling conservative party defied expectations in Sunday’s general election, with a comfortable victory that will boost the prime minister, Fumio Kishida, as he attempts to steer the economy out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kishida’s Liberal Democratic party secured 261 seats in the 465-member lower house – the more powerful of Japan’s two-chamber Diet – slightly down on its pre-election 276 seats.
The party and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, together won 293 seats, more than the 261 required for an “absolute stable majority” that gives them command of parliamentary committees, making it easier to pass bills.
Japan’s Nikkei share index rose 2.3% on Monday to a one-month high.
Kishida said his administration would attempt to compile an extra budget this year that would support for people hit by the pandemic, including those who lost their jobs and students struggling to pay tuition fees.
“The lower house election is about choosing a leadership,” Kishida told public broadcaster NHK. “With the ruling coalition certain to keep its majority, I believe we received a mandate from the voters.”
The Constitutional Democratic party of Japan, the biggest opposition group, lost more than a dozen seats. But the rightwing populist Japan Innovation party, whose base is in the western city of Osaka, quadrupled its presence to 41 seats to become the third-biggest party in the chamber.
Some exit polls had predicted an uncomfortably close night for Kishida and the LDP, which has governed Japan almost without interruption since the mid-1950s and last lost a lower house election in 2009.
Kishida, who became prime minister last month after his predecessor, Yoshihide Suga, decided not to run in the LDP leadership race, said he would prepare Japan’s health service for a possible wave of winter Covid-19 cases and tackle income inequality as he attempts to revive the pandemic-hit economy with a multi-trillion yen stimulus package.
“The overall trend is in favour of stability. The LDP cleared the hurdles it absolutely had to,” said Tobias Harris, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “We’ll see a lot of stimulus.”
Kishida, 64, had hoped that his focus on a vaguely defined “new capitalism” that would redistribute wealth to Japan’s struggling middle classes would help his party retain its healthy majority in parliament.
He had also promised a more responsive leadership amid criticism that Shinzo Abe, who stepped down last year, and his short-lived successor, Suga, had lost touch with voters, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
Voter apathy was reflected in the turnout, which at just under 56% was the third lowest since the end of the war.
Unusually for an incoming leader, Kishida did not enjoy a political honeymoon, with approval ratings about 50%, the lowest in two decades for a new administration in Japan.
Several opposition parties had attempted to capitalise on unusually close cooperation, with five of them, including the communists, agreeing before the campaign not to compete against each other in marginal constituencies in an attempt to consolidate the anti-LDP vote.
They called for more help for low-income families, as well as to allow married couples to use separate surnames and for the legalisation of same-sex marriage – two changes Kishida has said he opposes.
“I focused on the candidates’ policies on same-sex marriage and LGBT issues. I have many friends in gay or lesbian couples. I hope public understanding on these issues will deepen,” said Eko Nagasaki, an 18-year-old woman who voted for the first time.
Several polls had indicated that Kishida, a softly spoke centrist whose rise had been met with indifference by many voters, lacked the profile to lead the LDP to a convincing victory. Last month he defeated three rivals to become party president – effectively securing him the premiership – including Taro Kono, a reformist whose popularity among voters was not shared by many party MPs.
Kishida, who had delayed a decision on his attendance at Cop26 summit until the election results were in, will now come under pressure to offer more details of his plans for the world’s third-biggest economy, as well as ensure that Japan’s medical infrastructure is better able to cope with a possible rise in Covid-19 cases.
On the foreign policy front, he backs party plans to dramatically raise defence spending in response to an increasingly uncertain security environment in north-east Asia.
The LDP included in its election platform a pledge to double defence spending to 2% of GDP, citing rising tensions between China and Taiwan and North Korea’s resumption of ballistic missile tests.
Japan, whose postwar “pacifist” constitution forbids it from using force to settle international disputes, has traditionally kept spending on defence to within 1% of GDP. Any attempt to break through that symbolic barrier could encounter resistance at home and spark protests from China.
Yoshihiko Suzuki, who voted for opposition candidates, said he hoped Kishida’s win would bring an end to the “arrogance and complacency” that had characterised his predecessors’ administrations.
“I hope this election comes as a wakeup call for them,” the retired 68-year-old said. “If it does, the LDP will become a better party, considering the number of talented lawmakers they’ve got.”
When I was younger, and at war with my own body, I was a sucker for diets. I tried The Rotation Diet (Lose Up to a Pound a Day and Never Gain it Back), The Beverly Hills Diet (a 35-day programme, but I never made it past the first three days) and numerous punitive low-fat regimes involving raw carrots and dry crispbread. None of them lasted long, but each time I broke a diet, I would soon be looking around for another, equally unrealistic, weight-loss plan. No matter how similar the new diet was to the last, it gave me a sense that I was doing something productive about what I saw as the problem of my body.
Personal weight-loss diets have a lot in common with obesity policies in England and beyond. For a start, the sheer quantity of these policies is astonishing. Earlier this year, two researchers based at the University of Cambridge – Dolly Theis and Martin White – published a paper showing that from 1992 to 2020, there were no fewer than 689 separate obesity policies put forward in England. Like failed diets, almost none of these initiatives have been realised in any meaningful way. Instead, their main effect has been to remind people with obesity that the government views the mere existence of their bodies as a “crisis”.
While England is not alone in failing to reduce the prevalence of obesity – the World Health Organization reports that it has more than tripled worldwide since 1975 – “obesity policy” in England has been strikingly ineffective. (I say England because since devolution, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own separate health policies.) Between 1993 and 2015, obesity among England’s adult population rose from 14.9% to 26.9%. Twice as many adults in the UK are living with obesity as in Italy, Sweden or Switzerland. At the same time, levels of hunger in the UK are some of the highest in Europe. Nearly one in five 15-year-olds live in a household where the adults are “food insecure”, which is a fancy way of saying that they can’t reliably afford enough food.
Covid has brought to the surface some hard truths about the British food system, and what a poor job it does of feeding the population as a whole. As the first lockdown hit in March 2020, plenty of better-off British households were able to carry on eating much as before, while millions more were plunged into food poverty. According to data from the Food Foundation, during the first two weeks of lockdown in the spring of 2020, the proportion of households facing food insecurity doubled to more than 15%. Black and Asian people have been twice as likely to suffer hunger during the pandemic as their white counterparts. As Marcus Rashford said in a letter to parliament about food poverty in June 2020, “This is a system failure”. But it is a system failure that existed for decades before the pandemic at long last pushed it on to the national agenda.
British politicians, as a rule, have shown little interest in tackling the problem of poor-quality food and its relationship to health. These policy failures go back to the 19th century. Our early Industrial Revolution meant that a larger percentage of the population lost its connection with agriculture at an earlier stage than in any other country. When it comes to food policy, there has long been an attitude of “leave it to the market” (the shining exception being the two world wars, when the constraints of rationing forced governments to join the dots on food and health). Campaigners against the grossly adulterated food supply in Victorian times sometimes complained that the selling of food in London operated on “buyer beware” principles, which meant that grocers were free to sell poisonous pickles and fake coffee to an unsuspecting public without fear of retribution. Not much has changed, except that instead of poisonous pickles, we are sold a surfeit of ultra-processed food.
Recent English obesity policies have spoken endlessly of “action” to help people eat healthier diets, but what they deliver, often as not, is another raft of patronising diet information leaflets, such as the bright yellow Change4Life diet pamphlets handed out in schools and GP surgeries. (One uninspiring gem: “If you’re shopping for packaged snacks for your children, try sticking to 100 calorie snacks.”)
For three decades, Theis and White found, successive governments have repeatedly proposed “similar or identical policies” and then not done anything to see them through. What counts as an obesity policy could be anything from a plan of action to a statement of intent. Whichever party has been in charge, the most popular policies have been ones placing high demands on individuals to make personal changes (such as the 5 a day campaign) rather than meaningful reforms such as restricting the sale of unhealthy foods, or subsidising fruits and vegetables to make them more affordable. Most of the ideas for structural interventions – for example, that the food industry should reformulate its unhealthiest products – were voluntary. Unsurprisingly, compliance was not high. One of the few exceptions has been the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (AKA Sugar Tax) of 2018, which resulted in a 30g a week drop in household sugar consumption, but I suspect that this will turn out to be a pyrrhic victory given new evidence that consuming aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in many diet drinks, also causes weight gain as well as possibly altering the gut microbiome.
Notice how the words “choosing” and “action” keep reappearing in these strategies. Given that poorer UK households would have to spend nearly 40% of their income to buy food for a healthy diet, according to recent data from the Food Foundation, to frame healthy eating as simply a matter of “choosing” is dishonest. It’s not choice if you can’t afford it.
Decades of research show that obesity is determined to a large extent by environmental factors such as socioeconomic inequality, the rise of ultra-processed food and the way that cities are built to facilitate car use. But policymakers of England have stayed wedded to the idea that weight is all about personal responsibility: just eat less and move more.
The failures of obesity policy in England and the UK are part of a larger problem with food policy in general. As well as being a source of joy and nourishment, food is Britain’s biggest employer, accounting for 4.1m jobs (most of them low-paid). At the same time, poor diet is the country’s biggest cause of preventable disease and the food supply is also one of its biggest drivers of climate breakdown (10% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture).
And yet for decades, a food policy to address any of this has seemed to be missing in action. Fewer than a quarter of the policies analysed by Theis and White (24%) included any plan for monitoring their progress. Nearly a third (29%) of the policies did not include any timeframe, any evidence or any position on who or what is responsible for driving the rise in obesity. It isn’t just that food policies in England have long been ill-suited to improving our diets. It is that very few people, inside or outside government, seems to have the slightest idea what these policies actually are.
Earlier this year, the need for a radical rethink of food policy in the UK was set out in Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy: The Plan, an independent review commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).Dimbleby, one of the founders of the Leon chain of cafes, wrote the report after consultations with more than 300 organisations, as well as town hall meetings with members of the public. It took three years to produce.
Unlike all the earlier failed obesity policies, Dimbleby’s plan recognised that how a person eats is not just a question of personal choice, and that healthy food is a basic need for all of us, no matter how much we weigh. It called for a range of ambitious strategies themed around reducing diet inequalities, improving food education, making better use of land and, crucially, setting as a clear goal that the food system of the future must “make us well instead of sick”. It suggested that school inspections should pay as much attention to cookery and nutrition lessons as they do to English and maths, and that meat consumption should be cut by 30% over 10 years, with more investment going to growing vegetables and fruits.
Almost everyone I have spoken to in food policy and nutrition circles has showered Dimbleby’s report with praise, relieved that someone close to government was finally recognising the scale of the problem and proposing real solutions. Some public health experts, such as Rob Percival at the Soil Association, have been disappointed that the report still talks about foods high in sugar, fat and salt as the problem, rather than addressing the harm done by ultra-processed products as a whole. But Percival has still praised the report as “important and progressive” in making the connections between farming and health.
No sooner had the National Food Strategy (NFS) plan appeared, however, than the government backed away from taking action. The first of the strategy’s recommendations was a “reformulation” tax of £3 a kilogramme on sugar and £6 on salt for use in food processing, catering and restaurants and food processing. But on 15 July, Boris Johnson announced that he would not support the plan’s call for higher taxes on foods high in salt and sugar. “I’m not attracted to the idea of extra taxes on hard working people,” said Johnson, before repeating his belief that weight loss could best be achieved through exercise. His language could have come from any one of the 14 failed obesity strategies.
This was a characteristic piece of political theatre from Johnson, who knows he will win points with some voters by positioning himself as a brave warrior against the nanny state. More significant than the fact that the prime minister ridiculed the first recommendation in the NFS plan is the fact that he remained silent on the other 13 proposals. Did this silence imply approval or disapproval (or simply that Johnson couldn’t be bothered to read the whole thing)? The real test will be the government white paper, which is due to be published in January 2022, setting out plans for legislation based on Dimbleby’s report. Will the libertarians in the Tory party ever lose their conviction that it is not government’s place to meddle in how people eat? If they don’t, it is unclear how Dimbleby’s radical policy suggestions can be put into action.
The ambitions of the NFS report raise a question: can this new holistic vision of food policy actually be delivered? The final recommendation is the introduction of a Good Food bill, which would commit the government to five-year action plans, and to coming up with a “healthy and sustainable reference diet”: an agreed vision of what healthy eating actually means, to create a consistent approach to food across the whole system, from schools to farms. So far, so good. The problem is that the report handed responsibility for monitoring progress to the Food Standards Agency, a non-ministerial department whose remit is mainly food safety and things such as use-by dates.
“Delivery ain’t gonna come from the FSA, no way!”’ said Tim Lang, emeritus professor of food policy at City, University of London, when I spoke to him on the phone recently. Lang, who is most famous for coining the term “food miles”, has long been recognised as one of the leading experts on food policy in Britain. The week after the NFS plan was published, he wrote an opinion piece in the Spectator praising much of the content of the report but suggesting that the FSA was unfit to deliver it. The FSA is, he wrote, a “long-weakened body … a kind of genial facilitator” whose role is purely advisory. Since it is not a government ministry, Lang argued, the FSA lacked the power to get anything meaningful done.
“Nothing happens unless you get laws and regulations that get translated into daily cultural values,” Lang told me. Since the war, he argues that the closest that the UK has come to having a systematic food policy was in 2008, under Gordon Brown, when the Food Matters review of food policy was set up (under which the Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives strategy fell). “They integrated environment and nutrition and hospitality all in one document,” Lang said. But when the coalition government came to power in 2010, the review was “shut down by the Tories overnight”. Now, he wonders whether the government really wants a unified food policy, or whether they would prefer “no policy at all”, to keep their friends in industry happy.
For years, Lang has decried what he calls the lack of “food democracy”. In the UK, 94.4% of food is supplied by one of the nine leading retailers. Along with his colleagues Erik Millstone and Terry Marsden, earlier this year Lang wrote a paper setting out nine “tests” for food policy in the UK. “How will people be fed and to what standards, from where, produced how, and with which consequences?” the paper asked.
Lang feels that Whitehall brushes these questions aside because there is a “naive optimism” that other countries will always come along to feed us. After Brexit, this post-imperial complacency looks dangerously misplaced. As recently as October there were tonnes of broccoli and cauliflower rotting in the fields without workers to pick them, tens of thousands of pigs faced being culled because of a post-Brexit shortage of butchers and empty shelves in the supermarkets because of the shortfall of lorry drivers.
In the midst of this chaos, who will actually step in to protect the food supply? Successive governments have been largely happy to leave it to the market – which in practice means leaving it to the supermarkets and the ultra-processed food industry. Dimbleby says that one of the core aims of his report is to break what he calls “the junk food cycle”, in which retailers oversupply us with low-nutrient sugary foods and we in turn demand more of them. At the same time, the report was informed by conversations with many of the biggest food companies including Coca-Cola, Greggs, Tesco and Asda (as well as smaller organic companies such as Yeo Valley).
To regulate industry, Dimbleby proposes forcing all food companies with more than 250 employees to publish an annual report. As well as admitting how much food they waste, they would be forced to declare how many healthy foods such as vegetables they sell each year – for some companies, the answer would presumably be “none” – as well as how many unhealthy sugary foods. The hope is that this process of public accounting would enable government to track whether businesses are moving in the right direction. The problem is that it’s currently unclear who would oversee this, or what the sanctions would be for companies that continue to sell us the same old junk.
It is hardly surprising that English food policy to date has seemed muddled, given that responsibility for it is spread across no fewer than 16 separate government departments. As well as the obvious candidates such as the Department of Health, the Department of Education and Defra, there are more surprising departments such as the Department of Justice (prison food) and Digital Culture, Media and Sport (food sponsorship and advertising).
In 2020, Kelly Parsons, a food policy researcher at the University of Hertfordshire, produced a report identifying which government departments are responsible for which aspects of food policy in England. The meticulous research process confirmed Parsons’s hunch that “there is no single place to go to find out about food-related policy, either for those inside or outside government”. Parsons told me that after she published her map of the different groups and departments a number of people in Whitehall told her how useful it was, because they had been just as much in the dark about food policy as the rest of us.
Given the poor state of the average British diet – the Food Foundation found in 2021 that almost a third of British children aged between five and 10 eat fewer than one portion of vegetables a day – it would be easy to assume that Britain must have a poor nutrition policy. But the problem is actually deeper and more nebulous than this. Britain doesn’t actually have a single nutrition policy at all, just a series of different policies on food, often contradictory ones, emerging from different departments at different times. Not only do these departments fail to coordinate their actions on food, but they may have directly opposing agendas. Current agricultural policy in the UK subsidises sugar and red meat, even though dietary advice from the Department of Health recommends eating less of them.
Earlier this year, Parsons set out to identify some of the key disconnects in food policy in England, based on interviews with senior officials in key departments in Westminster. One of the biggest contradictions was that different departments have different “client groups” to please. Health officials may wish to restrict junk food being marketed to children, but their counterparts in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are more interested in protecting the profits of the advertising industry. “When you have [an agriculture] minister who says, ‘I’m going to be judged on whether I keep the farmers happy’, and a minister of health who has a completely different set of interests, it’s difficult to see how they would work together,” said one of Parsons’s interviewees.
The client who tends to get forgotten in all this is the ordinary person simply trying to feed themselves and their family as well as they can on a stretched budget. Another of the disconnects Parsons identified was between nutrition, obesity and income. Through the Department of Health, the government hands out advice on what to eat (through the much-criticised Eatwell guide), but there is no attempt to cross-reference this with policy on welfare and on food access – “specifically, people’s ability to afford the food being recommended for healthy weight”.
This clash of departments partly explains why so many obesity policies focus on physical activity as the solution, rather than reforming the food supply. As Tim Spector outlined in his recent book Spoon-Fed,evidence suggests that exercise – while beneficial, especially for mental health – does not reliably cause weight loss. But obesity policies that propose more sport, rather than changes to diet, have always been popular in government because they pose no threat to the junk food industry.
We shouldn’t be talking about obesity policy (let alone an “obesity crisis”) at all, but about food quality laws or junk food control. After all, the government does not produce tobacco strategies with titles such as “childhood smokers: a plan for action” or “tackling smokers’ lungs”. Chris van Tulleken, an infectious diseases doctor at University College London hospital, told me that, as with tobacco, the focus should be “on regulating the marketing, not blaming the consumer”. He argues that ultra-processed foods should come with a warning label and that these products should not be marketed to children. But there is still a reluctance within the UK government even to identify ultra-processed food as a problem. As Gyorgy Scrinis, an Australian professor of food policy, has shown, the big food companies have successfully lobbied governments around the world to ensure that official nutrition advice stays focused on individual nutrients in packaged foods rather than on ultra-processed food in general.
What would it take for England to have a food policy fit for the task? One obvious solution would be to create a designated minister of food to coordinate food policy, as there was during the war and up until 1955, when the Ministry of Food became subsumed by Agriculture and Fisheries.
Another solution would be to say that food is so relevant to every aspect of life that there should be food in every policy. This is the approach favoured by the NFS report, which ruled out the idea of a single food minister, noting that food is not unique in being split across multiple departments. Since the second world war, Dimbleby argued, the purpose of the food system in England has been to maximise the production of cheap food, regardless of quality. This urgently needs to change, but to pivot to a new system that produces nourishing, sustainable food would require radical adjustments all the way through the food chain. There is a need, as Dimbleby notes, for every cog in the wheel of the food system to be designed to “make us well instead of sick”, to be “resilient” and to help “halt climate change”.
But where will this shared sense of purpose come from? Having interviewed 23 of the most senior civil servants and politicians in Westminster, Kelly Parsons told me that she realised that at the highest levels of government in England, food was endlessly pushed down the agenda. It simply wasn’t seen as important.
The absence of adequate food policy in England reflects a wider culture in which most of the population has been disconnected from food production for a very long time. There is a maddeningly persistent view in the UK that caring about healthy food is snobbish or “middle-class”. (Witness the rage that greeted Jamie Oliver when he dared to try to improve the quality of school meals in 2005.)
England is far from the only country where responsibility for food policy is spread across multiple departments. In South Africa, for example, food policy is splintered across 15 different departments. But one of the big differences is that South Africa also has a Department of Cooperative Governance, whose role is to coordinate food polices across all the departments at a local and national level. In 2019, South Africa was ranked as the most effective government in the world for its commitment to tackling hunger and undernutrition by the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index. Under South African policy, ensuring adequate food for the population is seen as such an urgent priority that nutrition has its own separate budget line.
Compare and contrast this with the UK, where hunger is still not generally recognised as an issue. In England, there is not a single department assigned lead responsibility for hunger, despite the fact that, in 2018, the Food and Agriculture Organisation found that there were more than 2.2 million people in the UK in a state of food insecurity. (The 2021 figures are undoubtedly higher). Last winter, for the first time in 70 years, Unicef stepped in to feed hungry children in the UK. Yet Parsons reported that the government continues to see hunger as an “overseas issue”.
If England has fragmented food policies, it is partly because this is a country that does not recognise how much food matters. In modern western societies with an apparently abundant food supply, treating food as trivial is a common mindset, as historian Paul Freedman shows in his short new polemic Why Food Matters. Effective food policies have a better chance of taking root in countries with long-established cultures of cooking, where it is normal for families to gather around a table every day. One example is Brazil, where school canteens are obliged to source 30% of their ingredients from local family farms. In 2014, Brazil totally rewrote the script on nutrition policy when the department of health issued new food-based nutrition guidelines urging Brazilians to avoid ultra-processed food and to eat more freshly produced food. At the time, these guidelines were unlike any other nutrition policy in the world, although similar policies have since been adopted by other countries including Ecuador, Peru and Canada.
When I asked Geoffrey Cannon, a British researcher who helped design the Brazilian nutrition guidelines, why Brazilian food policy is so much more ambitious than that in England, he pointed to the prevailing food culture. “In the Catholic tradition, Brazil is still largely family-based and therefore family meals are normal.” Even when people move away from home to the cities, they can still buy cheap home-style food at “per quilo” restaurants selling unpretentious food priced by weight. Cannon felt that people in Brazil still had a sense that homemade food was something normal and delicious – much more so than in the UK with its highly processed diet and long working hours.
But it’s also worth remembering that food cultures are not static, and just sometimes food policy can succeed in changing cultural attitudes for the better. In the 1970s, the region of North Karelia in Finland had some of the worst rates of fatal heart disease in the world. A visionary young public health official called Pekka Puska implemented a whole range of measures to address cardiovascular health, all at once. Puska worked with women’s groups to encourage people to cook new versions of traditional dishes, with more vegetables and less meat. He supported dairy farmers in diverting some of their land from butter to berries. He persuaded local sausage producers to take out some of the fat and replace it with mushrooms. And he recruited an army of local people to act as advocates for the new diet to their friends and neighbours. Puska also instigated smoke-free workplaces. By 2012, cardiovascular mortality among men in the region had dropped by 80%. Policy experts still debate which of Puska’s various measures made the greatest difference, but in a sense it doesn’t matter. This was food policy as doing, not talking, and it worked.
A good food policy is one that actually makes it beyond the announcement and gets carried out, with adjustments along the way for anything that doesn’t work. The example Dolly Theis likes to give is of the city of Amsterdam, which from 2012 to 2015 brought down rates of child obesity thanks to a series of measures that included increased support for parents, a ban on junk food marketing at sporting events, and a rule that the only drink in schools should be water. “Can you imagine that here?” Theis asks.
The hope held out by Dimbleby’s NFS report is that if enough measures can be put in place at once, as in Amsterdam, something fundamental will shift and we will collectively reach a point where we no longer tolerate a system so stacked against healthy eating. Our forgiving attitude to an ultra-processed food supply today might be a bit like attitudes to tobacco 50 years ago, when smoking on trains was normal.
There are signs that the pandemic has finally jolted us into new ways of thinking about food. Marcus Rashford’s passionate advocacy has made far more people recognise how unacceptable it is to live in a country where mothers like his struggle to buy “a good evening meal” on minimum-wage jobs. Our great-grandchildren may laugh when we tell them that English schools routinely used to sell sugary drinks for profit, that hospital food courts provided burgers and chips to people who had just undergone heart surgery, and that farmers were paid to produce the very foods that caused the most damage to health and the environment. “That was what it was like,” we will say, “living in a country where the politicians didn’t know that food mattered.”
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Migraines disappeared after man started diet that included lots of dark-green leafy vegetables, study shows
Thu 18 Nov 2021 18.30 EST
Health experts are calling for more research into diet and migraines after doctors revealed a patient who had suffered severe and debilitating headaches for more than a decade completely eliminated them after adopting a plant-based diet.
He had tried prescribed medication, yoga and meditation, and cut out potential trigger foods in an effort to reduce the severity and frequency of his severe headaches – but nothing worked. The migraines made it almost impossible to perform his job, he said.
But within a month of starting a plant-based diet that included lots of dark-green leafy vegetables, his migraines disappeared. The man has not had a migraine in more than seven years, and cannot remember the last time he had a headache. The case was reported in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
Doctors in the US who treated the photographer suggested it might be worth adopting a plant-based diet to ease the symptoms of chronic migraine.
But other independent experts cautioned that because the report was a single case it was impossible to generalise the finding and should not be taken as a solution for all people with migraines.
More than a billion people worldwide experience migraines. While drugs can help prevent and treat them, a growing body of evidence suggests diet may also offer an effective alternative without any of the side effects associated with some of the drugs, the report’s authors said.
Writing in BMJ Case Reports, the 60-year-old patient, whose identity was not disclosed, said: “Before I changed my diet, I was suffering six to eight debilitating migraines a month, each lasting up to 72 hours. Most days, I was either having a migraine or recovering from one.”
After 12 years of migraines, nothing had made a difference. “I was desperate,” he said.
Six months before his referral to a lifestyle medicine clinic in New York, the man’s migraines had become chronic, occurring on between 18 and 24 days of every month.
“However, within one month of beginning a nutrient-dense plant-based diet that included primarily lots of dark-green leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, oatmeal, and a daily green smoothie, I was able to get off both medications.
“Now the migraine medications have expired, and I have not had a migraine in seven years. I can’t even remember the last time I had a headache. I am no longer a prisoner in my own body. I have my life back.”
The report’s authors advised the man to adopt the Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (Life) diet, a nutrient-dense, whole food, plant-based diet.
It includes eating at least five ounces (142g) by weight of raw or cooked dark green leafy vegetables every day, drinking one 32-ounce (946ml) daily green smoothie, and limiting intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, oils, and animal protein, particularly dairy and red meat.
Within two months, the frequency of his migraine attacks had fallen to just one day a month. The length and severity of the attacks had also lessened. After three months his migraines stopped completely. They haven’t returned in over seven years.
Prof Gunter Kuhnle, a professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Reading, who was not involved in the case, said: “This is a case report and therefore it is impossible to generalise the finding. Migraine is a debilitating condition and it is important to find ways to treat and manage it. Diet can play an important role in the management of many diseases, and some foods are known to trigger migraine.
“Bioactive compounds found in dark-green leafy vegetables and other foods might have an important role in the management of many diseases, but in order to make definitive statements and recommendations, considerably more research is needed.”
Dr Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian and senior teaching fellow at Aston University’s medical school, said the report was “interesting” but “cannot be taken as a solution for all people with migraines”.
“The diet that was used was one which is largely in line with many countries’ dietary recommendations and included eating more vegetables – especially dark-green leafy vegetables.
“The problem with this type of report is that there is no control or comparison intervention, it could be an effect of the diet which was started, but also it could be a response to something they were no longer eating or even just the behavioural effect of a change in diet which may have led to the reduction in migraines.”
A separate analysis published in the journal BMJ Global Health on Thursday shows the global rise in the red and processed meat trade over the past 30 years is linked to a sharp increase in diet-related ill-health.
The PS5 is officially here, and like its predecessor, players can take advantage of remote play connectivity and play their brand new console from afar. To get the best out of that, here are some of the best phone mounts available for the PS5.
Forza Horizon 5 barely needs any introduction. The open-world racer tightropes between exacting car realism for gear heads, zany arcade-style gameplay for casual fun, and endless side missions and multiplayer content for completionists. Our Windows Central colleagues have already waxed rhapsodic about the game’s many virtues in their full Forza Horizon 5 review.
What we’re more curious about is how Xbox Cloud Gaming handles this next-gen title. Microsoft promises that players will be able to get Xbox Series X-level performance on Android phones or in web browsers without needing powerful (and expensive) hardware. But it’s still in beta, and a gorgeously rendered, blistering-paced game like Forza Horizon 5 wouldp rovide the ultimate test for Microsoft’s servers.
Long story short, it’s amazing how well Forza performs on even the smallest and weakest of phones. Input lag is noticeable but it’s minute and easily adjusted for, and the gameplay still looks incredible on a small screen thanks in part to its accessibility settings. On the flip side, even a high-speed internet plan might struggle to match the game’s demands, and performance was bizarrely lackluster on my gaming PC. For whatever reason, its cloud gaming port struggled more on PC and Mac than it did on phones.
Overall, Forza Horizon 5 on Android has some minor compromises to work over the cloud, but they’re worth getting used to if you don’t own a Series X. The game is perfectly playable on a phone with the right internet plan, router, and controller.
Forza Horizon 5
Bottom line: Forza Horizon 5 on Android looks and runs spectacularly well considering how graphically demanding the game is. The larger and higher-resolution your phone, the better, as it will help you enjoy the visuals and react more quickly to turns and obstacles. But even an older budget phone can handle it with the right internet access.
Works seamlessly on basically any Android phone
Accessibility settings benefit mobile port
Graphics look excellent on smaller screen
Input lag isn’t very noticeable
The game itself is incredible, with tons of content
Frequently registers a “problem with your connection”
Browser version won’t work for everyone
Disclaimer: This review was made possible through a personal Game Pass Ultimate membership owned by the reviewer.
Forza Horizon 5: Gameplay, story, and presentation
Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central
Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5
Xbox Game Studios
Xbox Series X
Single & multiplayer
Xbox Game Pass
Nov. 9, 2021
The Forza Horizon series is a dystopian fantasy in which a mega-corporation, the Horizon “Festival,” goes from country to country, taking over large swaths of land and gifting racecar drivers rare cars and millions of dollars to perform insane stunts for mega-rich vacationers. In the latest game, Horizon moves from London to Mexico in its largest land grab yet, claiming ancient ruins and beachfront property while the local populace huddles in their homes, afraid to venture out for fear of being run over.
OK, I took some silly liberties with the “plot” description, but Forza Horizon 5 is all about leaning into the absurdity of the premise. You’re a superstar driver who will accumulate hundreds of rare cars in exchange for tearing up the local countryside, and it’s a blast — unless you have open-world gaming fatigue.
Forza Horizon 5 airdrops you into different Mexican environments, showing off a much more varied (and expansive) map than you got with Forza Horizon 4’s posh countryside. After a few cutscenes and mandatory missions, you’re given free reign to do whatever you want, from trying three-star stunt challenges to participating in single-player races or diving into multiplayer mayhem.
Completing any mission will give you accolades for progressing your character, so you can skip circuit races or drifting challenges if you don’t like a particular kind of event. Anyone trying to 100% Forza will have at least 100 hours of content here, but you never feel compelled to do everything or punished for ignoring something.
Forza’s gameplay is almost tailor-made for quick bursts of mobile gaming.
The game has charming NPCs who blather on while you drive to various mission spots, giving threadbare justifications for why you’re racing jetskis or driving through a thunderstorm. Unlike in Forza Horizon 4, your character actually talks back, making you feel more like a person, but your story remains simple: do crazy stunts and receive acclaim. There are very few stakes and no problems that can’t be solved with the rewind button. It’s escapist, thoughtless fun that’s pretty much 90% sidequests.
Despite its colossal scope, its gameplay is almost tailor-made for quick bursts of mobile gaming. Hop on your smartphone, quick travel to a race or skill challenge to check off something on the timed Festival Playlist missions, then hop out without worrying about losing progress or momentum.
Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central
Visually, you’re not getting the full experience by playing Forza Horizon 5 on Android. Playground Games based its giant map on real-world Mexican geography, and you miss out on the little details when the cacti or critters are pixel-sized on a smaller screen. I also found that I got tunnel vision playing it on a phone since seeing upcoming curves and obstacles is harder, so you find yourself squinting to anticipate them and have more trouble appreciating the scenery.
Still, I’m not going to hold that against the game. Barring any performance hiccups related to streaming speeds, Forza Horizon 5 looks absurdly good on a phone, especially if you own a flagship phone with a properly vibrant display, like my Galaxy S20. Also, thanks to Playground Games’ accessibility settings, you can boost the text size (designed with 55-inch TVs in mind) so it’s a bit more readible on a 6-inch display, or slow down gameplay if you’re struggling to react quickly enough.
Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central
Input lag is noticeable, but you’ll quickly adjust to the small difference.
In terms of controls, any of the best Android game controllers will work for you here, whether you prefer a stand, clip, or another option. As with any Xbox Cloud Gaming game, there is a small, noticeable level of lag between moving your joystick and the car turning. It isn’t game-breaking at all, and you’ll quickly adjust your inputs to match how the mobile version controls, especially if you cut down on the input lag with a wired controller like the Razer Kishi. But if you’re a serious Gamer™ racing real opponents or unbeatable-level AI, you might resent the disadvantage inherent to the cloud version.
I prefer playing on console, especially for longer multiplayer/battle royale activities or for simply enjoying the beautiful landscape. But when my partner is using the TV, Forza Horizon 5 on Xbox Cloud Gaming feels like a worthy, convenient substitute without any significant compromises. Unless, unfortunately, you’re streaming the game on PC.
Forza Horizon 5: Xbox Cloud Gaming performance
Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central
Any experience with cloud gaming depends on your internet plan and your router. I personally have a 400MB/s plan and 5GHz support, more than enough for minimum Xbox Cloud Gaming requirements. But I don’t own a router that lets you prioritize gaming traffic, which may have impacted my experience with Forza Horizon 5 with cloud streaming.
As I previously mentioned, Forza Horizon 5 runs well enough on phones. My internet regularly handles 4K / Dolby Vision streaming with no hiccups, but I frequently saw the “poor connection” icon appear while playing. For whatever reason, it seemed to pop up more during cutscenes or after I rewound time after a crash, which could be coincidence or because those moments require more bandwidth.
Despite the unstable connection, I saw very little impact on actual gameplay. I occasionally saw or heard small stutters, mostly in the first few minutes of playing, but it usually settles down into a smooth experience. You’ll also occasionally see some visual artifacts on screen like static or blurring, but these tend to resolve themselves within a second.
Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central
You won’t need a proper gaming phone to enjoy it, either. I mostly played on my S20 for the larger screen, but Forza Horizon 5 ran just as well on my wimpy Pixel 3a — even if its 5.6-inch display makes the gameplay too small to enjoy. Its old processor would struggle with any demanding Android game, but Forza just works. This is especially because it runs at a max of 60FPS, so you don’t need 90Hz or 120Hz displays.
On that note, Forza Horizon 5 has Quality and Performance modes that prioritize graphics at 30FPS or smooth frame rates at 60FPS, respectively. I couldn’t tell much of a difference between the two. Certainly in terms of cloud performance, neither ran worse than the other across hours of gameplay. If I had to pick one to recommend, I’d choose Quality: The smaller screen made any dropped frames less noticeable, while the graphics look distinctly better in this mode.
You might assume, as I did, that cloud gaming on a computer would be even better, since it’d make it much easier to see the road ahead. But Forza Horizon 5 on PC (or Mac) is much more hit-and-miss, with an emphasis on miss.
Forza races require fast reflexes and concentration; lag ruins that and takes you out of the game.Source: Playground Games / Microsoft
Maybe it’s because Microsoft optimizes Xbox Cloud Gaming for mobile, or maybe streaming to a larger display requires more bandwidth than my network can handle. But I found it completely unplayable. It constantly stuttered. My car would freeze in place then zoom forward while using the last controller input it registered, even after my fingers were off the controller, ending in spin-outs and collisions. Audio was annoyingly fractured as well.
Forza Horizon 5 on mobile is great, but on PC it’s hit-and-miss, usually miss.
If the Pixel 3a can stream Forza Horizon 5, why can’t my PC with a GeForce RTX 3060 GPU and 16GB of RAM handle it on the same network?
I pooled my colleagues to try out the game for themselves on their computers, and it was a mixed bag. One said he’d encountered frequent crashes, especially when running other apps like Discord, and that his friend with a RTX 3090 had the same issue. But other colleagues with a RTX 3080 and 2060 found that it ran perfectly well on PC cloud streaming for them. So performance appears to be independent of hardware strength.
We’ll have to see if this experience improves over time, or if I’d have to buy a better Wi-Fi router or data plan to take full advantage. Otherwise, I can always install the game on PC. It’s on mobile and tablets where Forza Horizon 5 needs to shine, anyways.
Forza Horizon 5: Should you play it?
Forza looks much better on a TV than a teeny-tiny smartphone, but the Xbox Cloud Gaming app somehow makes it work.Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central
4.5 out of 5
The promise of cloud gaming was to make next-gen games available so that anyone could run them on whatever phone they own. Xbox Cloud Gaming is still in beta, but considering my 2019 budget Android phone can run Forza Horizon 5 with a passable imitation of its beautiful scenery and smooth gameplay, it’s pretty amazing.
Forza Horizon 5 is undoubtedly one of the best Xbox Game Pass games for Android that I’ve tried, and if you don’t own an Xbox Series X but want to try it, I’d say it’s worth grabbing Game Pass Ultimate for a month to get access to it on the cloud and try it out for yourself.
Forza Horizon 5
Bottom line: Fresh off your superstar racing appearances in the U.K., your racing avatar heads down to Mexico to collect new cars, defeat your rivals in races and battle royale matches, and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
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There are two problems with this approach. First, the promises of technologies meant to reduce emissions from agriculture often far exceed what they can actually deliver. For instance, as Matthew Hayek and I wrote in WIRED earlier this year, widely publicized claims that feeding cows algae feed additives could cut their emissions by 80 percent actually work out to be closer to 10 percent when you take into account when and under what conditions you can change a cow’s diet. Biodigesters, meanwhile, are very expensive and only address the 10 or so percent of agricultural methane emissions that come from manure. And whether either of these can be massively scaled is an open question. With these realities in mind, the modest 18 percent decrease in emissions from currently available technology outlined by the Breakthrough Institute’s report looks dubious. But even if its more ambitious goal of developing new technology that reduces beef’s methane by 48 percent were to work, the resulting emissions would still be higher than the currently worst-emitting pork and chicken, and well over twice as much as plant-based meats and four times as much as tofu. The clean cow, in other words, is a lame duck.
The second issue with this techno-optimistic approach is that even if these technological fixes are as effective as promised, they will perpetuate a food production system that will continue to be harmful to animals, workers, and the planet. There are scores of other impacts of beef production, including overgrazing of land, deforestation, harmful runoff and odors, animal welfare issues, and the treatment of workers in slaughterhouses. What good is investing in technologies to reduce emissions if their sources are industries that should be phased out rather than saved? Indeed, an exclusive focus on emissions reductions in food systems can lead to potentially far worse outcomes, like replacing high-emitting beef with lower-emitting chicken. Chicken production emits relatively little, but it does so at the cost of cramming animals into factory farms, where they suffer horribly, are more prone to disease outbreaks, and can be pumped full of antibiotics, contributing to the global crisis of antibiotic resistance.
Then there’s the technology-driven “solution” of alternative proteins such as plant-based and cellular meat. On the one hand, these products actually aim to create a more sustainable way of producing meat, both lowering emissions and removing many of the other harms of conventional meat production, including factory farms and slaughterhouses. Investing in the development of this technology might help usher in a far more ethical food system, one better for animals, consumers, and the planet. What the clean cow is to clean coal, clean meat is to renewables like solar.
But alternative protein still operates within the confines of existing, highly problematic systems. To realize its full potential in creating a better food system, we need to look beyond its advantages over conventional meat. The technology itself does little to address other major structural and ethical issues within the food system, including corporate concentration and the treatment of workers. As alternative protein companies break into the mainstream, many are being bought up by large incumbent food companies, including those they are ostensibly trying to disrupt. Most recently, the Brazilian cattle behemoth JBS invested $100 million in a Spanish cellular agriculture startup. Given JBS’s abysmal environmental record, this is hardly good news unless the company actively reduces its meat production to focus on alternative proteins.
Ms. Schumacher said that she spent the next decade preparing her channel for Yeshua. She meditated daily, cut out sugar and caffeine, and limited her diet to five foods: broccoli, cauliflower, turkey, chicken and watermelon. “If someone’s channel is diluted,” she said, “there’s a kind of film or gunk that the energy gets stuck in and can’t push through.”
Ms. Schumacher, who dated men and women in her 20s, assumed she would also have to be celibate. But then she kept getting a message, “David with a black dog.” She signed up for Match.com. Mr. Carnell’s profile, which had a photo of him with a black dog, was the first one that popped up. When she took him to a John Mayer concert for his birthday, he understood when she suddenly had to go channel the dead lover and brother of a woman in another row. “That’s love,” she said.
By 2013, Ms. Schumacher had started channeling for friends, then friends of friends, and eventually put on free events. She also received a message in a dream to lead her followers into the desert. She began hosting journeys to Sedona, Ariz., where she invited clients for meditations in caves and occasionally channeled their dead relatives.
Ms. Mara attended such a journey in 2018. She first wrote to Ms. Schumacher under an alias when she had just finished filming “Mary Magdalene,” a 2019 film in which Ms. Mara starred. “The first session was just out of this world incredible,” Ms. Mara said. Other mediums were more vague, making generalized statements that could apply to anyone. But Ms. Schumacher, she said, knew specifics about her family that no one could have known. “Even if she did somehow figure out who I was,” Ms. Mara said.
Ms. Schumacher then invited her to Sedona. “I was definitely scared and slightly resistant to it,” Ms. Mara said. “I think I pulled up and almost turned right back around. But after a few hours I was like, ‘Nope, I can trust these people. We’re all just human here, searching for something.’”
Ms. Schumacher thinks of her referral system like trees, with each person referring six others. Rain Phoenix, Joaquin’s sister, referred Ms. Mara, who then referred the director David Fincher — “we had a really ‘wow’ session,” Ms. Schumacher said — who then referred Brad Pitt. Mr. Pitt also didn’t write his real name, but signed his initials. “I thought he was Brad Paisley,” Ms. Schumacher said. (Mr. Fincher could not be reached; Mr. Pitt declined to comment.)