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EarthSave International (ESI) is a California-based nonprofit agency founded in 1988 by the author and heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune, John Robbins, who continues to serve as chairman emeritus of ESI's board of directors. Robbins' popular 1987 book, Diet for a New America, which counsels against meat consumption and condemns the inhumane conditions under which livestock are raised in preparation for slaughter and sale, provided a foundation for the organization. Consistent with the book's themes, ESI “educates, inspires and empowers people to shift toward a plant-based diet centered on fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes—foods that are healthy for people and the planet.” Toward this end, ESI has produced an educational series of pamphlets about “eating for optimal nutrition and making the transition to healthy food choices for families.”
In addition, ESI has developed Meals For Health, a 30-day health-intervention program that “teaches a lifestyle and plant-based diet proven to reverse” heart disease, diabetes, bowel diseases, hypertension, arthritis, obesity, and a host of degenerative conditions that are often “rampant” in “underprivileged” communities experiencing “food insecurity.” Noting that “until now, these programs have been available exclusively to wealthy individuals or employees of forward-thinking companies,” EarthSave “make[s] them available at no cost to needy individuals and families.”
Above and beyond promoting healthy eating habits, ESI's larger goal is to bring militant animal-rights activists, vegetarians and vegans into the radical environmentalist movement. To facilitate the recruitment of such individuals, ESI maintains that a meat-based diet greatly increases the size of one's “carbon footprint”—given the greenhouse gas emissions associated not only with the production and application of the pesticides and fertilizers used to grow animal feed, but also with the grazing, processing, transportation, cooking, and finally, disposal of unused food.
ESI shares the environmental movement's anti-capitalist inclinations, as evidenced by the organization's support (in 1999-2000) for the Turning Point newspaper ads that attacked not only biotechnology, but also modern farming techniques and economic globalization. During that same time period, ESI was an institutional sponsor of a Mothers for Natural Law campaign that delivered petitions with some 500,000 signatures to Congress, asking for a moratorium on biotechnology and the production of genetically improved foods.
Over the years, ESI has had a number of prominent figures on its board of directors. These include PETA president Ingrid Newkirk; global-warming alarmist Jeremy Rifkin; the diet-book author Dean Ornish, who claims that a vegan diet can reverse prostate cancer and shrink or eliminate cancerous tumors; International Association of Hygienic Physicians president Alan Goldhamer, who promotes fasting as a “cure” for high blood pressure; and chiropractor Douglas Graham, who claims that the consumption of cooked food “is linked to … practically every disease known to man,” and that the “heat produced from cooking, and from heating water for cleaning pots, pans and dishes, contributes significantly to global warming.”
ESI's chief executive officer today is Jeff Nelson, an entrepreneur who dabbled in the television and publishing industries before becoming a full-time promoter of vegetarianism. In addition to his duties with ESI, Nelson runs a website called VegSource.com, which claims to be “the most popular vegetarian web site on the Internet.” Notably, Nelson is the principal heir of the Armour meatpacking empire.
ESI currently has 12 chapters in U.S. cities, and a Canadian chapter based in Vancouver. Funding for EarthSave derives from contributions made by foundations, corporations, and private individuals.