Of the hundreds of billions of species that have lived on our favorite planet -- we humans are the ONLY one that has moved far away from the natural diet for its species. And that's a real problem -- for our health and for our future.
If the Earth improves as a result of our presence, then we will flourish -- if it does not, then we will die off.
So Is the Earth improving because of us? This horrible image illustrates just what a mess we humans are making of the only planet in the universe capable of keeping us alive -- and a huge part of this mess is a direct result of our eating the wrong food for our species.
After almost twenty years of study, and writing four books on this topic, I have concluded that there are three monster issues facing humankind that are driven, in large part, by what we choose to eat. Each of them will be covered in this SOS Memo:
Part A. Our health as individuals
Part B. The health of of our environment
Part C. Our future as a species
Relative to the last one, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, to whom this SOS Memo is dedicated, made this statement about our food choices in the Introduction to his 2014 book, Whole:
What we eat individually and collectively, has repercussions far beyond our waistlines and blood pressure readings. No less than our future as a species hangs in the balance.
Part A: Our Health as Individuals
In late 2002, after becoming curious about the optimal diet for humans, I began a search for the truth on the internet and, after six months, discovered what I believed to be the simple truth then -- and what I know to be the truth now.
During the first few months of my research, I was fortunate to find the works of T. Colin Campbell, PhD, Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University.
Since then, I made it my business to get to know him personally, I read and re-read all of his books, I served on his board of directors at his Center for Nutrition Studies for six years and I now consider him a dear and trusted friend.
As for our health as individuals, the world-changing truth about nutrition that I learned from Dr. Campbell and a host of enlightened medical doctors -- can be summarized in the eighteen words that comprise his definition of an optimal diet:
The closer we get to eating a diet of whole, plant-based foods, the better off we will be.
Notice that he doesn't call it vegetarian or vegan. First of all, those terms can be alienating for a large portion of the population -- and they do not clearly convey what you "are" eating.
My own version of Dr. Campbell's 18-word definition of an optimal diet is this:
It's a lot more important to include an abundance of whole plants in your daily eating regimen (comprising 70% or more of your calories) than it is to simply never consume any meat or dairy whatsoever.
Significantly, Dr. Campbell was the overall leader of what The NY Times
referred to as the "Grand Prix of Epidemiology"
-- a twenty-year study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Cornell University and the University of Oxford in England.
Roughly a decade later, in 2005, Colin documented his alarming findings for the public in his Earth-shattering book, The China Study. That powerful book has been read by millions of people in many different languages and has influenced scores of well-known individuals, including former president Bill Clinton, to adopt a plant-based diet.
Those same alarming findings have also appeared in his two other major books: Whole in 2014, and his latest book, The Future of Nutrition in December of 2020.
As for his latest book, pictured below, I was honored to be among those invited to write a praise blurb that appears in the first few pages of the book:
"Since 1960, Dr. Campbell's work has cast an ever- brightening light into the darkness of nutritional science -- and his six-decade journey is documented in this meticulously referenced book. Largely based on knowledge garnered from him on this crucial topic, it ultimately became obvious to me that if we cannot take the animal out of the equation when it comes to feeding ourselves, we will never learn to live in harmony with nature -- thereby placing the future of our civilization (and our species) in serious jeopardy. As such, if we Homo sapiens somehow manage to save ourselves from extinction, much of the credit should go to T. Colin Campbell."--J. Morris Hicks, author of Outcry, Healthy Eating, Healthy World and the
4Leaf Guide to Vibrant Health
A few weeks ago, as I began to read his new book more carefully, I found my emotions shifting between sadness and outrage: sadness for the health of innocent humans everywhere and outrage for the toll that our food choices are taking on our environment and what that means for the children of the world and our future as a species.
My sadness and outrage on this delicate topic begins with a few truths about the relationship between our food choices and our health -- powerful truths that our money-driven global healthcare system has not embraced -- thereby depriving the innocent public of benefitting from their proven, disease-reversing power.
There is now a host of scientific and clinical evidence proving what happens when patients shift from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to a whole food, plant-based way of eating. Here are two highlights:
- Most chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and type 2 diabetes are not only preventable, they are reversible in 95% of the cases in less than two months.
- Cancer of all types is very rare among populations who have zero to minimal animal protein in their diets. This deadly disease is also reversible in many cases.
Want to learn a whole lot more about both of the above statements? I recommend that you read the latest edition of The China Study. Want to know why you have not heard these truths before?
It all relates to how the business of healthcare operates in the developed world today. The sad fact is that is that there is no money to be made from helping billions of people bid adieu to most of the chronic diseases that plague them.
Medical journalist, Shannon Brownlee, puts it this way regarding what she refers to as our disease care system:
We have a disease care system, and we have a very profitable disease care system -- it doesn't want you to die and it doesn't want you to get well; it just wants you to keep coming back for the care of your chronic disease.
Another powerful quote on this topic was provided by Wendell Berry:
People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.
Part B: The Health of Our Environment
Let's start from the beginning. In the roughly four billion years that there has been life on this planet, why did we -- the most advanced species that ever lived -- end up feeding ourselves in such a manner that not only makes us sick -- but is also one that cannot be sustained by Mother Nature for very much longer?
In a nutshell, from an environmental standpoint, here is what is wrong with our wildly popular food choices.
Animal-based foods, on a per calorie basis, require over TEN times as much land, water and energy as do plant-based foods. Even kids in junior high school might be able to see why that might not work out so well in the long run.
It is now fairly common knowledge that our love affair with eating animal-based foods is a primary driver of climate change. The FAO of the UN reported in 2006, in, Livestock's Long Shadow
, that those foods are responsible for 18% of all human-generated greenhouse gases (GHG) -- more than all of transportation combined.
The above paper, published in 2009, concluded that the livestock industry is responsible for "at least 51%" of all human-generated greenhouse gases, which would mean that our animal-based foods are more responsible for driving climate change than ALL OTHER drivers combined.
But our stupidity prevails as our global annual tonnage of animal-based foods keeps steadily rising -- as shown in the graph below. Although there is a growing trend toward more plant-based eating in the USA and Europe, much of the developing world is beginning to eat lots of animal-based foods for the first time.
You get the picture, right? The popularity of eating animal-based foods is still rapidly growing around the world. In order to keep up with demand, we're doing idiotic things like burning down rainforests in the Amazon to make room to grow feed for the hundreds of millions of pigs in China.
Still not convinced? Consider the fact that Covid-19 would almost certainly have never happened without the intrusion by humans into the natural world -- a move spurred by our fondness for eating meat. This is just our latest exercise in stupidity -- the story of which is superbly told by Klaus Mitchell, a biological scientific researcher, in this chilling 9-minute video.
So how did we get into the mess that we are in today and what does it mean for the future of humanity?
Part C: Our Future as a Species
First, a little background. We know from science that Homo sapiens emerged as a species about 300,000 years ago and, as far as food was concerned, in the early days, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers.
Back then, since it was largely a case of survival as we probably ate whatever we could find, including fruit, nuts, leaves, insects, etc. Later, after we discovered how to harness the power of fire, we probably added cooked meat to our diet.
Although our teeth, hands, and intestinal tracts seem best-suited for "gathering" and eating plants -- it is likely that our ancient ancestors ate whatever they could find to keep themselves alive -- whether it was the natural diet for our species or not.
And, back then, as far as Mother Nature was concerned, it really didn't matter what we ate. Our total numbers were just too few to make much of a difference to her.
Fast-Forward 250,000 years. Our forefathers started learning how to farm -- a skill that enabled them to stay in one place, build villages and not have to depend exclusively on hunting and gathering to feed their families.
That more civilized way of living led to longer lifetimes and a larger population. But, as you can see from the chart below, the world's total population of humans did not really start exploding until the beginning of the industrial revolution in the mid 18th century. That's when we simply got too smart for our own good.
As illustrated above, the human population did not reach one billion until around 1800 AD. So, it took us some 300,000 years to reach the one billion mark -- but only about 200 years to add another seven billion -- a mere blink in the eye of history.
And we're still adding a net seven or eight million new mouths to feed every month. It's like we're on a runaway train when it comes to our trashing of the biosphere that gives us life. We can't seem to help ourselves -- and now we're suffering the consequences.
Largely due to human interference, according to the UN Environment Programme, some 150 to 200 species of life are going extinct every day. In addition, wildfires are raging, the Arctic is melting, the coral is dying, sea levels are rising, and climate change continues at a torrid pace.
So what can we do? How can get back on track and start living in a manner that Mother Nature would like?
Of all the changes we must eventually make in the way we live, the only one that we can resolve quickly is how we choose to feed ourselves. To that end, if the leaders of the ten wealthiest countries in the world decided to universally switch to plant-based foods, we could pretty much wipe out the world's entire meat, dairy, egg and fish industries in less than a decade.
Although not likely to happen, switching totally to plant-based eating would be a huge step in the right direction -- but not nearly enough to save our species. On that issue, I use this self-explanatory slide in my talks as I conclude that we must eventually re-invent every aspect of our reckless civilization -- creating, in effect, a successor civilization.
This chart, that appears twice in our book Outcry, clearly outlines the challenge ahead:
The Bottom Line. If we could just get most of the world's developed countries moving rapidly toward a plant-based diet, we might buy ourselves enough time to re-invent the many other grossly unsustainable elements referenced at the bottom of the above slide.
But we're running out of time and I doubt that changing our nation's way of eating is on the minds of ANY of our elected officials in the United States -- or any of the other large developed countries.
That's why I keep hoping that one of the world's wealthiest and most influential private citizens might decide to dedicate the remainder of his/her life to totally replacing our entire civilization -- which today is probably somewhere between 5% and 10% as "green" as it needs to be.
So, how do we get started? With exceptional leadership, I believe this statement to be true:
It only takes one great leader to get the ball rolling!
I sincerely believe that just one well-purposed, well-funded, well-known, highly respected, totally-committed individual could start a powerful movement that would wake up the entire world in less than a year.
Please know that I am not so naïve to think that either of these well-known men will actually do what I am suggesting -- I'm just saying that if one of them (or another well-known leader) actually did make such a bold move, that it might be possible, over the next thirty years, to replace our civilization with one that is green enough to save our species.
After sending a preview of this SOS Memo to Dr. Campbell two days ago, he responded with this comment: "Thanks so much for pushing this rock up the hill."
Regarding that comment, it compelled me to choose this moral of Sisyphus -- that we must never give up -- as the closing of the longest SOS Memo that I have ever published:
It teaches us to never give in to circumstantial disappointments or try to escape from the failures, rather accept failures the same way we accept our achievements. And most importantly, no matter how much we lose in our quest, we must never back down till we fulfill our potential.
One more thing about cancer: Below my signature, I have provided the "working cover" of a book that was never published. It is entitled, Down-Sizing the Cancer Industry -- a book that I co-authored with Dr. John Kelly of Ireland in 2016. One entire chapter was devoted to why T. Colin Campbell should have already won the Nobel Prize.
Please share this memo with your network. You can find a handy link to it at the SOS Memos page
. It is Memo #93, posted on February 16, 2021. While on that page, your group can also join my mailing list.
In closing, let's do all that we can to get the attention of enough powerful leaders in industry, government, academia and entertainment to sharply raise the volume of the global "conversation" on this most crucial of all topics.
Finally, you should definitely read Outcry and encourage others to do the same. To my knowledge, it remains the only book ever published that features an envisioned, totally-green, ultra-sustainable, super-desirable, future habit for humans -- along with steps for how we might get there using today's technology.
Please circulate this SOS Memo widely and encourage others to do the same. Contact me directly at the email below if you would like to discuss.