I have a commencement speech ready—for when I am asked.
And I can’t wait; that’s because I think young people are special and that they are our primary hope when it comes to getting the human race back on the right track. They appreciate the truth and are justifiably resentful when they are led astray. And I believe that most of them truly want to make a difference. Because of all those qualities, they were the primary target reader of our book, Healthy Eating, Healthy World.
Cognizant of their desire to make a difference coupled with their willingness to listen—I look forward to speaking at many high school and college graduations in the future. It will give me a chance to share some incredibly powerful information—that no one has probably ever shared with most of those graduates.
For my first commencement speech, I have condensed our 200-page book down to just ten simple truths. They comprise the “big picture” about our food choices and how it bodes for the longterm sustainability of the human race. I call it:
Food Math 101
Why the numbers behind what we’re eating are not adding up—and how You can help fix it
1. The Big Picture. Did you know that there has been life on this planet for four billion years? Yet we humans have been here for just 200,000 years—a very small percentage of the time there has been life on Earth. How small a percentage? That’s where the math comes in. We’ve been here less than one percent of the time. In fact, a lot less than one percent. Even less than 1/100th of one percent. To be exact, we’ve been here one half of 1/100th of one percent of that time. For you math majors, that would be stated as 5/1000th of one percent or .00005 of that four billion years.
2. Harmony. During all those billions of years, there have been millions of species. But only one of them has failed to live in harmony with the rest of the planet. Sadly, it us us—the human race. But now there are other species who are not living in harmony with nature; all of them a by-product of our own selfish lifestyle. The animals that we use for our pets, our food, our work and our entertainment.
3. Saving the planet. You hear people talk about “saving the planet,” but I don’t think it’s the planet that’s in peril. You see, she’s been here for billions of years and has seen many species come and go. What’s in peril is our way of life and that depends on maintaining the harmony of our ecosystem. And that’s where we’re failing big time. Scientists report that in just the last fifty years, the human race has inflicted more damage on the fragile harmony of nature than all previous generations of humans combined—for the past 200,000 years.
4. People math. During our first 199,000 years of living here, we didn’t cause much damage. Partly because we didn’t have enough technology to be dangerous. And partly because there simply weren’t enough of us to make much of a difference. It took us well over 199,000 years to reach the one billion population mark in 1804. Since then, in just over 200 years (a mini-blink in the eye of history), we’ve added another six billion people.
5. Using the planet. Now that we have seven billion humans, we have literally taken over every square inch—for ourselves—with little or no concern whatsoever for the other one million Earthling species. And guess what; the way we eat is now the primary determinant of how our planet is used. And the way we’re using it is the sole reason why species extinction is running 1000 times faster than the historical rate.
6. Finite amount of land. There are roughly eight billion acres of arable land on planet Earth. With just over seven billion people, that works out to just over one acre per person. Big problem! Why? Because it takes about three acres to feed one adult human being our typical western diet. If you passed third grade arithmetic, you’ll have no trouble understanding the problem and the implications of that problem for future generations. The good news is that it requires about 1/6th of an acre to sustain an adult human on a plant-based diet.
7. Finite amount of water. Did you know that that we have been using the very same water for billions of years? The amount of water has remained constant; but the way we’re using it has changed dramatically. If I had begun this speech by asking you to list the best ways to conserve water, I am betting that your top few answers would include things like taking shorter showers, watering your lawn less frequently and covering your swimming pool. While those things are good ideas, they pale in comparison to the gorilla in the room when it comes to saving water. FOOD MATH 101 factoid: It takes 100 liters of water to produce one kilo of potatoes. It takes 13,000 liters of water to produce one kilo of beef.
8. The Protein Myth. You’ve all grown up being taught that we “need” to eat animal protein to be healthy. Not only do we not need it, but it is literally killing us. It has also resulted in a global feeding model that is incredibly wasteful, terribly harmful and grossly unsustainable.
What should we be eating? I can explain that in two words: Whole Plants. We must learn to derive the majority of our calories from whole plants. It will do wonders for our health and will solve the unsustainable FOOD MATH problem that is threatening the longterm viability of life on this planet as we know it. More good news. Numerous enlightened medical doctors have reversed advanced heart disease and/or type 2 diabetes in 95% of their patients—by doing nothing more putting them on a whole foods, plant-based diet. If I had another hour, I would tell you why you haven’t been told any of this before—but you can learn all about that from our book in just a few hours.
9. The other million species. Legendary philosopher E. O. Wilson, reflecting on the importance of humans, “If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos. It is the other species that comprise that heart of our ecosystem that provides life. A simple shift to a near-optimal diet by the human race will not only nurture that precious ecosystem, but will also end our barbaric practice of torturing and killing two billion animals every single week for our dinner tables.
10. Making every bite count. The adult human body has about 100 trillion cells. We replace almost all of them about every ten years. That works out to about ten trillion new cells per year. Our bodies are constantly working on this job—and the only conscious help they get from us is what we put in our mouth.
How much is every bite worth? Anyone want to guess how many future cells are riding on every single bite we put in our mouth? It’s really simple arithmetic. I counted my bites for a few days and did the math. Would you believe ONE HUNDRED MILLION CELLS?
The Bottom Line. Now you know what to do. The lives of your future grandchildren are riding on it. There has never been anything more important in the history of human race. Without a doubt, you can make a difference. And you will. (my 656th consecutive daily blog)
One more thing; one of my all-time favorite commencement speeches is one given by Steve Jobs at Stanford University in June of 2005. For your convenience I have provided it here for you in both video and written form. See third link.
The first link is my 30-point version of how our world got into the mess that we’re in and what we must do about it. The inspiration for that piece was thinking about what I would tell my extended family about all of these truths if I had only 30 minutes to live—that was four years before I put it all on paper in our book. These are all great things to ponder on this Thanksgiving Day of 2012. Best wishes to you and your family—today from Holden, Massachusetts.
- 30 Minutes to Live (A “big picture” article that I wrote in 2007)
- “Harmony” for the ages—from E. O. Wilson and Wendell Berry
- Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement address June 12, 2005
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to email@example.com
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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation
That would truly be a powerful speech, Jim, although it should not just be given at a commencement… it should be given to every student one the way IN — grade school, high school, college, etc., so that they work with their fellow students and teachers to actively create the world we want to see. It’s the change we need asap. Any ideas on how to make that in future posts would be great. I’d like to see John McDougall riffing on this topic for sure… might be only if he truly did become our surgeon general, which is sorely needed per your previous post with that vegsource video.
Hi Jim. I’m forwarding today’s post to one of the attorneys for whom I work. He was incredulous on the phone yesterday when he found out I’m not eating or even preparing a turkey today. He knows I’m a committed, passionate whole-foods vegan, but I guess he thought I might make an exception for today. In the course of our conversation, he threw out the “top of the food chain” argument. I asked him what he thought his odds of survival would be if he climbed the fence into the tiger enclosure at the zoo. I think he understood my point.
Time to go downstairs and tend to my fabulous vegan holiday meal. Happy Thanksgiving to you, and enjoy the day with your family. (Love Lisa’s new kitchen – I have a white kitchen myself.)