That’s the way Lester Brown finished his latest book.
Full Planet, Empty Plates–The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity. AND, an alarming story of unsustainability in the way we humans are feeding ourselves in the 21st century. The book is not brand new (Sept. 2012) but the information in it is still chillingly relevant—and it’s the kind of information that every world leader, indeed every literate citizen of the planet, should be forced to read.
It’s not about saving the planet, the planet is going to be just fine. It’s about saving our civilization. Here are a few excerpts to get you started:
Chapter One — Food: The Weakest Link
While the decline of early civilizations can be traced to one or possibly two environmental trends such as deforestation and soil erosion that undermined their food supply, we are now dealing with several. In addition to some of the most severe soil erosion in human history, we are also facing newer trends such as the depletion of aquifers, the plateauing of grain yields in the more agriculturally advanced countries, and rising temperature.
Chapter Three — Moving Up the Food Chain
In every society where incomes have risen, the appetite for meat, milk, eggs, and seafood has generated an enormous growth in animal protein consumption. Today some 3 billion people are moving up the food chain. For people living at subsistence level, 60 percent or more of their calories typically come from a single starchy food staple such as rice, wheat, or corn. As incomes rise, diets are diversified with the addition of more animal protein.
Chapter Six — Peak Water and Food Scarcity
Although many analysts are concerned about the depletion of oil resources, the depletion of underground water resources poses a far greater threat to our future. While there are substitutes for oil, there are none for water. Indeed, modern humans lived a long time without oil, but we would live for only a matter of days without water.
Chapter Eleven. Can We Prevent a Food Breakdown?
We all have a stake in the future of civilization. Many of us have children. Some of us have grandchildren. We know what we have to do. It is up to you and me to do it. Saving civilization is not a spectator sport.
My take on this book. It is a wonderful compilation of facts and figures about our current dilemma—when it comes to our food, our environment and their collective impact on the future of our civilization. Although Mr. Brown talks extensively about the inefficiency of meat and dairy, he never openly acknowledges that we don’t really need to eat it—and the tremendous gains in the efficient use of land, water and energy that would ensue if we didn’t.
He never summarizes the blinding flash of the obvious conclusion that we’re eating the wrong food. And that if we don’t get back on track soon, our civilization will likely collapse before the end of this century.
It is this failure to get really clear about exactly what we must do that disturbs me most. And it’s not just Lester Brown. It’s most of the best, brightest and most educated thinkers of our time. They all seem to be mentally paralyzed by the “protein myth”—the misguided notion that we NEED to eat animal protein to be healthy. For more on this myth, see my earlier blog: Why are the “world’s greatest thinkers” missing the boat…
Ending on a good note in the final chapter, Brown implored all of us to leverage our own talents and knowledge to make a difference in the part of our collective mess that interests each of us most.
For me, my interest is in the big picture, simplicity, leadership and focus. We’ve got to focus the greatest effort on solving the vital few problems that have the greatest payback potential. We’ve got to aggressively and proactively change what we eat. I simply don’t believe we can get out of this mess without a huge, coordinated effort to work on the single biggest step we can take that will have the most beneficial effect. As stated on the back cover of our book:
What is the single most powerful decision humans can make for their health and for the planet? What to Eat.
Here’s what I’m doing. I have been writing, blogging and speaking about many of these topics for over 1,000 days and am now in the process of leveraging my “big picture” engineering background, knowledge and creativity—coupled with my problem solving, writing & public speaking skills in two primary ways:
ONE. Working aggressively to launch that “huge coordinated effort” mentioned above. I call it the S.O.S. Global Initiative—the first step in this crucial process (the S.O.S. Summit) is already being planned. Ideally, our initial planning summit (of 10 to 12 experts) will hopefully be sponsored by a highly respected, internationally recognized individual who totally “gets it” about food and its impact on our environment and sustainability.
His/her fame, knowledge and wealth will enable us to get the necessary combination of knowledge, power, leadership and funding to the table. My target date for that first summit meeting is November. And, by the way, “S.O.S.” stands for Save Our Species. Project status: I have contacted our prospective S.O.S. leader’s office (by phone and emailed letter) and have requested a meeting. Stay tuned.
TWO. Greatly accelerating the pace of my public speaking activities—on the topic of sustainability. The title of my next major presentation (In Tucson next month) is Our Health, Our Planet, Our Future as a Species. This effort and the S.O.S. effort goes hand in hand. The more I speak and the wider my audience—the more likely I will be able to garner support for the critically necessary S.O.S. Global Initiative. For more information on my speaking activities, click here.
What about YOU? What are YOU going to do?
A billboard promoting my next speech — Tucson, AZ
The following links are all related to this blog.
- Order Lester Brown’s book from Amazon, click here.
- This link features the work of Microsoft scientist, Stephen Emmott. Are humans the “infestation” of planet Earth?
- Some people don’t like the word “infestation.” “Infestation” IS the best word—if it gets your attention. Includes two short videos, including one about the lessons we have apparently failed to learn from Easter Island.
- Scroll down for my short video entitled The 4Leaf Solution.
A milestone: sometime this afternoon, this site will pass the half million mark—in views since February of 2011. Now being seen regularly in over 100 countries.
Handy 5-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.
- Dr. Campbell’s new book: WHOLE, Rethinking the Science of Nutrition
Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf 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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Got a question? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation