Saving civilization is not a spectator sport!

That’s the way Lester Brown finished his latest book.

Like ours, Mr. Brown's book features a single apple on the cover. And like our apple, his tells a story.

Like ours, Mr. Brown’s book features a single apple on the cover. And like our apple, his tells a story.

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.

J. Morris Hicks, always trying to focus on the big picture.

J. Morris Hicks, always trying to focus on the big picture.

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.

All about improving the health of humans while preserving nature's ability to sustain our species

All about improving the health of humans while preserving nature’s ability to sustain our species

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 highway billboard promoting my 9-21-13 speech in Tucson, AZ

The highway billboard promoting my 9-21-13 speech in Tucson, AZ

The following links are all related to this blog.

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

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

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get daily blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, visit our 4Leaf page and also enjoy some great recipes from Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at 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

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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6 Responses to Saving civilization is not a spectator sport!


    I posted the full article by Jeff Novick here:

    1) Completing The Limiting “Essential Amino Acid” Picture

    Jeff Novick, MS, RD

    Jumping to the bottom:

    Summary and Conclusions

    Thus, we conclude that consumers do not have to be at all concerned about amino acid imbalances when the dietary amino acid supply is from the plant food proteins that make up our usual diets.

    — Plant foods are not incomplete proteins in regard to “incomplete” meaning “missing” amino acids. All plant food contain all the EAAs, The only known commonly consumed food product that is truly an incomplete protein is an animal food, gelatin.

    — Plant foods are not incomplete proteins either in regard to having “limiting” amounts of amino acid. Plant foods therefore do not have to be combined in certain combinations at each meal (or at all) to meet some reference EAA profile that is considered ideal. While some plant foods may have lower amounts of one or two EAAs when compared to some animal foods, these amounts are still adequate amounts to meet human needs.

    — The body has a dynamic circulating pool of AA’s, which includes the EAAs, that are readily available and can be drawn upon when necessary.

    — The original “reference” and “standard” protein (egg) was established on feeding experiments on young rats, which have completely different protein and amino acid needs than humans, so the whole concept is flawed from the beginning.

    Regards, Jeff


  2. CJ says:

    Hi Jim, great post, and best wishes on your new SOS Global Initiative — very exciting! Great to see about your upcoming Tucson speaking engagement, you’re getting traction!

    I’m really thankful for the thinkers that you expose your readers to, especially Lester Brown. I think he and his staff are slowly getting it about the importance of eating lower on the food chain as a first step. He’s got a great overview presentation for Full Planet here on his EPI site (and for all his books):

    Quick tangent– the news about the lab grown meat… let me just say it — Gross!! Thankfully, Lester’s staff mention they’re essentially against the idea of lab grown meat. What a disgusting idea that concept is, and such a contrived franken-food if there ever was one… I hope you’ll have a post on that topic some day.

    Finally, to your point of what people are doing, some ideas are also found here on Lester’s site:

  3. Joanne Irwin says:

    Check out the following from Duke University. You can read more about his research with agouti mice and how DNA was positively altered via nutrition. Fascinating.

    Randy Jirtle, a geneticist in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Duke University, answered questions about epigenetics and how our lifestyles might affect the health of our children and even grandchildren. The live Q&A sessions ran on August 2 and November 1, 2007.

    Randy Jirtle

  4. Sal Liggieri says:


    Who do you think the next Messiah will be?

    Clinton, Obama, Gates, Winfrey. Oprah would be my vote. She certainly needs to make changes in her life. Have you seen a recent picture of her? She appears to be at her fattest weight ever.

    She is definitely morbidly obese and if you can get her to go WFPB and she were to lose her excess weight, she would be the perfect candidate to lead the world on its path to recovery.

    Jim, do you ever have any doubts that maybe the task is unsolvable. That mankind is doomed.

    Once again, I must tell you: you write so well, with power, clarity, and most importantly . . . VISION!

    Sal Liggieri

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Hi Sal,

      Always good to hear from you. In answer to your question, right now I am thinking of a very well-known (globally recognized) individual who totally “gets it” regarding the vast health and environmental benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet. That person has the combination of fame and wealth that will enable us to get the right people to the table. While we’re not starting with Oprah, I agree that once Oprah truly “gets it,” it could be a whole new ballgame.

      Are we doomed as a species? Unless we do something like I am proposing, I agree with Stephen Emmott that our civilization will collapse before the end of this century. Anarchy will prevail around the world and wealth and property ownership will mean nothing. It will be every man for himself—not a place where I would wish to live. And I want to do all that I can to ensure that my descendants will be spared that “hell on Earth.” The last people standing are not going to be having much fun. I have six grandchildren who will probably be alive at the end of this century; and their children will be about my age.

      Finally, on a much brighter note, I truly believe that there is a plant-based pathway out of this mess. Hopefully, Dr. Emmott will agree with me after our first summit. We must have the world’s brightest on this project. FYI, I sent him a letter and a book via snail mail last month and have heard nothing. But with the right person making the calls to those people on our initial summit list, they are likely to respond immediately.

      As for your comment regarding my writing with “power, clarity, and most importantly . . . VISION!” — maybe the combination of those skills will soon result in my being able to earn a living as a public speaker and author. Up to now, saving the planet has not been paying very well. I tell people that I am in that awkward phase of my life—the “starving author who is not yet famous” part of my career.

      Be well, Jim

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