They say that Nero fiddled while Rome burned…

But this time there’s a lot more at stake than one city.

Nero fiddledLast week, I read a book review that Bill Gates posted on The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality, by Angus Deaton, a distinguished Princeton economist who has spent decades studying measures of global poverty.

In that review, Bill suggested a one-word correction in the following sentence by author Deaton. “Life is better now than at almost any time in history. More people are richer and fewer people live in dire poverty.” Bill said that he would strike the word almost. In other words, he is certain that life on Earth has never been better for humans. 

My question is this, “How good can life be when we’re probably less than seventy-five years away from the collapse of our 20,000 year-old civilization? How great can life be when we know what misery & suffering lie ahead for our grandchildren?

Indeed, some of our most brilliant scientists are predicting a near certain collapse of our civilization well before 2100 if we don’t begin making radical changes very soon. Yet, none of our greatest leaders, thinkers and wealthy philanthropists are focusing on this all-important issue.

From beginning to end, their thriving civilization lasted about 1,000 years. Then it collapsed after they used up too much of their finite resources.

From beginning to end, their thriving civilization lasted about 1,000 years. Then it collapsed after they used up too much of their finite resources.

Instead, they are celebrating the unprecedented rich quality of life that exists right now. This realization prompted me to post the following comment beneath Bill Gates’ blogpost on April 8, 2014. (As of yet, he has not replied)

When I read the following quote from your blog, I was reminded of what life must’ve been like on Easter Island just before their civilization collapsed. “Life is better now than at almost any time in history. More people are richer and fewer people live in dire poverty.”

The problem on Easter Island was the same problem we have today on our global “island.” We’re rapidly depleting our finite resources while our population continues to explode. Foreign aid helps relieve the suffering of the victims, but does nothing to address the systemic problems that are driving our deliberate march toward a collapse of our civilization well before 2100. 

Bill and MelindaBoth Stephen Emmott and Lester Brown are predicting the same collapse—unless some sweeping, “radical” behavior changes are made very soon. And neither of them see that happening.

We’ve got three big problems: Too many people. Consuming too much stuff. And eating the wrong food. Only the third one can be changed quickly—and with great benefit to all living things. I explain how that can be done in this recent letter addressed to Bill and Melinda: —J. Morris Hicks

To be clear, I have tremendous respect for the great number of worthy causes being supported by the incredible generosity of Bill & Melinda Gates. But, consider this:

Even if they were able to provide food, water, shelter and medical care for EVERY human on Earth—it wouldn’t contribute one iota to the urgent initiatives needed to prevent the collapse of our civilization. 

As I’ve said many times in the past, compared to SUSTAINABILITY, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance. And that includes generous philanthropy to relieve the suffering of the victims of our wasteful, harmful and grossly unsustainable lifestyle.

13 HEHWAs of April 2014, here are links to ten of my recent posts on this crucial topic:

  1. 1-25-14. NOTHING is more important than SUSTAINABILITY! By comparison, all else shrinks to insignificance.
  2. 2-4-14. Food Choices. The primary cause of global warming? Dedicated to the memory of the great climate specialist Dr. Robert Goodland, the first to recommend a pragmatic solution to the worst of all environmental problems.
  3. 2-6-14. Cancer. Heart disease. Global warming. Water scarcity. Warning, this one may make you angry.
  4. 2-13-14. SUSTAINABILITY. Our generation’s responsibility. We created the mess; now we must FIX it. And to do so, we must know the TRUTH.
  5. 2-20-14. First comes TRUTH—then viable solutions. We can never solve problems without fully understanding the causes.
  6. 2-26-14. “Living in Harmony with Nature” by Ted Turner. Perhaps the world’s last chance to save us all from the horrors of global warming.
  7. 3-3-14. “Not-so-funny” cartoon series. Saving our ecosystem. There is no FUN way to describe what we’re doing to our planet. This is VERY serious stuff.
  8. 3-21-14. Activism is not a dirty word—my speech at Holy Cross… My goal was to influence some of those students to become sustainability activists. And it worked!
  9. 4-9-14. Now that I am officially an activist…This post features my Bill & Melinda letter and was inspired by someone telling me to “persevere.”
  10. 4-14-14. Sharpened focus on SUSTAINABILITY at my home page. This blog features one of my comments on Bill Gates’ blog-site.

The following five books and one DVD can be purchased on Amazon for a grand total of less than $60—and will enable you to understand the overwhelming challenges we face—along with the single most-powerful solution of all.

Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth

  1. Healthy Eating, Healthy WorldThe “big picture” about food (our book)
  2. A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD 
  3. An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
  4. What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
  5. A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
  6. Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unawareby Richard Oppenlander.

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 2 or 3 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.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member since 2012; click banner for more info:

Nutrition Certificate

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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7 Responses to They say that Nero fiddled while Rome burned…

  1. Mary Guay says:

    I just went back to your link asking if vegans die of cancer. I am a new follower and had not read it. I am a vegan, but spent the first two years thinking I was getting all the benefits of the vegan life style—but was not. I am learning how to be a plant-based eater who is not a good host for any cancer. My odds are improving every day. Mary Guay

  2. Jean Myers says:

    Thank you for telling it like it is, tough as it is to read. Within this crisis lies opportunity, if only we can see it and act in time.

  3. Joanne Irwin says:

    It’s very frustrating when folks, like Bill Gates, who we expect would mirror our communal concerns over the state of our planet, fail to respond in kind. Might he still awaken?? However, too many live to consume and reap the rewards of life while failing to consider the legacy being left for the world. I’m not saying that’s the case with Bill Gates; he’s certainly been a philanthropist in many ways. Still, you’d think with the clarion call being raised by so many experts that he’d respond positively, and join the sustainability project. How anyone can say that we’re living in the best of times is beyond me. That’s startling and frightening!!

  4. For your prophetic vision and activism, I am grateful. But remember how those prophets of old were received…with scorn and violence! I fear we who join you have “a tough row to hoe.” Nonetheless, you can count on us! We have begun “hoeing” in Delaware with some hopeful results. Come to the Beach for our second annual REHOBOTH VEGFEST June 13-15 and stay around for my fall course at the Osher Institute of Life Long Learning of the University of Delaware in Lewes — SAVVY SENIORS SINK SICKNESS & SAVE SIVILIZATION! We’ll be considering the personal and global ramifications of PLANT-BASED EATING.

    We’re with you all the way!

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Love your SIX SESSES acronym for “getting it done.” Bravo for the savvy seniors of Delaware.

  5. Wally And Mary Guay says:

    People push an “off” switch when climate change is mentioned. In frustration, I suggested to one woman that she “List the things you want to leave to your children and then, in bold letters, putting ‘leave them a planet they can live on’ at the top of that list. If you can’t do that, you can cross off all the rest.” She bought my book and promised to read it. I sent you a copy of my book a few weeks ago, after Joanne Irwin urged me to do so. I hope you have time to read it, perhaps endorse it, and pass on suggestions. I do workshops, explain climate change, and emphasize the one thing everyone of us could do to immediately and significantly address climate change is to switch to a plant-based diet. I am able to show personal benefits, (“pre-vegan” driver’s license photo 60 pounds heavier and perfect labs at age 70. I am a budding activist.

    Mary Guay

  6. nigel richardson says:

    This and many of your previous blogs wake us up with a jolt. You remind us constantly that the dangers are real and require our immediate attention. Most particularly, we have the responsibility to act now because if our children and grand children inherit this dubious legacy as it is now, it will be too late and they will be left to make the best of a bad job, if there is a job at all.

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