How Your Diet Can Help
Save Your Life and The World
By Kathy DeSantis, CMP
Awareness Magazine selected John Robbins to feature for the Environmental Issue since he is considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on the dietary link between the environment and health. His work has been the subject of cover stories and feature articles in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Life, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer and many of the nation’s leading newspapers and magazines. His life and work have also been featured in an hour long PBS special titled “Diet For A New America.”
I caught up with John in his home near Santa Cruz to get an update on his activities since the excitement over his first book “Diet for A New America” came out more than a decade ago. This book had a profound impact on the lives of Americans. After I read that book in 1989, I became a card-carrying vegetarian and environmentalist, and still am today. I attended as many of John’s lectures as I could and was surprised to find this young, peaceful, informed and articulate man to be the powerful source behind the book. I was excited to hear what he has been up to lately and even more excited to hear about his new book, an even better account of how food choices can improve our lives and save the planet! If it sounds unbelievable, this information will convince you otherwise.
John Robbins is the author of “The Food Revolution — How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World.” He is also author of the international bestseller “Diet for A New America — How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health, Happiness, and the Future of Life on Earth,” “The Awakened Heart — Meditations on Finding Harmony in a Changing World,” and the widely-acclaimed “Reclaiming Our Health — Exploding the Medical Myth and Embracing the Source of True Healing.”
The only son of the founder of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire, John Robbins was raised to follow in his father’s footsteps, but instead chose to walk away from Baskin-Robbins and the immense wealth it represented to “...pursue the deeper American Dream . . . the dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.”
Considered to be one of the most eloquent and powerful spokespersons in the world for a sane, ethical and sustainable future, John has been a featured and keynote speaker at major conferences sponsored by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Beyond War, Oxfam, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the United States, the United Nations Environmental Program, UNICEF, and many other organizations dedicated to creating a healthy, just, and sustainable way of life. He is the recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweit-zer Humanitarian Award, and the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award. The widespread media attention he has received has included numerous appearances on national shows including Oprah, Donahue and Geraldo. When John spoke at the United Nations, he received a standing ovation.
John serves on the Boards of many nonprofit groups working toward a thriving and sustainable way of life. He is the founder and Board Chair Emeritus of Earth-Save International, an organization dedicated to healthy food choices, preservation of the environment, and a more compassionate world. John is also the active Board Chair of Youth For Environmental Sanity (YES!), which educates, inspires and empowers youth to take positive action for all life on Earth. He lives with his wife Deo, their son Ocean and his wife Michele, and their grandsons River and Bodhi in the hills outside Santa Cruz, California. The Robbins’ offices and home are powered entirely by solar electricity.
Kathy: Please tell the readers why you wrote this book since it is similar to “Diet for a New America” in theme?
John: I have written “The Food Revolution” in the belief that — wounded and human as we are — we can still create a thriving and sustainable way of life for all. The restorative powers of both the human body and the Earth are immense. When I walked away from Baskin-Robbins and the money it represented, I did so because I knew there was a deeper dream. I did it because I knew that with all the reasons each of us has to despair and become cynical, there still beats in our common heart our deepest prayers for a better life and a more loving world.
I have written “The Food Revolution” to provide solid, reliable information for the struggle to achieve a world where the health of the people and the earth community is more important than the profit margins of any industry, where basic human needs take precedence over corporate greed. I have written this book so that you might have clear information on which to base your food choices. It will show you how to attain greater health and respond more deeply from your connection to all of life.
There is still the belief that animals and the natural world have value only insofar as they can be converted into revenue and that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption. On the other hand there are many of us who believe animals and the natural world have value by virtue of being alive. That nature is a community to which we belong and to which we owe our lives. And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion. I believe virtually every one of us, if given a chance, would choose to make our lives into statements of caring and compassion.
Kathy: “Diet for a New America” was a bestseller, but why do you think it had an amazing impact on the American public when it came out more than 10 years ago?
John: In “Diet for a New America,” I attempted to show in full detail the nature of this impact on our health, and in addition on the wellbeing of its creatures. I had no idea, while writing that book, that it would become a bestseller. I never suspected I would receive more than 75,000 letters from people who read the book or who heard me speak about its message. And even if I would impact the course of many people’s lives, I don’t think I could ever have imagined that it might help to impact choices on a larger scale. In the five years immediately following the book’s publication, beef consumption in the United States dropped nearly 20 percent.
Kathy: I was one of the many people who read “Diet” 12 years ago and it did change my life profoundly to this day. Do you think people may have forgotten its message or have been lured in a different direction?
John: In the last few years there’s been a backlash. Fad-diet books have sold millions of copies telling people they can lose weight and obtain optimum health while eating all the bacon and sausage they want. The U.S. meat industry has managed to divert attention away from the fact that the animals raised in modern-factory farms are forced to endure conditions of unimaginable cruelty and deprivation. The USDA is proposing to irradiate increasing numbers of foods to combat the deadly food-borne diseases such as E. coli 0157:h7 that increasingly breed in today’s factory farms and slaughterhouses.
Rather than clean up the conditions that produce these pathogens in the first place, the U.S. meat industry has strongly supported food disparagement laws that make it illegal to criticize perishable food products and then has used such legislation to sue those who challenge their control over your wallet. They even sued Oprah Winfrey for saying that based on what she’d learned about meat production in the United States she was never going to eat another burger.
Meanwhile the chemical industry has mounted an aggressive campaign to discredit organic food. Without the knowledge or consent of most Americans two-thirds of the products on our supermarket shelves now contain genetically-engineered ingredients.
The debate about animal products and genetically-engineered foods, and about their impact on our health and our world, is not going away. It will be fought in courtrooms and the media but it will also be fought in people’s minds, hearts and kitchens. In the process those seeking a more humane and sustainable way of life — for themselves and for our society — will be criticized and attacked by the industries that profit from activities that are harming people and the planet.
Kathy: In your opinion what will happen to ourselves and the planet if we don’t make changes in our consumption habits?
John: There is a lot to wonder and be concerned about. Will genetic engineering take over completely so that all our foods become transgenic, as Monsanto is hoping? Or will organic food and agriculture prevail and become the standard? What will be the plight of the world’s least fortunate? Will we give up on the eternal prayer to end the great sorrow of human starvation and wall ourselves off ever more from our fellow human beings? Or will we finally do something about this ancient scourge and find out what magnificent treasures we have in each other?
In the years to come will we suffer from increasingly ecological havoc, with evermore devastating storms and extreme weather events, with hundreds of millions of people driven from their homes by rising seas and terrifying “Acts of God?”
Will the web of life continue to unravel, with evermore species driven to extinction? Or will we save wilderness and wildlife habitat, realizing our lives are as dependent on the interconnected functioning of other species for survival as our brains are dependent on the interconnected functioning of our hearts and arteries?
Will we eat un-natural food and watch our rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes skyrocket? Or will we take heed of the evidence and begin to feed ourselves and our children life-giving food with which we and they can build truly healthy and vibrant bodies?
Will our children think a balanced diet is a Big Mac in each hand? Or will they know where their food came from and want to eat healthy food because their parents have shown them the value of doing so? So much is at stake in our times. The choices we make in the coming years will make an incredible amount of difference, perhaps more so than at any other time in the history of life on this planet. The destiny of life on Earth is up for grabs. And we are each part of how it will turn out.
Kathy: The facts listed in your book are astounding. I know they certainly have had an impact on me as the information is life-improving and provocative. On behalf of Awareness Magazine, I thank you for your contribution to society and for having the immense determination to make people aware of the enormous impact our food choices have on our health and the environment through your book “The Food Revolution.” You allow me to feel there is hope for our planet.
John Robbins can be reached at the John Robbins Institute for Health and Compassion, 420 Bronco Road, Soquel, CA 95073. For information about his work see www.foodrevolution.org . If you are inspired by the message of “The Food Revolution,” you may be interested in the work of the nonprofit groups EarthSave International and Youth for Environmental Safety (YES)
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