BOOK REVIEW: How to Eat Right & Save the Planet: A Plant-based Survival Guide for You and Your Family by Bill Tara
Bill Tara has a rare gift: the ability to take a very serious topic and deliver the information in such a way that the book is a real page-turner. How to Eat Right & Save the Planet is based on hard facts and is thoroughly researched and referenced throughout, and yet the book draws you in immediately in the manner you would expect from a novel except, of course, this is not fiction.
But maybe the reality is stranger than fiction and that, coupled with Bill’s dry humour and general style, is what makes this book so enjoyable? But there again, enjoyable is not really the right word to use. This book provides hope for the future and yet the story of how we got to where we are, and what needs to be done to reverse a potential catastrophe, makes quite startling reading.
This is a book everybody should read. I would go as far as to say I think How to Eat Right & Save the Planet should be compulsory reading in schools for Years 10 to 11. But as that is unlikely to happen, why not buy a copy and share with as many people as you can?
People choose a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Initially, when veganism was introduced in 1944, the movement was largely led by the animal rights movement. Later, as awareness of the massive environmental impacts of meat and dairy farming became apparent, more environmentalists joined the vegan community. It has only been comparatively recently that the health benefits of a vegan diet have gained acceptance, thus encouraging even more people to join the vegan movement.
Bill Tara’s journey began when he was in his early twenties, in the 60s. Suffering from chronic stomach pain after eating, he finally went to the doctor and was astounded to be diagnosed with advanced ulceration in both stomach and duodenum and was told that if the ulcers did not get better, he would need surgery. Armed with a prescription for drugs and antacids and a diet sheet that suggested he avoid all fibrous vegetables, roughage, and spicy foods and to eat plenty of soft foods and milk, he was more than a little concerned. For two years, nothing made a difference. In fact, the ulceration got worse.
And then, by chance, Bill was introduced to a special Japanese based diet. Medications and all drugs were off the menu as were milk, dairy foods, meat sugar and all processed foods. Within weeks, Bill no longer suffered pain after eating, was sleeping well and felt great.
What happened next was the driving factor that led Bill to spend the next five decades devoted to natural health care driven by a vegan lifestyle.
Bill returned to the doctor. X-rays showed that the ulcers showed dramatic healing. When Bill explained what he had done to achieve these results, the doctor was furious. She said the approach was voodoo and that he would no longer be her patient if he carried on with this cray diet.
The doctor’s animosity fired Bill’s desire to find out why the mainstream medical establishment she represented was not more open to a more natural approach to health care; and why such an approach to health and diet, based on a system that was thousands of years old, was more effective than modern science.
During those intervening years, Bill’s journey has not only focussed on the health benefits of a vegan diet, but also the ethical and environmental impacts of a plant-based diet leading to him being presented in 2019 with the Michio Kushi Peace Prize in honour of his lifetime contribution to health, peace, and sustainability.
How to Eat Right & Save the Planet is divided into four parts with 3-5 chapters in each part.
Part One: How Did We Get Here
This is the largest part constituting almost a third of the book. It is essential but quite shocking reading when we analyse how people’s health and wellbeing has been sabotaged over such a comparatively short period in the name of progress and the power of Big Pharma and the capitalist mode of food production.
As Bill says:
“Conventional medicine has a sad and dysfunctional relationship with nutrition.”
A host of facts such as 440,000 preventable deaths per annum from medical errors in the US; 9 out of 10 doctors in the UK feel pressurised to prescribe antibiotics when they know it is not appropriate; the side effects of many drugs, and so much more.
Part Two: A Natural Perspective
This part introduces the principles of the macrobiotic diet and specifically, the Human Ecology Diet developed by Bill Tara and his partner Marlene Watson-Tara
Bill waxes lyrical about the power of food and looks at the ancient wisdom of our forefathers and indigenous tribes throughout the world; the yin and yang of Chinese medicine and the role that plays in food choices; the differences between plant parts (roots, stems, stalk, leaves); and the challenges of the toxic environment we live in.
Part Three: Cause and Effect
As the title implies, this part looks at the broader impacts of our food choices including how we are killing the soil and polluting rivers, streams, and lakes; the impact of chemicals in the food chain; food that is increasingly grown, processed, and shipped by a modern slave population; animal welfare and the ethical issues of eating animal flesh.
The first edition of How to Eat Right & Save the Planet was published in January 2020, before the current pandemic took hold. The section featured below called When Karma Comes Calling is, therefore, a particularly pertinent and a chilling prophecy of what is happening right now and is likely to continue in the future if we do not rapidly change the way we live:
When we ignore the laws of nature and moral considerations, the results are disastrous. Some of the results are very direct and concrete. I am not talking about punishment from angry spirits here – only karma.
When we force chickens, cattle, and pigs into cramped and crowded quarters, they breed new strains of viruses the jump species. Viruses do not simply drop from the sky; they require an environment that suits their needs. Bird flu (avian flu) breeds in the unhealthy, overpopulated environment of factory farms. Bird flu is lethal and easily jumps species. Two of every three people it infects die. These diseases are a direct result of our abuse of animals. There is no free lunch in nature.
Infectious diseases that start in animals and can be naturally transmitted to humans are called zoonosis. [Editor’s note January 2021: The World Health Organisation has confirmed that evidence suggests COVID-19 is a zoonotic virus.] It is estimated that 6 percent of all known pathogens that infect humans are zoonosis, including many serious diseases such as the Ebola virus disease, salmonellosis, and influenza. We know factory farming presents both direct and indirect health challenges to us all. Even if we were only focused on the direct effect on human health, we should be worried. These diseases are a direct result of the sicknesses we impose on the animals that live in captivity. Millions of pigs, chickens, cows and, increasingly, farmed fish not only suffer but live in an environment that makes them ill and diseased. Even those who do not care about the welfare of animals are not excited about eating diseased animals.
Part Four: The Road Ahead
This part focuses on the solution and the ‘five criteria that can guide us in creating a healthy diet’:
- Nutritional Essentials
- Social Justice
- Environmental Sustainability
- Ecological Integrity
- Ethical clarity
I urge everyone to purchase a copy of How to Eat Right & Save the Planet.
Bill Tara would certainly hope the book encourages you to convert to a completely vegan, macrobiotic diet. However, my personal thoughts are that if you feel this is too big a step for you and your family to take at the moment, at the very least I hope you are encouraged to adopt a more plant-based, wholefood, home-cooked diet, and that your future food choices will also consider animal welfare and environmental and ethical issues.
I know that Bill and Marlene would also be happy to hear from anyone wanting to know more about the Human Ecology Diet. Please visit their website for more information and contact details.
We have also featured many of Marlene’s article and recipes on the Healthy Life Essex website.