In 1970, my mother left her Peruvian jungle home by the Amazon River to begin a new life in the United States. Her departure came at the same time the global beef industry began slashing and burning South America’s rainforests to create grazing land for cattle.
Dr. Richard Oppelnander’s book Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat is Killing Us and Our Planet takes a very deep and disturbing dive into the environmental consequences of their actions.
Driven by his passion for saving our planet, the University of Michigan-trained dental surgeon confronts this question head -on:
Will our addiction to animal-based eating drive us to exhaust all the Earth’s available farmland, deplete all its waterways and wipe out its rainforests?
Comfortably Unaware is his painstakingly researched answer, written for two audiences. One is all those who’ve “… read the books, heard the authors and… acquired a basic understanding of the connection [between the industrialization of foods and the effects on the planet.] …Until now, they have only heard a story that is incomplete… ”
And the other?
They’re people “…who are vaguely (or not at all) aware of the connection of our food choice and its effect on the planet, and there are many, many individuals in this category. For this group, every chapter will be enlightening.”
For me, Dr. Oppelnander’s findings on the rainforest were especially interesting. Since 1970, they’ve been decimated at the rate of 30 million acres annually. That’s a total of 15 billion acres since the day my mother left her birthplace in Peru.
But the most shocking thing is that not a single head of the beef being raised with these methods has gone to feed the world’s poor! As Dr. Oppelnander points out:
“…80 percent of the world’s starving children live in countries where food surpluses are fed to animals that are then killed and eaten by more well-off individuals in developed countries.”
In other words, while Americans grow fat on meat, meat producers deplete the natural resources of the poorest countries — where millions of children continue to starve.
And the pillaging goes well beyond the rainforests! In Chapter 5, “Whose Land Is It, Anyway?” he details how grazing cattle destroy the topsoil.
Chapter 6, “Oceans and Water,” examines how the water it takes to grow 1 pound of meat could be growing 250 to 500 pounds of far more nutritious plant-based foods.
From the first page to the last, Dr. Oppelnander refuses to pull his punches. As long as people remain comfortably unaware of where their food comes from, he insists, the world will continue on its course toward environmental disaster:
“Certainly the true origin of what we eat – the path and story of how it arrived on your plate or in your mouth – should be known.”