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Book Review: Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat is Killing Us and Our Planet

by Lisa Lorimer February 14, 2017

When we started our whole food, plant-based journey, we did it for our health. Millie survived heart disease, I lowered my blood pressure and lost 25 pounds, and Meg cleared up her arthritis, macular degeneration, and chronic fatigue. Today, we all feel so much better, and our increased energy levels continue to surprise us. At first, we embarked on a 4-Week Challenge to eat plant-based, all the while thinking we could always go back to the way we were eating before.

The truth was, we were still “comfortably unaware” about the costs  - to our planet, the animals, and our health - of the standard American diet, chock full of meat and dairy.

Dr. Oppenlander has been a health and environmental activist for decades. In his book Comfortable Unaware: What We Choose to Eat is Killing Us and the Planet, he begins by challenging the reader:

"Stop, take a step back and ask yourself, 'Where did this food I am about to eat really come from? How much water, land and other resources did it take to get it from point A to point B? Why am I eating it?' Have you ever asked yourself that? Of course you haven’t – and why would you? Where your food comes from has to be the most 'out of sight, out of mind' process that exists in our culture today; it’s obscured by many layers of cultural, political and educational untruths and misperceptions. This is particularly true as it relates to our use of animals in the meat, dairy, and fishing industries. And yet, that very same subject – the origin of your food – is the cause of billions of unnecessary dollars spent annually on certain aspects of health care and loss of productivity. Most important, it is the major contributing force in global depletion – the eventual loss of our drinking water, air quality, land biodiversity, and other resources."

The author provides a steady stream of statistics and information that continually show the devastation left in the wake of our meat-based standard diet. Our polluted oceans, and destroyed rainforest. 55% of our fresh water usage can be directly traced to animal agriculture? Even more shocking: “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.” 

This book is a tough read – Dr. Oppenlander doesn’t pull any punches or tell an uplifting story. He is trying to get our attention, and he has no patience for small measures, like Meatless Mondays:

"Good, that’s terrific. Now you will be contributing to global warming, pollution, and global depletion of our planet’s resources only six days of the week instead of seven. You will be contributing to our national health care cost crisis to the tune of $140 billion per year, instead of $143-160 billion.”

He is giving us a wake-up call, and it is time to be uncomfortably aware.

Oppenlander, Richard A. (2012). Comfortably Unaware: What We Choose to Eat is Killing Us and the Planet. New York: Beaufort Books. 

Lisa Lorimer
Lisa Lorimer


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