Joel Salatin: We Are the Solution, as Well as the Problem

There is nothing inherently environmentally damaging about human participation. Yes, I admit it and repent in sackcloth and ashes for all of the human devastation that has been caused throughout history. It has been caused long before the USDA, long before America, long before a lot of things.

It does not have to be so. In fact, we are not only the most efficient at destroying it; we are also the most efficient at healing it.

So states Joel Salatin, one of the most visible and influential leaders in the organic food and sustainable farming movement. Joel returns as a guest to discuss "ecological participation" - methods by which humans can create a much more resilient landscape than current mass agricultural practices allow for.

Among other topics covered in this podcast, Joel and Chris focus the current drought gripping much of the US (and other countries). How unusual is it in its severity? What's causing it? What can be done to reduce our vulnerability in the future?

Joel's basic point is that there is a wide set of solutions that are possible to implement today, at scale, that can have an enormously restorative impact on our ecology without sacrificing crop production yields. Some of these involve returning to practices common in past generations before modern factory farming, others arise from new innovative thinking and technologies.

The only obstacle to implementing these solutions is our own intransigence. Our politics and economy are deeply wed to the heavily depleting and input-dependent practices of modern mega-farms. So there are big interests concerned with protecting the status quo, even though it is simply not sustainable in the long term. 

Which is why Joel is a big believer in action at the individual level. The more households and local communities begin implementing these sustainable solutions, more momentum will build to change perception and thinking at the state and national level. Plus, our local foodsheds and watersheds will be better off from these efforts - so why not get started now?

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a big believer in ecological participation. I am not a big believer in environmentalism by abandonment. That is, unfortunately, the mantra of the radical environmental fringe which believes that the best environmental policy is one of human abandonment.

So I look in the mirror and say, "Well, why do I have this big brain and these opposing thumbs? What am I here for?"

What I am here for is to participate in the environment as an active player to massage this ecological womb into more forgiveness. How do you build a forgiving landscape, a forgiving system?

First, it is important to realize that perennials are far more forgiving than annuals. Perennials live year to year and do not have to be planted. You do not need the moisture to grow the seed. They are much more resilient from year-to-year than annuals.

Of course, U.S. Farm Policy is all about annuals and not perennials. Perennials can be anything from nut trees to vineyards -- obviously my big deal, is perennial grasses, the perennial prairies.

Those are far more resilient under stress than are corn, soybeans, small grains, and annuals. Even, for that matter, vegetables.

So, the first thing is to return to a perennially based system rather than an annual-based system. The U.S. even subsidizes annuals in production, which creates an inordinate pricing structure and masks many of the weaknesses, over time, of the annual type production.

So, what that means is that the cattle need to be taken out of feed lots. They need to be put on perennial prairie polycultures. But we are not talking about two-hundred-years-ago infrastructure. We are talking about using computer microchip electric fencing, polyethylene black plastic pipe watering systems. We can actually mimic the kind of production that was here six hundred years ago even better than it was then.

In fact, there were more pounds of red meat in what is now the U.S. five hundred years ago than there are today even with all the annuals and all the petroleum fertilizers because the perennials were so voluminous and so resilient. Number one.

Number two is hydration. See, one of our problems in our culture is that we were colonized. Native Americans would say taken over. The fact is that our culture is based in European culture and when you look at Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, places like that, their water -- when you talk about water there, it is all about drainage.

They have to drain it, drain it, drain it. Here the problem is not drainage; it is hydration. How do you hydrate the landscape? This is true. Sure, there are a few places where drainage is an issue. But for the most part, certainly in the lion's share of the continent, hydration is the bigger issue. So how do you hydrate this?

And I would suggest that the number-one way is to build farm ponds. Not Army Corps of Engineer dams, and not Tennessee Valley Authority dams or whatever; what I am talking about are millions and millions and millions of farm ponds.

If the amount of earth that was moved to today to till, to move soil and till it to grow annuals, we are focused instead on moving soil to build farm ponds to keep the raindrops as high on the landscape as possible for as long as possible; we would fundamentally alter the hydration, the base flow, the aquifers, the whole situation in the country.

The problem is that between burning out the organic matter -- and that brings me to the third point --- you go to Australia, even in an urban setting, every house has a couple fifteen-hundred-gallon cisterns under the gutter downspouts.

In Colorado, it is illegal to have a rain barrel. That is how nuts we are in this country. We have to really focus attention on keeping water as high on the landscape as possible for as long as possible.

The third thing is that with chemical fertilization and tillage we have taken the organic matter out of our soils. One pound of organic matter holds four pounds of water. So, when we burn out the organic matter with either tillage or with chemical fertilizer, which stings the soil life and makes it start to cannibalize the soil life to stay alive, when that happens, then the water-retentive capacity of the landscape fundamentally changes.

One of the reasons that the Mississippi floods so dramatically so frequently in recent decades is because the organic matter of all of the area feeding the Mississippi river is down by about four times.

In other words, it has gone from an average 6-7 percent organic matter down to, in some cases, 1 percent organic matter in the last seventy or eighty years. That actually creates a huge loss of water retention in the landscape.

Chris Martenson:  So that is as if billions of sponges suddenly cried out and were silenced.

Joel Salatin:  Yes. Yes. Absolutely. That is exactly the way because organic matter is like compost. It is real soft, resilient, and spongy.

And when you take that sponginess out, not only can the soil, when it does rain, it cannot absorb the water as fast. It also cannot hold as much so you are working against yourself in both directions.

Whereas, in the native prairie where the organic matter was very high and there was this tremendous carpet of thick vegetation on the soil surface, it protected the soil both from erosion and from organic matter burnout.

Of course, the root and the biomass are what fed the soil, which did not burn out the organic matter. In fact, it actually built the organic matter.

You take those three elements, the annuals and the lack of hydration and the chemical fertilization. You have three strikes and you are out.

A lot of people, even conservatives are looking at this and say, "This is why we need crop insurance." Crop insurance to protect these farmers. Well, you know, I think that taxpayer subsidized crop insurance simply props up this continued assault against the ecological profit and loss statement.

If farmers had to actually bear the cost of assaulting nature, maybe they would begin looking at some of these other parts of the equation and change some of their practices.


It is a busy time for the local food movement. We need to be busy because there is a tremendous amount of pushback from the industry and the entrenched food system that is not happy losing market share to people like us and losing people to their dependency on Velveeta cheese and Coca-Cola.

And so that is why voting with your food dollar whether it is to find your farmer, grow your own garden, or go down to farmer's market or to the roadside stand or whatever, any of these things.

The thing is, we need to just kick the supermarket addiction. Treat it like a bad habit and get in our kitchens. The number one thing you can do is get in your kitchen and cook from scratch. Because that takes the dollar away from all the food processors and all that distribution-food-processing network that is all devoted to taking the life out of food and making sure food will not perish or will not rot, extending the shelf life.

The longer the shelf life is on food, the less nutritious it is. So re-develop your larder. Enjoy culinary, domestic arts, and begin -- one bite at a time -- extricating yourself from the agenda of people that if you knew what they actually believe, it would curl your hair.


And the fact that we have given over to the government the safety of our food -- I mean, we are talking about people who think it is much safer to feed your kids Twinkies, Cocoa Puffs, and Mountain Dew than raw milk, compost-grown tomatoes, and pastured poultry.

This is just unprecedented in the history of the world, and we are a culture of guinea pigs. Nobody has you by the throat. To make the changes that we described today do not take an act of Congress. They do not take a change in the legislature. They do not take a change in the tax law. What they take are individuals to make committed, participatory, convictional decisions and change the landscape of our culture.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Joel Salatin (47m:09s):

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Fantastic podcast!
Thank you…Jeff

If it's any comfort, we planted 20 some trees, shrubs and vines last year and about the same number this year.  We've got one pear this year, no apples, no nuts and no peaches.  Our 15 year old cherry tree, which produces prolifically every other year, produced nothing this year because of the warm March and normal April.  One promising tree is the quince we planted last year.  It's producing a lot for the size of the tree.
I think part of our problem this year is the drought and part was the warm March.  Also, we are going to be a lot more careful where we plant in the future.  The trees we planted in clay soil aren't doing well at all whereas the ones we planted in better soil that retains moisture are doing well.


…for me, anyways.
Let me explain. As I was finishing listening to this interview, my wife calls me to breakfast. A breakfast consisting of omeletees with eggs laid yesterday by my chickens, pork sausage from my pigs, cheese made from milk from my goats, salsa made from tomatoes, chile and onions from my garden; cold milk from same goats, and orange juice freshed squeezed from my neighbor's trees (he's got waaaay too many orange trees). Tonights dinner is pork steaks, taters and veggies all home grown.

And the two people most responsible for my transition from unsustainable to (more) sustainable? That's right, Chris and Joel, preachin' the same gospel that got me to join the choir. Hallelujah and amen!!

I'm totally digging this guy, digging the concept big time!! I really started growing my own food in 2010 and it was ABSOLUTELY LIBERATING!!
thank you for having this podcast and I look forward to learning more and growing more of my own food!!

dig it!


and it reminded me to worry a bit less about what's going on in the EU and focus on what positive changes I can make on the farm!
Wow, a two year home stocked larder… there's a goal to work towards.

Thanks Chris and Joel!


I love the far-out imagery, Chris! … "So that is as if billions of sponges suddenly cried out and were silenced." …What was the last thing they said before they were silenced?
jk…typo in transcript above? – [d]ried out  :-)

however contrary


Last year, during our 100 year drought in Texas, my citrus trees only produced about 20% of their typical yield. I didn't water them at all during the summer, and all the trees made it through just fine, but my blood orange harvest (which comes every other year) was dismal in the late Fall.
I'm think of planting some low-chill apple varieties that probably won't set fruit here unless we have an unusually cold winter, hopefully offsetting a loss in citrus production in such a year.


P.S. LMAO at the sponge joke…the Death Star is blowing up organic matter…too funny.


Same issue with my Apple trees. I'm trying to rectify it by spreading mulch around a wide circle of the trees. As it breaks down, it should work in to the soil, or so I have been told.
I have more fruit trees to plant in the fall - will be replacing/mixing the clay soil with some loam.

Joe,I am in North Texas, zone 7. I have fruit trees in clay soil. They are on drip irrigation. The trees were planted three years ago. Last summer (during our generational drought) I mulched about a 15 -20 foot diameter area around the trunks to about 4 inches deep with wheat straw. The response in vegetative growth was amazing, even in the scorching heat. I agree that the breakdown of the mulch will help improve the soil. However, there is a tremendous benefit from the moderation of soil moisture and temperature.  Mulch away.

Red herring for the most part. It is not illegal to have rain barrels in Colorado. In fact, legislation from 3 years ago cleared up a lot of grey areas that were present regarding water shares and rights. See here -
Also, having grown up in Wyoming, I can tell you first hand that the red meat he speaks of from 500 years ago was hunted out by the railroads, not poor ranching. You may have heard of a little beastie called the buffalo?

Not that I disagree with each person taking ownership and getting their hands dirty in the garden and such. Just think that folks should get the full story and not sensationalized misinformation.

Thank you Joel for your great advocacy of sustainable agriculture and for its exploration and demonstration at Polyface Farm.
And thank you Chris for once again digging out the crucial information and experts that matter.

I think a better way to conceive of our "ecological participation" (versus ecological “abandonment”) is “Stewardship of the Earth” - Loving Stewardship of the Earth.

Stewardship is our natural role in Nature as human beings and so, for us to actively participate in Nature is actually our duty and a sacred Trust - to enhance the beauty of the Earth and the prosperity and happiness of all life forms.

We know that Stewardship is our natural role in Nature by the construction of the human body which is an amazing machine for engineering the physical environment. And we know that this must be Loving Stewardship by the joy that we feel when we tend a garden, when we relieve suffering and deprivation, and when we create beauty and abundance.  The need and mandate for Loving Stewardship of the Earth is programmed into the Human Heart.  It is  deepest instinct of the only creature of Nature capable of and charged with the tending of the Earth Garden, including the welfare of the innocent children of life - the sentient creatures who depend on us, and who help us and keep us company, and who delight us with their innocence and purity and trust, just like children.  The animals are the Children in the Family of Life.

Joel is a great warrior for ecological participation, helping to show that the hand of Man can enhance Nature, not just degrade Her as has been the sad overall effect of our actions especially in the last 200 years. But I think his advocacy of meat agriculture is misplaced because meat eating and meat agriculture violate our Trust as Stewards of the Earth.

The meat diet and supporting Agriculture, even following the Polyface Farm model, still results in the betrayal and horror of the slaughter of our helpless and innocent charges, and companions and partners in life’s sojourn – the animals.

The meat diet is not as efficient as the vegetarian diet in food production. Land cultivated for a plant-based diet can support more people sustainably than land used to feed people with meat. This is so even if we use un-arable lands to produce meat - the nutrition potential of arable lands alone when cultivated with Natural Organic Agriculture to sustain a whole plant-based diet is massive, unbeatable by meat production.

The meat diet is a leading contributor to Diabetes and a primary contributor to the three top causes of death in the United States:  Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke - this is true even for the organic meat produced at Polyface Farms. The whole plant-based diet not only prevents these diseases but can reverse them.

The meat diet is responsible for more fresh water use and pollution than all others sources in the US, including human consumption and industrial activities. This massive water use and pollution in meat agriculture could be reduced by organic management of grazing and fodder lands but organic plant culture still requires much less water per unit of food produced and entails no water pollution.

The meat diet is responsible for more Global Warming than the entire world's transportation combined due to the release of methane gas from the animals gut and their waste. Plant culture, especially when conducted on small, organic, low-input, labor-intensive family farms near the markets – as needed for the rising New Paradigm, requires fewer liquid fuels in farm work and transportation, and requires little if any energy for refrigeration, and so produces fewer carbon dioxide /greenhouse gas emissions.  And if we adopt Biochar production for the creation of Terra Preta in these farm fields and our home gardens, organic plant agriculture will begin to reverse Global Warming by permanent carbon sequestration in the soil, and this while naturally and sustainably enriching the Earth more quickly than Nature’s unenhanced processes.

The whole plant-based diet, with its compassion for the animals, its health-giving effects and its resource efficiency is a crucial part of the New Human Ecology if we are to eliminate the ills of the Old Paradigm and make the life of the New Paradigm more ideal. In a future of contracted resources and energy, and of Loving Stewardship of the Earth - which includes the welfare of the innocent animals -   the plant-based diet with supporting Natural Organic Agriculture is the only appropriate human food ecology.

What is needed now is a New Human Ecology (how we maintain our bodies) and a New Human Value (how we pursue happiness) that is in Partnership with Nature and in Harmony with the Heart – the natural expression of Organic Understanding (How life works) and the great universal truths of the Heart: Unity and Universal Love (Why life works). This is the only way to cure ALL the ills of the Old Paradigm and end ALL the manmade Global Crises converging on Civilization and the Earth, and the only way to fulfill our natural role in Nature as human beings, the absence of which has led to so much misery and destruction: Loving Stewardship of the Earth - loving Stewards of a Loving God - Agents of Love and Beauty, and Mercy and Creation, Only.

Most of us would agree that Love is the highest ideal. Love is the highest intelligence, the greatest wisdom, the greatest good. If we think how that traditional taste of meat gets to our plate, how can we think this has anything to do with Love? Or how any good can come of it?

Indeed, the meat diet is a profound violation of Love - a travesty of the Heart committed again and again because it is infused in the foundation of our earthly life if we eat meat as part of the daily maintenance of the body.

And no good comes of it.  We need only look to our hospitals and cemeteries, consider the toll in unhappiness and disability and pain, gaze through the slaughterhouse door, look upon the tormented environment and witness a deteriorating Climate to realize the bane of meat eating and its supporting agriculture, however sustainable that agriculture may become.

The Meat Diet is arguably the single greatest curse of Civilization and the Earth. It is a savage and inefficient and unnecessary part of the Old Human Ecology, born of ignorance and convenience and a denial of the Heart, that has led to great sorrow and degradation and so it cannot be part of the evolved New Human Ecology. It is unworthy of the Stewards of the Earth and it has no place in the rising New Paradigm - the Bright New World of Loving Stewardship of the Earth, Benevolent Sustainable Living and Earth Community.

In our quest for resilience, organic living and greater harmony with Nature we should not bloody our hands and harden our Heart by meat eating and adopting even sustainable meat agriculture. We should not copy the stone age cultures thinking that those unevolved societies had a greater understanding and more positive relationship with Nature. The "noble savage" was not noble because of their savagery but despite it. What nobility they had, and some degree of harmony with Nature, arose out of their close proximity to and direct dependence on and interaction with Nature for their daily life support, not from their betrayal and violence and cannibalism committed against Her innocent children and their "brothers", the animals.

Farming and gardening, including non-violent, loving partnership with animals for mutual benefit, provides more communion, harmony and understanding of Nature than meat production, and peacefully, without savagery, and this brings a higher nobility, greater awareness of the unity and harmony of all life, understanding of how life works and why, and higher realms of companionship, love and spirituality. Any committed organic gardener or farmer has experienced these truths to some degree.

Joel Salatin is no doubt one of our most courageous and creative leaders in the exploration and promotion of a sustainable human ecology through sustainable agriculture.

But there are other leaders of humanity who help us to understand the whole reality - the bigger picture - and to perfect our new-found Organic Understanding with Unity and Universal Love - action in harmony with the Heart - without which we cannot escape the ills of the Old Paradigm. It is Organic Understanding guided by our Heart – our natural and inherent compassion and love, not guided by dispassionate mind that is concerned only with "biomass", that will turn the Earth Garden into the Eden of its full potential, and enable us to fulfill our natural role in Nature of Loving Stewardship of the Earth. If we follow the guidance of these other leaders, which is really the guidance of our own Heart, which is the throne of Truth, we will see a New Springtime of Civilization and the Earth where the Bounty and Beauty of the Earth and the Security and Happiness of all Life Forms blossoms in abundance:

Albert Einstein: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of Nature in its beauty.”

Neal Barnard MD, Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine: “The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of the 20th Century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of "real food for real people" you'd better live real close to a real good hospital.”

Leo Tolstoy: "Thou shalt not kill does not apply to murder of one's own kind only, but to all living beings; and this Commandment was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson: "You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity."

Leo Tolstoy: "As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields."

Mahatma Gandhi: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Thomas Edison: "Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages."

Paul McCartney: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you could do. It's staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.”

Albert Einstein: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a Vegetarian Diet.”

I like Joel's emphasis on individual responsibility and participation.  I grow all my own vegetables and fruit and keep hens not because of impending crisis but because it's a better quality, more rewarding lifestyle. The more we teach ourselves about different choices the better choices we can make for ourselves.

Good post… I'm not as far along in understanding as you are. But the deeper my understanding gets in regards to the collective economic/environmental/social "mess" were in, I'm coming to realise that the root cause of it all is our disconnect and separateness from the natural world. We really do need to hit the reset button and adopt a new worldview in terms of our connection to one another and the planet if humanity is to survive I think. It's clear to me that we cannot dodge the climate change and other enviromental bullets. And that we need something like a "New Paradigm" as you call it. But I would call myself a realistic pessimist when it comes to our chances of solving enviromental crises such as global warming and other serious crises like over population. But nevertheless I do believe that we have a moral obligation to try. So for me the choice of becoming a vegetarian was straight foreward. Because it was the simplist lifestlye choice for me to make. And your post pretty much explains my reasoning to stop eating meat. Giving up my car would be a similiar choice in regards to moving in the direction we all need to go. But that would be a much greater personal sacrifice. And I would have to find another way to support myself. My work depends on having a vehicle to get to job sites and to move my tools. But my Grandfather was also a carpenter and he never owned a car or power tools till near the end of his working life at 75. But hey, I guess when someone is willing to pay me by the hour (or feed me?) to use hand tools and walk to work I'll have a better idea of what the New Paradigm really looks like!

I spent 12 years vegetarian.  As much organic as we could find since it was the 90's and I was in my 30's and was earning a lot in those days…  I read everything about it, knew all the "famous" people that chose this lifestyle.  We even lived down the street from the "vegetarian" McCartney's when they had their home in Tucson.  We were surprised when Linda died from cancer but dismissed it as a fluke.
In 1999 I had a major surgery that I could not recover from.  In time I ended up speaking to a metabolic nutritionist who convinced me that humans needed some meat to reamain metabolically healthy.  Long story short, I started to choke down some grassfed beef and within weeks was fully recovered.  Just anecdotal I know, but to me it was pretty awesome.  At the same time it upset my belief paradigm in vegetarianism. 

Since that time I read a lot about our evolutionary meat based diet or what is referred to as the Paleo Diet.  I now consider this to be self evident as our true physiological evolutionary path.  There are some really well researched books out there… "Against the Grain" being one of the best at decribing the decline in human health since begining to consume grains just 5000 years ago. Look at the gluten intolerance that is so prevalent and can manifest in so many ways or the obesity since we embarked on a low fat, high carb lifestyle.  

In 2002 Dean Ornish and Gary Taube discussed Vegetarian vs Paleo(youtube) and it was clear to me that a balanced diet without grains or dairy was optimum for human health.  Also, being sure to get plenty of vitamin D from sun exposure… the garden is a perfect place for this!   Which guys looks heathier Taube and Oz or Ornish?  Just something to think about. As we all devote tremendous time to economic issues,  similar effort should be spent on health.





omnivore, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, cannibalistic… :slight_smile:

I honestly think this debate is about belief systems and I have stayed out of it until now as much as possible out of respect for Chris' guidelines on avoiding discussions based on belief systems. As much as I cherish being Vegan I feel defending one diet over another in this context is about beliefs and borders on religous fervor with some. I am in excellent health on a vegan diet but have learned the hard way that certain essential supplements are necessary (b12, iodine and omega 3 fatty acids in particular) due to the loss of nutrients inherent through even the very good ways that we process water (which eliminates b12) and raise our greens(which can result in low levels of omega 3's).  One can be sick or well on a variety of diets. I will never eat organ meats again unless I am facing starvation.   Nonetheless I like Salatin's philosophy and respect it. Kindness towards those creatures we kill to sustain ourselves is certainly less devastating than the horrors of the kill lines in most factory farms. 


To each his own. Anyone looking for a healthy way to pursue vegetarianism can look at Dr. Michael Greger's websites. I now withdraw from the discussion. Be well.


For me the decision to avoid eating meat was a rational, and certainly not a religious choice. I believe that if we could eliminate much of the industrial meat industry that there would be great benifits to our environment in terms of reducing c02 emissions, reducing water use and it would result in better stewardship of our farmland. The waste products from the meat industry is also a huge environmental issue. It's an issue worth discussing in terms of it's negitive impact on the environment, but it is certainly a health and resiliancy/sustainibility issue as well. And there are many variations of vegitarianism. Personally I am not a strict vegitarian as I eat fish and dairy products. Although I do try to avoid dairy because these products add to my problems with nasal congestion I think. Ethical treatment of animals was not my primary reason for avoiding meat but I consider that to be another benifit of this decision. I would call myself a rational pessimist in terms of us solving our environmental problems. But nevertheless when all things are considered and compared to something like the issue of transportation, diet seems to me that it is one of the easier lifestyle choices we can make to reduce our dependance on fossil fuels and to help the planet heal.

Must have been an awful experience, Jeff.  And also a somewhat bitter disappointment. I have met and heard of other vegetarians who gave up the vegetarian diet, usually the more austere macrobiotic diet, who also had health problems.  I wonder what their background, diet and underlying cause for ailment were?  And I wonder if some other change in your individual  vegetarian menu might have done the trick for you?  Maybe vitamin B12 defficency, which some vegetarians can be prone to depending on the menu and the health of their bowels?
Vegetarians are certainly not immune to cancer nor heart disease but the occurence of these diseases is significantly lower in vegetarian populations as clinically and statistically confirmed by the 26 year "China Study" and corroborated by numerous other peer-reviewed scientific studies  - really, "spectacularly" lower incidence of these diseases.   This is why the American and Canadian Dieticians associations have now endorsed the whole plant-based diet as not only good nutrition but good for some disease prevention and treatment.
Everyone is different of course so there are bound to be some exceptions.  Me, for one. I take some orgainc milk products in small quantities because I feel and observe the need for it for my metabolism and life style.  I started this diet  42 years ago and at age 64 have excellent stamina and energy, optimal cholesterol grades and the first colonoscopy I had at age 59 revealed the gut of a 40 year old according to the evaluating physician. 
Some proponents of the vegetarian diet are purists and do indeed look like pretty thin, especially the all-raw diet proponents, and this is raw diet is not for the high-calorie burning lifestles.  But there are numerous examples of top vegetarian athletes with loads of muscle mass and their recovery time between athletic events is sometimes shorter than their meat-eating peers, and in general vegetarians are an optimal weight and strength, energetic and healthy.
I watched the begining of the Charlie Rose You tube interview.  Ornish looked healthy to me but he wasn't as handsome or athletic looking as Taube but I suspect this has to do more with body types and difference athletic life style than diet.
I agree it is appropriate to discuss human health as it is closelly linked to the human diet, and human diet and its supporting agriculture is a significant player in the Three E's  - ecology, economy and energy.  My sense is that if we humans change the human ecology for optimal health and liberty of ourselves through the optimal diet for our species, then this will be good for the economy and the planet and ease our energy problem.  This will go a long way to ending the converging Global Crises because they are human made Crises, caused by wrong Human Eoclogy of which the human diet and supporting agricuture are a significant part, and wrong values which do not take into the welfare of other creatures. 
As Paul McCartney rightly observed  "It's staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.”  To this he could have added "economic adversity" because the vegetarian diet is more efficient and cheaper in terms of human and enviromental costs, and financially liberating because it is possible to grow all one's food if you have about a half acre.  One acre of land cultivated with bio-intensive natural organic agriculture can support 8.7 people taking a whole plant based diet (see the "grow biointensive .org" online  - the work of Alan Chadwick and John Jeavens.
Anyway, it's your chioce, and mine.  But as we know now that the Paradigm Shift is accelerating, our basic human life-support decisions affect so many aspects of the Paradigm and other players on the stage of life.