Colin Austin © Collective Commons 23 Feb 2015

The human cost of bad diet

I am asking my readers for feedback - not on technology which I know works - but on human psychology.

On Wednesday I set of on the 2,000 drive from Gin Gin to Melbourne to see the specialist for Xiulan - my Chinese wife - about her foot. The ankle bone has died and we are looking at either a bone transplant from her hip or a metal heel. This is a natural result of diabetes which is the commonest cause of amputations and blindness.

I want to avoid other people going through what Xiulan is going through.

Fortunately diabetes can be substantially prevented and may be reversed simply by a high fresh vegetable content in the diet. Unfortunately sugar is addictive - I wrote about this in

My approach has been developing technology - the wicking system - which makes it easy for people to grow their own vegetables in nutrient rich soil.

But getting the right soil is not as simple as throwing in a few minerals; soil biology is needed to make them available to the plants. If you have the right soil, with the minerals, porosity, surface chemistry and wicking action then making wicking beds becomes very simple and cheap. Virtually any container which can hold water will do.

I wrote about soils in

I followed this up with a much broader and hopefully more interesting article in

Are we winning the diet war?

But I have to ask myself how successful my efforts have been. The answer has both good and bad news. I get a feel of the success of wicking beds from my inwards email. There are thousands of people using wicking beds that I know off - and probably many more that I don’t know about.

That’s the good news - now for the bad - there are two issues.

First most of the questions show that water saving is the main issue for most people. Now water saving is important but the key issue is getting the mineral, vitamins, plant based nutrients - the phytonutrients into our diet.

In the dietary world there is a lot of emphasis on calorie restriction - honestly this is rubbish - if your body is lacking the essential phytonutrients you will feel hungry and sooner or later you will break your diet and end up by pigging out - often on the cheap and convenient processed foods full of sugars and fats.

Calorie restriction simply does not work long term - you need to substitute the high sugar and fat diets
with plant based foods so you don’t feel hungry all the time.

Secondly I am obviously reaching the keen gardeners who are probably already eating a healthy diet anyway. But this is only a small proportion of the total population.

This is obvious from the statistics on diabetes and its intrinsic cause - carrying excess fat around the vital organs - the fat tummy. The absolute numbers of fat tummies may be alarming but what is really alarming is the rate of increase of fat tummies, particularly among the younger generation.

At this rate it will become the dominant health issue for millions of people. We need to get to the majority of the population - not just a health aware minority. So what can I do? Well I am just one puny little person so the reality is not much. But if this became a community action the story would be very different.

Creative Commons

Traditional intellectual property laws were designed to give monopoly power. The system of Creative Common was developed - initially in the software industry - to allow people to share their intellectual property for the community benefit but still have recognition to their innovative work.

I want as many people as possible to use the technology I have developed to improve diet and hence health so this is the system I use. Anyone can copy any of my publications in part or in full. Not just ‘can’ but are encouraged.

They should however reference me and my web site as the source. Again anyone can use the technology for private use, they do not have to apply for permission or pay any money - it is all for free.

However if the technology is used for commercial purposes (e.g. products are sold for money) they need to enter into a licensing arrangement. This may involve paying a small royalty, typically about 5%.

Again I want to encourage commercial operations to provide services to the public. This particularly applies to Wickimix® my specially developed wicking bed soil. This may be difficult for an individual to make for themselves but having a network of local soil suppliers providing soil at a low cost without major transport costs would help improve people’s diet.

Gardening clubs may like to produce the soil in bulk for their members and also assemble Wicking Baskets ® from kits for sale. Again this encourages wider adoption and may provide some additional income for the club.

Getting the message out

Let me just restate the message we need to get out. We need to get phytonutrients into our bodies by eating fresh vegetables grown in nutrient rich soil.

Anybody can grow fresh vegetables using the wicking bed system, even if they have no previous skills or a large garden.

I cannot afford to compete with the billions of dollars the processed food industry spends on promoting there toxic brews of sugar, fats and salt which are slowly killing people. I can only encourage community action. Let me throw out a few ideas and ask you to comment on these.


In my circle of friends (yes I have more than 1) there are quite few fat tummies. I can at least talk to these people and show them my wicking system to them and help them get started. Social networks. I am not really an expert in social media but within the community there would appear to be a major opportunity to use social media to educate the wider population about diet, health and the dangers of diabetes.

I get many technical questions from people from all over the world, many from people involved in some form of community activity so there are many people who are concerned and willing to contribute to their community.


Parents can work with their local schools so they can introduce our next generation to nutrition, minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients basic soil science and soil biology and how easy it is to grow vegetables. Gardening clubs. Many people like to belong to a gardening club for social reasons and to exchange information.

They can open their doors at special events to educate the wider public and generally promote the benefits of growing healthy food. Local Governments. Many councils have been proactive in encouraging gardening as an activity and often provide useful resources such as mulch.

They often operate various centers and aged care facilities and a generally in touch with the local community and are much more approachable than higher levels of Governments - State and Federal Governments. These tend to be much less approachable than local councils but they are the major providers ofhealth services.

Their diabetic services are grossly overloaded (we had to wait for four months just to see a specialist and then travel 2,000 k to Melbourne, the system is simply grossly overloaded and not coping).

Governments seem to have minimal concept of prevention and just bear the costs of major operations.

Costs are a major issue for our politicians so the community needs to let our budget dominated Politian's know that a functional health system is of top ranking importance to the community (way ahead of submarines to protect us from an invasion of penguins form Antarctica).

The message the public has to sell to our Governments is that that prevention is much better and cheaper than cure and avoids the personal misery which comes from deceases like diabetes.

What do people actually think?

I am totally confident about the technology - there are so many successful case histories - but I have a hunch I am missing out on some important part of human psychology. I would really like to know how other people think about diet.

Do people really understand the hazards of modern processed food? Do they think that logically I am right but do not want to give up the benefits of processed food? Am I simply talking to people that are converted to healthy food but don’t want to become food evangelists? How do I reach out to those people who are heading for trouble by eating harmful food and just do not understand how easy it is to grow their own healthy food using the wicking system?

Please let me know what you think and give me your suggestions on how to convince people about the importance of diet and health.


Sprouts, microgreens and baby green help cure diabetes and keep you slim.