Beautiful and Abundant

Publisher Bryan Welch on philosophy, farming and building the world we want.

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Why Are People Starving?

9/25/2008 2:21:28 PM

Tags: Green Revolution, Environment, Overpopulation

Rio Grande Vista

The reasons for the inequitable distribution of human nourishment, worldwide, are complex and hotly debated. Many regions of the world still don’t have reliable systems of distribution. Political corruption and corporate greed take their toll. Starvation has, true to Malthus’ predictions, never been eradicated. We’ve had the means to solve the worldwide hunger problem but, apparently, not the motivation. Our agricultural tools have been equal to this task for several decades, but our political devices have fallen short.  In the wealthy parts of the world people have never, seemingly, been sufficiently inspired to overcome the challenges of feeding those in the Earth’s poorer neighborhoods. It is clearly not a simple matter to distribute surplus Iowa corn to the pantries of drought-famished Africa. Evidence would suggest that good nutrition, worldwide, is not impossible, only improbable. And contemporary phenomena like climate change and population growth only make that challenge more vexing.

As the planet becomes more heavily populated with human beings, lines of communication become more efficient. As we’ve become more crowded, we’ve also become more aware, generally, of the circumstances of human life worldwide. Today’s poor Mexican laborer knows that the price of his tortillas goes up when ethanol producers in the United States put new demands on the grain supply. The soccer mom in New England fills the fuel tank on her minivan with at least a general awareness that she’s having an effect on the global economy. Suddenly we’re conscious that our decision to drive a 12-mile-per-gallon SUV may increase food prices for a poor family somewhere, straining to buy a few pounds of grain.

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From New England
2/8/2009 8:28:12 AM
I agree with Richard....stop offering tax incentives to have children. Look at that family "18 and counting"...I mean, come on! Imagine what their tax return looks like!

From New England
2/8/2009 8:25:08 AM
Ok....So I am reading this, and wondering if this guy knows what he is talking about... ...You have targeted New England as having what appears to be the only 'soccer moms" in the country that drive minivans...I am from New England, I am by far a soccer mom, and I honestly don't know any in my town that are! I also drive an SUV.....mostly because in this part of the country and where I live it is a necessity. Am I going to drive around in a Toyota Echo to conserve gas and not make it to work half the time in a storm....uh...NO..... Lastly I think Mother Earth News needs to hire Cleve to write their articles!

2/1/2009 12:11:49 PM
The discussion of overpopulation seemed obvious to me at the time. My biggest thought was how much of a taboo this subject seems to be and that it was refreshing to read an article discussing it. After seeing many of your reader's reviews I can understand why. And while we should never presume to tell anyone how many kids they may have. Something certainly needs to be done. Whether it's removing tax incentives for kids, or adding child taxes. There does need to be an encouragement for smaller families. -Richard

1/31/2009 10:42:27 AM
It is a power play. Food is life. Therefore, food is power. Can the western world do something? Sure we could. But there are those that don't want us to. Better that millions of men, women and children die a slow painful death of starvation and disease than to allow an "Emperialistic display of western power."

1/21/2009 1:38:43 PM
I wholeheartedly agree that the human population is "too big" by most measures and that our eating habits in the wealthier nations are wasteful. However, I think the point of the article is a good one: starvation among humans is caused less by lack of food on Earth and more by who has access to that food.

1/20/2009 1:41:23 PM

1/20/2009 12:16:55 PM
Absolutely not! In my original post I agreed with the overpopulation argument. But I see the meat and dairy industry as being a significant problem. Not only for animal rights issues, but for environmental issues as well. One cow can eat over 50 pounds of grain per day and drink 50 gallons of water. How many people would it take to consume that in 1 day? Cows also poop a lot more than we do which releases methane gas into the environment and gets into our drinking water. So if we stop breeding animals for human consumption, we will have fixed one of our environments leading causes of global warming and provide food for the people who are starving NOW.

1/20/2009 11:46:54 AM
Of course it's not eugenics. It's not breeding. It's voluntarily agreeing, as a species, to reproduce ourselves at a rate not greater than two children per couple. That's all it would take. The only other alternative is overpopulation and some form or another of natural disaster. Are you arguing that the earth can support an unlimited human population?

1/20/2009 11:39:53 AM
Is that your final solution? Sounds like Eugenics to me.

1/20/2009 11:27:29 AM
My solution would be to reduce human population to a level that can live healthy lives on a sustainable planet with abundant natural resources.

1/20/2009 10:05:21 AM
Who knows until when Bryan? I know that a large part of the development, desertification, deforestation, erosion and silting that you mentioned earlier can be attributed to the human race’s use of animals for food and clothing. Grazing is good in natural circumstances, but when you are mass producing animals that graze it leads to desertification. What if the best we can do is slow the day of reckoning? What’s your solution?

1/20/2009 9:03:42 AM
Until when, Nichole? In some areas, it would be more efficient to feed a vegan population. That doesn't change the fact that the globe is a limited habitat. Furthermore, modern agriculture destroys virtually every life form other than the species it is promoting in a given field. Grazing can at least preserves habitat for the species that live alongside the livestock. In many environments, raising crops is inefficient or impossible. At the end of the day, improved efficiency doesn't solve the population problem, it only delays the day of reckoning a little.

1/20/2009 8:57:52 AM
I agree that the earth is overpopulated. Statistics tell us that when food is plentiful the population grows. But there is more than enough food to feed everyone on this planet if we would stop feeding it to the animals that we then consume. Here are some well known facts from the vegan community: The Hunger Argument: Number of People worldwide who will die of starvation this year: 60 million Number of people who could be adequately fed with the grain saved if Americans reduced meat intake by 10%: 60 million Human beings in America: 243 million Number of people who could be fed with grain and soybeans now eaten by US livestock: 1.3 billion Percentage of corn grown in US eaten by people: 20% Percentage of corn grown in US eaten by livestock: 80% Percentage of protein wasted by cycling grain through livestock: 90% Percentage of oats grown in US eaten by livestock: 95% How frequently a child starves to death: every 2 seconds Pounds of potatoes that can be grown on an acre: 20, 000 lbs Pounds of beef produced on an acre: 165 lbs Percentage of US farmland devoted to beef production: 56% Pounds of grain and soybeans needed to produce 1 pound of feedlot beef: 16 lbs.

1/20/2009 6:08:34 AM
I think it's pertinent to point out that only about 20 percent of the globe's land mass is arable, and that we are losing about 39,000 square miles per year to development, desertification, deforestation, erosion and silting.

1/20/2009 1:14:57 AM
I have to agree with Cleve. While it is tempting to jump to an overpopulation problem as the answer, the reality is that the dominant systems of food production are neither the most productive per acre nor the most environmentally conscious. There are ways of growing food that are both more productive and better for the environment, but they cost money—especially in developed countries where workers come with added insurance costs, taxes, and minimum wages. I would be happy to work on a farm for at—or slightly below—minimum wage if I could depend on that farm for most of my food at no further cost. However, the farmer would have to have worker's comp insurance (only necessary because the U.S. lacks a national health care plan) and take taxes out of my pay—and the price of my 'free' food would be considered part of my pay by the IRS. People in non-developed countries starve because they land they used to grow food on has been stolen at gunpoint by large multinational corporations who take advantage of weak governments to increase their profits.

Ed Zyskowski
1/19/2009 6:10:17 PM
I have to agree with the overpopulation arguement. I am childless by choice, a decision I made in my late teens as I saw an ever increasing population as a future problem. Consider that if you take one person and place them on a 1 acre plot. It can produce enough food to get by on. Now take that same acre and add 3 to 4 more people. The result is obvious. It's unfortunate that very few realize this as we are literally the only species that destroys the very environment it needs to survive in. Add to this a waste stream that will not degrade and the end result is eventual extinction.

1/19/2009 12:03:45 PM
Why do people starve in this day and age?... ..because it's not profitable to keep them fed. PERIOD Why don't you pose this question to the Rothschilds, Hapsburgs, Warburgs, Rockafellers, and JP Morgan decedenants (essentially, any one of the primary families of central banking around the world)? And while you're at it, go ahead and ask the Vatican...especially the Vatican, since they have the means and SHOULD have the motivation (which is more than you can say for the other family names mentioned). And on another note...if you think we have "starvation" problems now, what exactly to you think would happen if we kept another 5000 people a day alive by "giving a man fish"? That's right, we'd EXPONENTIALLY INCREASE the problem in really short order. 5000 new people reaching puberty every day with nothing but time and raging hormones are going to do what?...PROCREATE

Ken Hall
1/19/2009 10:33:49 AM
Why are people starving? Because there are far too many humans on the Earth! Because for the past 70-80 years we have been using oil to grow crops. Because converting grain to meat requires 5-10 pounds of grain per pound of meat. Because developed countries require their agricultural support to the have nots to be in the form of agricultural products grown in the developed country be procured and sent to the have nots thus allowing the rich to get richer. You want to promote a reduction of starvation push for a sterilization vaccine for MEN and apply it universally! Keep on the way we are and the Earth is going to do us in with massive starvation and war. Dr. James Hansen estimates that if we burn 60-80% of the known coal reserves we run the risk of turning the Earth into a sister planet similar to Venus with daytime temperatures approaching 1000F. Think many critters will scuttling about on the Earth then? Wake up people, in my lifetime (1942-2009) the population of the Earth has nearly tripled and the number of animals has been reduced by 50-60-70-80-90 and in many cases 100%; will you be happy when we are the only animals left standing? My faux pas most Americans don't even consider humans to be animals.

1/19/2009 9:34:31 AM
Malthus was right there will always be hunger! Anybody who has done work in West Africa will tell you that the best help is; clean water,good roads and birth control. Then leave people to run their own lives, in their own way, and if they then practice a little genocide,its their country and their culture.

1/19/2009 9:24:35 AM
It never occurred to me that our demand for corn for ethanol would do anything but create another for the grain. I thought this would encourage, and even force, farmers in the United States to put their fallow acreage back into production thus ending, or at least dramatically reducing, agricultural 'welfare'. Thank you for pointing out that there's yet a nother row of dominoes in play!

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