“And there shall be famines …”
ARE WE LIVING in a time of increased famine?
The World Bank reported in September 1996 that more than 800 million people go hungry every day, and more than 500 million children do not get enough food to fully develop mentally and physically. “Some 40,000 hunger-related deaths occur every day, mostly in rural regions,” according to Bank vice president Ismail Serageldin.
Lester Brown, president of the Washington think-tank, Worldwatch Institute, said, “Ironically, in an era of high technology, of space exploration, the World Wide Web, and organ transplants, humanity was suddenly struggling in 1996 with one of the most ancient of challenges – how to make it to the next harvest.” Noting increased crop failures in 1995 and the current fragile state of world food reserves, he warned, “We have definitely turned a corner.”
Like many experts, Worldwatch blames global warming for much of the hunger in the world. Its “Vital Signs 1996” report notes that insurance industry payouts for weather-related crop damage during the first half of the 1990s reached $48 billion, compared with $16 billion for all of the 1980s.
Sir John Houghton, a climate expert and chairman of Britain’s Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, warns that we have yet to see the ravages that global warming will wreak: “Forests will die, diseases like malaria will spread and starving refugees will wander across borders as weather becomes more extreme.”
If you read at an average speed, since you picked up this booklet, at least 200 people have died of starvation. Conservative estimates say unless things drastically improve, over 4 million will die each year.
While it took all of human history until 1830 to reach a world population of one billion people, it only took one hundred years to add a second billion (1930), thirty years for the third billion (1960), sixteen years for the fourth billion (1976), and eleven years for the fifth billion (1987). The world’s population is expected to reach 8.5 billion by the year 2030. As the number of people increases, per capita availability of arable land decreases.
The Simple Solution
The terrible irony is that the world can produce enough food to feed its expanding population. While some famines are caused by drought or other natural disasters, most starvation in the world today could be avoided were it not for man’s selfishness and inhumanity. War, embargoes, government corruption and economic oppression are all symptoms of the real problem. While innocent children starve, some rich nations destroy millions of tons of food in order to keep prices artificially high.
An article from AP tells us that the authoritative Bread for the World Institute expressed such sentiments in its fifth annual report:
“World hunger is rooted in a breakdown of humanitarian values,” according to the organization, which lobbies for bigger anti-poverty programs.
Its report identified violence, political powerlessness, poverty, racial discrimination and environmental strains as the main causes of malnutrition.
If we could all learn to simply follow the Golden Rule and do unto others as we wish they would do unto us, even such daunting problems as world famine could be eliminated.
The Great Waster: War
Famines are frequently war-related, so more war usually means more famine. Former U.S. president General Dwight D. Eisenhower highlighted the wanton waste of war when he declared,
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. … Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron. … Is there no other way the world may live?”
Here are some contemporary facts that put what Eisenhower said in perspective:
The 1991 Gulf War cost the Allies a half billion dollars a day, or about $350,000 a minute. One fighter plane costs about $25 million. One Tomahawk cruise missile costs $1.3 million. One air-to-air missile costs $800,000.
Translated into more relatable expenses, for the price of one Sparrow radar-guided missile, a school full of hungry children could eat lunch every day for five years.
These figures are peanuts compared to the billions that are annually poured into weapons and warfare worldwide. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that world military expenditures are averaging between $900 billion and $1 trillion a year. Using the $1 trillion figure, that means an astronomical two million dollars are spent worldwide on the military every minute! A $30 billion, 10-year plan to provide clean water to the poor of the developing world would cost just ten days of military spending. Eighteen days of military spending yearly could eradicate malnutrition worldwide. Experts believe that $200 million, or about three hours of military spending, could wipe out the diseases of diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles and polio, which together kill four million children every year.