As leader of a global organization that strives to eliminate hunger, I want to put the food crisis in perspective and observe how a number of disparate but ultimately interrelated factors combined to create the crisis. Similarly, no single intervention will solve this global dilemma. At Freedom from Hunger, we put tools into the hands of chronically hungry poor people so that they can prevail against such upheavals.
A Growing World Population Demands More
I was an undergraduate at Cornell in 1968 when I first encountered Paul Ehrlich. He had just authored The Population Bomb and was touring campuses to promote his book and his prediction that the 1970s would see hundreds of millions of people die of starvation. Then the Green Revolution started to kick in, and growth of world food supplies soon outstripped population growth and drove down food prices for three decades.
As I was training to be an ecologist, I knew Ehrlich was applying sound principles of population ecology in his doomsday forecast. I was also studying sociology and anthropology and suspected Ehrlich was not appreciating the confounding effects of human adaptability, foresight, and ingenuity. But I took no satisfaction as Ehrlich’s prediction proved wrong. Continue reading
Tag Archives: hunger
A series of reports in the international media have drawn attention to the role of professional speculators and hedge funds in driving up the price of basic commodities—in particular, foodstuffs. The sharp increase in food prices in recent months has led to protests and riots in a number of countries across the globe.
On Tuesday, April 22, a UN spokesperson referred to a “silent tsunami” that threatens to plunge more than 100 million people on every continent into hunger. Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), noted: “This is the new face of hunger—the millions of people who were not in the urgent hunger category six months ago but now are.”
A recent article in the British New Statesman magazine, entitled “The Trading Frenzy That Sent Prices Soaring,” notes that increases in global population and the switch to bio-fuels are important factors in the rise of food prices, but then declares: Continue reading
By Bill Van Auken at WSS
15 April 2008
Last week’s meetings in Washington of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Group of Seven were convened in the shadow of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. While Wall Street’s turmoil and the deepening credit crunch dominated discussions, leaders of the global financial institutions were forced to take note of the growing global food emergency, warning of the threat of widespread hunger and already emerging political instability.
The seven major capitalist powers in the G-7—the US, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada—made virtually no mention of the global food crisis, referring in only one brief reference to the risk of “high oil and commodity prices.” Instead, they focused on the stability of the financial markets, promising measures to shore up investor confidence.
The IMF and World Bank, however, felt compelled to acknowledge the emerging worldwide catastrophe, in part because while these agencies are instruments of the main imperialist powers, they must posture as responsive to the needs of all countries. It would be too revealing for them to focus exclusively on the fate of major finance houses, while ignoring the fact that hundreds of millions across the planet are being threatened with starvation.
More decisive, however, is the realization that this crisis confronting the most impoverished countries and poorest sections of the world’s population is threatening to unleash a revolution of the hungry that could topple governments across large parts of the world.
Even as the IMF and World Bank were meeting, the government of Haiti was forced out in a no-confidence vote passed in response to several days of demonstrations and protests against rising food prices and hunger that swept all the country’s major cities. Clashes between protesters and United Nations occupation troops left at least five people dead and scores wounded and saw crowds attempt to storm the presidential palace.
Food prices in Haiti had risen on average by 40 percent in less than a year, with the cost of staples such as rice doubling.
The same essential story has been repeated in country after country, from Africa to the Middle East, south Asia and Latin America. Continue reading