(en) Hunger in today's world (ca)

esperanto (lingvoj@lds.co.uk)
Sun, 08 Dec 1996 10:37:50 +0000


The ghost of Malthus continues to cast its shadow on the world. Despite the
fact that his prediction of a big food crisis seems to have been constantly
undermined his name continues to figure in the debates concerning population
and food supply in the world. This happened once again at the recent summit
on food production organised by the UNO.

Malthus proclaimed at the beginning of the 19th century that population
growth would happen quicker than food production. For this reason, to avoid
the growing misery of the poorest groups in society, it was necesary to
introduce some form of birth control and thus control numbers. The
Malthusian proposition was based on growth in agricultural activity which
was slowed down by the Industrial Revolution and which, on the face of it,
would have achieved the necessary capacity to generate enough reserves to
feed the whole population.

In the 1960s the Club of Rome published a contraversial report in which they
emphasised the limits to economic growth which were endemic in the
availability of natural resources. Once again proposals for restrictions
called for by the struggle between nature and society occupied centre stage.

But the vision of constant progress in productive capacity shifted the focus
of the debate. Today, perhaps, a new level of debate will arise concerning
sustainable development and the warnings of the ecologists concerning the
exploitation of the planet's resources.

In any case the struggle between man and the resources at his disposal is a
recurring theme and the Malthusian vision in its various forms is hardwired
into the collective consciousness.

It is calculatd that today in the world there are some 800 million persons
who are suffering from chronic malnutrition and to this we must add an
indeterminate number of those who suffer from hunger.

This makes the subject one of crucial political importance given that the
end of this century is seeing the clear extension of poverty to large areas
of the planet. Data on food production indicate that since the 1950s there
has been constant growth which has been greater than that of population
growth. If this leads to the conclusion that the causes of hunger are not
due to natural laziness or technological causes then this phenomenon must be
caused by the fact that those who are hungry and malnourished are poor.

For some, as we know, this is simply the responsibility of those concerned
and the government who pursue their involvement by means of social policies
and subsidies which are already, to a fair degree, condemned to failure
given the structure of the welfare state. This is a very contraversial
argument even in those countries where the social safety net exists.
However, it is nothing but a bad joke in many other places where there are
social conflicts aimed at resource control such as those we see in Black Africa.

If the subject is about poverty then it is necessary to link into the debate
those questions associated with resources and those stimuli to production
and those linked with access to these resources. From this base point one
can rethink the problem of food distribution. The suggestions of Malthus
seemed so chancy to his contemporaries that they turned to Carlisle to write
Political Economy in order to put them on a scientific footing.

Despte the pessimism of Malthus' original position it was based on a belief
in limited technology which created the incapacity for food supply.

Today in contrast it is clear that poverty is produced by the fact that 100s
of millions are not in a position to feed themselves. It has nothing to do
with the ability to produce food. It is a result of deficiences in the
social order.

It is these conditions which bring into question todays so-called global
policies which produce forces aimed at relocating people with no adequate
compensation against a background of uneven growth. For many this is simply
another piece of evidence of the end of history.

>Leon Bendesky
>"Otra vez Malthus"