Our food system is broken. But not beyond repair. Oxfam is launching the GROW campaign to sustainably feed a growing world population (expected to swell to 9 billion people by 2050) and empower poor people to earn a living, feed their families, and thrive.
Mass starvation! This is exactly what Oxfam warns us in their new report, â€œGrowing a Better Future in a Resource Constrained Worldâ€. Barbara Stocking, Oxfamâ€™s chief executive, said: â€œThe food system is pretty well bust. All the signs are that the number of people going hungry is going up.â€
The report predicts that the prices of food, already at a record high, will more than double in the next 20 years. In addition, by 2050, demand for food will rise 70 percent, yet the report says the worldâ€™s capacity to increase food production is declining.
Oxfamâ€™s future scenario of doom is a practical throwback to the 70s when Paul Ehrlich captured media headlines with his book Population Bomb where he warned of mass starvation deaths. Hereâ€™s an extract of the book:
â€œPopulation will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we makeâ€¦.The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.â€
Has Oxfam caught the Ehrlich bug?
Read more: OXFAM morphs into a Paul Ehrlich clone: Claims world faces mass starvation
Almost a billion people are undernourished, and about 8 million die of starvation each year. Tens of millions more die of diseases that are not fatal in people who eat enough food. Over the past 40 years, more people have died of hunger each year than in any famine in our previous history. Was Erlich so wrong?
The politics of food are very complicated. Our practice of encouraging subsistence farmers to leave their farms and work in factories is one of the biggest contributors – it increases GDP and food insecurity at the same time. But so is the fact that there’s no money in selling food to the poor, which is why most corn and soy ends up as food additives in the industrialized world – and why we get fatter while the rest of the world starves.
On the other hand, we’re talking about supporting 9 billion people, with most of the newcomers living in poverty. Right now, for every American, there are about fifteen poor people worldwide being told that if they just work hard they can achieve our decadent and unsustainable way of life. It’s a lie: they are condemned to live in squalor because there aren’t enough resources to go around. Even if they get enough food, which is possible, increasing our population to 9 billion proposes doubling the number of people living in grinding poverty. You think it’s hard to end poverty now? It will be twice as hard.
We are told the carrying capacity of the planet, the number of people who can stay alive – but alive isn’t enough if they are to be condemned to live as economic slaves. Go to India or Tijuana and see the heartbreaking conditions in which the majority live – and we’re okay with this? This is a two-pronged problem: first, while the world lives in poverty, a few of us live in decadence. If you’re reading this, you’re one of us. But second, the total population continues to expand and there just aren’t enough resources to eliminate poverty for the people already here. BOTH have to be dealt with.
Absolutely. But how to we here help those desperately poor elsewhere. Recycle more? Use CFLs instead of incandescents? What we really need is a new economic system.
Indeed we do. But be warned: the median world household income (PPP) is less than $1,000. Average world household income is about $7,000 which tells us that the wealthy few (us) make disproportionately more than the poverty-stricken majority. We have a long way to fall in the equalizing process…