Hunger: Seeking food in an ailing world

By Manzoor Chandio
Written on Jan 20, 2005

SOME centuries back most of the mankind lived in thatched houses.
The lives of the overwhelming majority, in the words of philospher Thomas Hobbes were, “nasty, brutish and short”.
Today, most of the people in the world according to the World Bank are, “powerless, voiceless and helpless”.
If we browse the archives of the UN and its accredited programmes throughout the world, we can find hundreds of projects aimed at alleviating hunger but the situation is no different from the one summed up by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1987.
“In many parts of Asia, the human achievements of the 20th century have made no mark. The rural poor continue to carry the burden of contaminated water, hunger, and malnutrition. They stand by helpless as their babies die. For those who survive their first year, the average life span will be barely more than half of that enjoyed in richer countries, or in the richer sections of their own countries.”
According to the UN, “Three million people a year die because of hunger and 800 million suffer from chronic malnutrition.”
In 2004, the UN allowed African people to eat insects to fulfil their nutrient needs.
“Edible insects from forests are an important source of protein, and unlike those from agricultural land, are free of pesticides,” a FAO official said.
The earth is facing disaster upon disaster. Its oceans are rising due to global warming and deserts are expanding due to lack of rains. These changes are bringing about death and destruction.
Environmental degradation has already taken a toll of several hundred species of reptiles, birds, mammals, fish, and amphibians which once thrived on the planet.
The process of “mass extinction” started in the Mesozoic era when dinosaurs died out. After that several hundred other species perished. Now their traces are found in fossils.
According to the latest IUCN roll-call, a total of 784 extinctions have been documented since 1500 when accurate historical and scientific records on species started.
According to the IUCN red-list, some 12 per cent of the world’s bird species are now threatened, 23 per cent of mammals and 32 per cent amphibians. Current extinction rates are at least a thousand times higher than natural extinction rates, says the IUCN.
Individuals in the First World are consuming more resources than the Second or the Third World. It is not overpopulation that is culprit but man’s assault on the ecosystem is.
“The birth of a baby in the United States imposes more stress on the world’s resources and environment than a birth in Bangladesh,” says National Geographic.
It adds, “Babies from Bangladesh do not grow up to own automobiles and airconditioners or to eat processed food. Their lifestyles do not require huge quantities of minerals and energy, nor do their activities seriously undermine the life-support capability of the entire planet. Thus, a rich person thousands of miles away, may cause more tropical forest destruction than a poor person living within the forest itself.”

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