A HUNGRY CHILD’S PLEA FOR HELP
"Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” –Nelson Mandela
When I would visit India as a kid, I detested what was in plain sight: the gut-wrenching destitution of little boys and girls my age. I couldn’t help think they were like me; I was like them.
One memory sticks out in particular. I was walking along a busy street hand in hand with my cousins. I was about 7 years old.
To my right was my brother. Unexpectedly, I found another hand in mine on my left side. It was a boy much smaller than me. His clothes were filthy rags and his appearance far too wary for his years. He looked at me with the darkest eyes I’d ever seen.
He knew he didn’t belong with me and my world of social entitlements. And I knew he didn’t. Not in this world we dreamed up.
I grieved as I told him to let go. That he has to be on his own way. Maybe it was just a ploy he was playing. But who cares? We shared that moment together and I’ve carried it with me all these years.
I don’t want to support a system that perpetuates extreme inequality. Hence, this writing on world hunger to break down the principal drivers of food scarcity. And then maybe together we can dream up another world. One where we all belong.
Sadly, 684 children starve to death every hour. The World Hunger Organization stated that six million children died of starvation in 2009 alone.
World hunger is a multi-tiered problem that involves:
- food scarcity mostly due to incredibly inefficient land use by animal agriculture, which covers 45% of usable, ice-free land on Earth. (Thornton, Phillip, et al. "Livestock and climate change". Livestock xchange. International Livestock Research Institute. November 2011 (“Livestock systems occupy 45% of the global surface area…”))
- You can produce 5-15 times more plant-based food on any given land as compared to animal product food. (Rifkin, J. “The World’s Problems on a Plate,” The Guardian, May 17, 2002.)
- 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.
- In 2010, our livestock ate five times the amount of food we did (Rao, Sailesh. “Sailesh Rao's presentation to EU Parliament before Cowspiracy Screening (part 3 of 7)” youtube.com 2015.) and almost 50% of the grain (Sansoucy, R., United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization “Livestock – a driving force for food security and sustainable development” .)
- due to the lasting effect of European colonialism:
- a legacy of land ownership in relatively few hands and
- vast numbers of landless poor;
- resource degradation due to animal agriculture, which causes topsoil loss, desertification, and pernicious water scarcity;
- speculators driving up prices via commodity exchange systems;
- reprehensible food subsidies in US, Japan and European countries that benefit large companies, hardly help their countries’ own small farmers, and pummel farmers in other countries out of business. When they go out of business, wealthy companies and countries can consolidate the land in fewer hands and kick off the farmers. And guess what, the foreign interests prefer to export the food rather than share it with the hungry folk in the local country.
We the People need to work harder to ensure that companies and countries don’t push their weight around. How?
Simple really. Don’t buy food from another country. Don’t manipulate someone else’s land. (I’m nearly there, btw!) And most importantly, don’t eat animal products. What’s the result?
Well, countries like the United States would certainly benefit because more small-time farmers would earn a living wage. But in addition, we’d create a huge surplus because plant-based food yields 5-15 times more pounds of food per acre than any meat operation. With our surplus, we can then give aid to the relatively few countries that do not have enough arable land to support themselves.
Yeah, it may seem far-fetched. But don’t we owe it to the starving kids of the world to dream up a new paradigm? One where every person matters? To quote the great John Lennon,
“You may say I’m a dreamer.
But I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you will join us.
And the world will be as one.”