Posted by: bklunk | November 7, 2006

How to Feed 6 Billion People

Salwa gives us this on hunger:

Why Hunger is Occurring: Natural Problems

Believe it or not, there’s plenty of food to go around on this planet. In
fact, there’s enough for every single person to have about five pounds of food
per day. So what’s the problem?

Most of this food is produced in developed nations, like the

United
States

. For it to get to countries that need
it, there are huge expenses in packaging, transporting, and distributing this
food. A survey of all costs involved in producing a loaf of bread and
delivering it to a

UK

retail store found that less than one third of energy was spent growing and
milling the wheat. Getting it to market, including packaging and transportation
accounted for almost all of the remaining two thirds of energy needed.

Reducing these costs should be simple: reduce or eliminate the
transportation costs. If food is produced closer to where it is needed, costs
are much lower. The dictionary (www.m-w.com)
defines “arable” as: fit for or used for the growing of crops. Arable
land, therefore, is land that can be used to produce food. Some countries have
been thought to have very little arable land. This could be for many reasons,
including the soil could be too hard, temperature could be too extreme, or
there might not be enough water in the area. Some say that the amount of arable
land is decreasing through processes like erosion. One economist, Julian Simon,
thinks otherwise:

 

“The potential for creating new land has increased as knowledge,
machinery, and power sources have improved. At one time, most of

Europe

could not be planted, because the soils were ‘too heavy.’ When a plow that
could farm the heavy soil was invented, much of Eurpoe suddenly became arable
in the eyes of the people who lived there. Most of

Ireland

and

New England

were once too hilly and stony for
farming, but with effort the stones were removed and the land became
‘suitable for crops’ […] In the twentieth century, bulldozers and dynamite
have cleared out stumps that kept land from being plowed. And in the future,
cheap transportation and desalination may transform what are now deserts into
arable lands. The definition of ‘arable’ changes as technology develops and
the demand for land rises. Hence any calculation of ‘arable’ land should be
seen for what it is – a rough estimate without permanent force.”

 

New land is being made available through continually developing
technologies. Sometimes, then, the problem is that the land is not being used
efficiently enough. Food production per hectare has soared in the last fifty
years. More countries are beginning to use fertilizers.

Some methods of food production are more efficient than others naturally.
Beef production takes about 10 to 20 calories of energy (fuel, feed, etc.) to
produce 1 calorie of food. (Some groups, such as VEGFAM, believe that
vegetarianism is a solution to world hunger.) Typical

US

corn production takes about 1 calorie of energy (fuel, fertilizer, etc.) to
produce 1 calorie of food. Dry-land Asian rice culture averages using 1 calorie
of energy (human labor) to produce 20 calories of food. The range of efficiency
here is clear.

When food can be produced in greater quantities more efficiently in areas
geographically closer to where it is needed, costs for this food are reduced.
When food costs less, more people can buy sufficient amounts to feed themselves
and their families.

Is hunger really a poverty problem?  People with sufficient incomes can generally find sources of nutrition?  On the other hand, hunger can also be seen as a human rights problem.  Responsive governments generally find ways to feed their people.

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Responses

  1. I do think that hunger is a poverty problem depending on the situation and immediate circumstances. Without the proper resources, people are unable to purchase and acquire food. Living in poverty is not always a hunger problem, however, because it depends on where in the world the poverty is viewed. The U.S. idea of poverty is vastly different from the poverty experienced in that of say, Mexico. In relation to the article, the transportation process is the most consuming in all areas (money, mobility), but I don’t think that this would stop people with sufficient incomes. If there’s a will, there’s a way. I don’t think that hunger is necessarily a human rights problem, or the fault of the government. If the government has an input in the supressing the food production process, then yes, it is responsible. And a government shouldn’t have to provide food to feed their people unless it is detrimental and the situation of the specific country is somehow blocking the people from feeding themselves.

  2. I think the main problem, or reason for the hunger issue in these proverty stricken areas is mainly a problem with overpopulation. These regions are growing in population at such a fast rate that their natural resources are unable to keep up. This in affect leads them to have to borrow from other countries natural resources, which through giving support create more population growth, reenacting the same cycle. The best response to help curve this hunger problem in these developing countries is to level the dramatic population increases. A model of how this can work is China who through government intervention stopped its world leading population growth, and since then has seen a booming increase in it’s economy, and decreasing problems with hunger,and starvation.

  3. I can see how hunger can be a poverty problem as well as a human rights problem. In a country with a corrupt or unstable government or civil wars, it’s people will suffer because of lack of the conflicts. With the right education and a strong government, countries with hunger problems can prevail the long and hard road to arable land and thus no more hunger. This is the same to the US. We’re so selfish in our eating habits – we waste so much and at the same time there are Americans in American homes and streets who are living in hunger. Developed countries have the most food and it’s more expensive to deliver to far places – why not feed our own?


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