A Biblical Perspective on Environmentalism: What World Food Shortage? (2)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the series so far.

There is at present more than enough food production worldwide to provide complete nutrition for everyone, and yet in the midst of this there is much malnutrition, as well as spotty local famine. How can this be? Simply stated, in nearly all such cases, the former is the result of poor human dietary (and economic) choices, and the latter is the consequence of deliberate malevolent governmental policies, as I will now explain.

Malnutrition is nearly universally the result of poor human choices. As every doctor could testify, the alcoholic who buys wine instead of food will soon be seriously deficient in numerous vitamins and minerals, to say nothing of protein. Then there are those who characteristically consume large amounts of white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, highly-processed foods with minimal vitamins or fiber, foods with artificially-created trans-fats, plus assorted artificial flavorings, colorings, and preservatives. In turn, they eat low amounts of whole grains, vegetables and fruit. By these choices, they are depriving themselves of a whole spectrum of nutrients, and increase their risk of various cancers, diabetes, digestive tract problems, as well as obesity and all the health problems that causes. Of course the consumption of soft-drinks in anything beyond moderation is a major contributor to malnutrition—lots of calories but zero nutrition. It is almost literally true that America’s malnutrition problem would be solved if we simply substituted milk for pop in our diet.

We see a great deal of “public service advertising” on television with claims about American children—as many as one in six—who are alleged to be hungry on weekends (when they don’t have access to free government breakfast and lunch programs), with an emotion-charged plea made that someone needs to provide weekend nutrition for them. Hmm—I’ve always thought that was the job of their parents. That is their responsibility, is it not? We already have free breakfast and lunch programs at school for which the poorest qualify, as well as 47 million people or more receiving free food subsidies (averaging $133 per person per month, or over $4 per day). These resources alone should and would be sufficient to provide adequate total nutrition for any child, assuming they were intelligently used.

In a column I wrote last year for a local newspaper (“Eating Well on the Cheap” parts I and II, published in the Haysville Sun-Times, Haysville, Kansas), I demonstrated that it is possible to provide a varied, tasty diet with complete nutrition for an adult—and therefore for a child as well—for as little as $2.00 a day, or even less, in other words, the cost of a single lottery ticket, less than half the cost of a pack of cigarettes, or a fraction of the cost of a six-pack of beer, which many folks of very small means nevertheless somehow manage to afford. There were lots of eggs, milk, whole grain bread, peanut butter, dry beans, rice, apples, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, cabbage, oatmeal, butter, cheese and nuts, plus chicken and pork in this diet, but no place for Happy Meals, frozen pizza, soda or pre-packaged cereal. Such a diet being entirely within the reach of even minimum wage workers (and likely a huge improvement over what they currently eat), malnutrition in America is overwhelmingly a consequence of poor food choices. And ill-fed children are, with very rare exceptions, a result of poor parental choices, or really, simple irresponsibility (which government subsidies merely enable to continue).

On a wider scale, we have witnessed in recent years via television, genuine famine in certain locales around the globe. I think particularly of Sudan. During the long government-sponsored war of the Moslem north against the Christians in the south, there was real and intense famine and starvation among refugees in the south. This was not the result of inadequate food resources—there were numerous relief agencies with planes and trucks loaded with emergency food supplies ready to intervene. Rather, the Sudanese government blocked those life-saving food resources from reaching the refugee camps, and thousands died as a consequence of deliberate, barbaric government-created starvation.

Of course, Sudan is only one of a number of cases of deliberate starvation of people by their governments for political reasons. Perhaps the most notorious in the twentieth century was the “harvest of sorrow” in 1932-1933 in Ukraine in Eastern Europe, when the Communist leader of Russia, Josef Stalin, deliberately confiscated all the food resources of the small scale Ukrainian farmers—kulaks—to compel the collectivization of the farms. In the process, some 9 to 10 million people—men, women, children—died of starvation. It was the Russian dictator’s politically motivated policy to starve them to death. “Ah, yes,” Stalin would have replied, “but I did it for their own good” (for a full account of this deliberate communist genocide by starvation, see Robert Conquest, The Harvest of Sorrow, Oxford University Press, 1986).

Hunger in developing nations (formerly called “third-world”) is today chiefly caused by corrupt rulers, who misappropriate for their own extravagant lifestyles foreign aid and relief resources intended for the common people. Sub-Saharan Africa is rife with such corrupt governments. The masses sometimes starve while the dictators dine opulently. Once again we see hunger as a deliberate government policy, not as a consequence of inadequate world food supplies. Where local conditions—drought or floods—cause crop failures, relief agencies from numerous nations are commonly at the ready to lend life-saving aid, provided the governments in question will allow the assistance. Too often they won’t.

So, then, present (and prospective) world food supplies are more than sufficient to meet all the nutritional needs of every living human being, and many more besides. Malnutrition, which is common enough, is frequently a result of poor human food choices, not inadequate food resources, while famine and starvation are all too often the deliberate result of the policies of corrupt and inhumane governments.

There is no need to panic in reaction to the extravagant propagandist rhetoric claiming that world-wide famine is knocking on the door. Such claims are very, very far from the truth.

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