The Red Cross reports that there are now more obese than starving people in the world. Something is going really, really wrong. Why are we able to eat ourselves to death, when for others even the tiniest morsel is an illusion?
Extremes Between Obesity And Famine
According to the Red Cross World Disaster Report, currently there are 1.25 billion people in the world suffering from having too much to eat, while 925 million can only dream of that problem. And we aren’t even eating everything available to us. In the US, about 50% of food gets thrown away. In the UK, restaurants annually throw 600,000 tons of what would be perfectly edible into the trash.
How can this be? What in the world, quite literally, is going wrong? By all means, the advent of industrialized food production no more than 150 years ago should have solved all our problems. We are technically capable of sustaining the globe’s population.
There Is More Than Enough Food
One part of the problem is in fact industrialized food production. While on the one hand it enabled us to put out amounts previously unfathomable to mankind, it was also streamlined as far as you can take it and is meant to turn out a profit. Food is now a commodity like steel, coal, semiconductors and all the others and it goes where people are able to pay for it. It is much in the same vein with which pharmaceutical giants can have no interest in selling their AIDS medications for cheap in Africa, when a lucrative market exists in the US and Europe, where people are willing and able to pay hundreds of dollars for a treatment.
Does that mean we should force the food industry to reroute some of their production to the ailing places in the world? No, it would go against the very basic idea of free entrepreneurship. And keeping these people dependent on others won’t do either, as technically most third world countries are able to feed their populations.
But in fact, we do send food shipments their way. We do grant them financial credit, in hope that it will go toward the benefit of the uncounted number of infants who have a slim chance of just surviving their first year.
Paying For Peace Of Mind
In reality, it doesn’t help. These shipments can only stave off the worst and when the next drought comes toward Somalia, the country will be as unprepared as it was for this one. Most of the money that we spend on these places never reaches any agricultural or educational projects, corruption makes it go to Swiss bank accounts, into a villa or the latest model Mercedes.
And we know it. What we effectively do is buying indulgences: In case that our conscience bothers us, we shell out some money under the premise that we want to help, while these countries’ ruling classes act like they want to do good with it onto their people. When the money then disappears, we can comfortably say we tried, but they just can’t be helped.
Because if we wanted to do anything real, we’d have to acknowledge some rather uncomfortable facts: Western governments face heavy lobbying from their food and other industries, already being under pressure from a global financial crisis and stiff unemployment rates. Even knowing that rising obesity rates in the long run will prove to be one of the biggest financial burdens any public health system will face, the short-term well-being of employers will reign supreme.
We also can’t really have an interest in these third world countries coming to their own. Right now they provide us with cheap resources and sometimes labor. Who in their right mind would want to nourish his own competition, knowing that we already got more than we can handle when India and China managed to turn their economic structures around? And it also is China who will step in for us, should we choose to put real pressure on corrupt third world governments by withdrawing investments and trade.
The Common Destination
There is most likely no way around it: If not for a miracle, we will get fatter and sicker, they will keep dying from starvation. In the end these are simply two different roads leading to the same destination.
Pictures courtesy of “Expert Infantry“.