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Updated 11 November 2004

Consequences Vol. 2, No. 2, 1996
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editor's Summary
of Articles

Ending Hunger: Current Status and Future Prospects

Questions

How many people still suffer from starvation and hunger? Is the number smaller or larger than in the past? Who and where are the hungry? Is it not true that there is ample food for all, were we able to transport, sell, or distribute it where it happens to be needed? How has agricultural production, worldwide, kept up with population growth, and can we always count on that? Need there be hunger in today's world, or can it be eliminated? What is it that we must do to meet this goal?

An Assessment

Chronic hunger affects about a sixth of the world's population, in the form of starvation, undernutrition, a deficiency of essential iron, iodine, and Vitamin A, and in the guise of sickness and parasites that take the nutritive value from what is eaten. Targeted most by these age-old faces of hunger are children under five and women of child-bearing age. Most, but not all, of the most affected live in the poorer countries of the developing world. Worldwide, the percentage and number of hungry people has fallen in the last twenty years, although this is not the case in sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and South Asia. Global food production has kept up with population growth but the prospects of significant climate or other environmental changes raise questions as to how long the pace can be maintained. Whether there is or will be enough food for all depends very much on what people eat, and don't eat: there is not enough to go around, today, were everyone to follow the high-protein diet that is common in our own country. Still, hunger could be eliminated, like smallpox, were certain known requirements to be met: the principle of food as a basic human right; a growing food supply; adequate household income; logistics to provide for emergency situations; and an ability to cope with the unexpected, through resilience and flexibility.

Consequences

In a world where epidemic diseases are targeted, one by one, for eradication it must seem odd and out of place that chronic hunger in its varied forms is still tolerated at the high levels of today. Or that one child in three must awake each day to feel its gnawing effects. Collective efforts are succeeding in keeping starvation and hunger at bay, but greater awareness and higher priorities will be required if it is ever to be conquered. We may also need a deeper appreciation of what is involved, in terms of agricultural productivity and organization and inter-country aid, to meet that goal in a world of expanding populations, and the kind of diet that can be guaranteed. The obvious connection between food supply and the environment is a major factor, in any country. The prospect of probable climate and other environmental changes can only add impetus, if more is needed, to what must be the wish of everyone to erase hunger wherever it is found.

Go to Ending Hunger: Current Status and Future Prospects

Impacts of Introduced Species in the United States

Questions

Need this or any country be concerned when non-native animals or plants are brought across its borders? Why are our actions any more troublesome than the natural movement and expansion that have always characterized plant and animal species? What and who are at risk when an introduced species becomes invasive, and what costs are involved? What steps can be taken to limit possibly harmful introductions, and what can be done to reduce the damage once they are here? Are present controls adequate? What should we do that is not already done?

An Assessment

About one in seven of the continual and for the most part harmless parade of plants, animals, and pathogens that are brought into the country from abroad become invasive, leading to problems that cost the country billions of dollars in attempts to correct them. About a fourth of America's agricultural production is lost each year to foreign plant pests and the costs of controlling them, and agriculture is not the only sector of the economy that is affected. The costs to natural systems when alien plants or animals--the often unseen faces of global change--come to dominate ecosystems are truly staggering. Keeping all alien species out of the country is a nearly impossible task, but it is far more difficult, and costly, to deal with invasive species once they are established. Attempts have been made through the years, some successfully, to eradicate particularly troublesome introductions, and to control them by chemical, mechanical, or biological methods. Present regulations, however well-intended, now seem grossly inadequate to stem the tide, in part because they are directed so specifically at but a small fraction of potentially dangerous species and because of the practical limits of enforcement. It may well be time to consider a more comprehensive approach, in which alien species are not allowed unless demonstrated, in advance, to pose at most a negligible threat.

Consequences

Increased world commerce and travel, coupled with more extensive use of the land and lakes and rivers, have transformed the once academic concern about alien plants and animals into a practical and exceedingly costly problem for the U.S. The problem is particularly severe in Hawaii and Florida, where many introduced plants and animals find the living easy, but it applies in every other state, and in all countries of the world today. Western rangelands of the U.S. are much affected, as is almost every plot of land that has been cleared for human use. Because of its low profile in relation to many other environmental concerns, the problem of introduced species is not widely appreciated, even though the costs each year to taxpayers and the economy are real and high. Until ways can be found to limit introductions more broadly at our ports of entry the price of control will continue to mount.

Go to Impacts of Introduced Species in the United States

Population Policy: Consensus and Challenges

Questions

Will the population of the world continue to climb, and for how long, and to what number? What obstacles stand in the way of a stabilized global population? In what ways have past efforts succeeded, or failed, in introducing family planning services, particularly in the developing world, where most of the growth has and will occur? What are the effects, if any, of world conferences on population, like that held in Cairo in 1994? Are the many nations of the world in agreement on what needs to be done, and what is it? What are the costs, and who would pay them?

An Assessment

Global population is now rising at about 1.5 percent each year: a rate of growth, if sustained, that would double the total number of people every forty-six years. Fertility rates are falling in most countries, however, and the mid-range projection of the UN, based on country-by-country assumptions that could well prove wrong, suggests that world population will begin to stabilize by about the end of the next century, at perhaps 11 or 12 billion people, compared with today's 5.77. However much it rises, almost all of the growth will occur in Africa, South Asia, South America, and other parts of the developing world, where the natural environment, often already stressed, will be particularly taxed. In the past, national or donor efforts at controlling expanding populations have focused on providing family planning services, with mixed reception and success. The International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo saw a broadening of policy proposals, with a shift in emphasis toward the deeper social and health issues involved in family planning. The Program of Action endorsed there by 179 countries calls for actions that focus on a wider range of related needs of women and greater attention to the health of the women and children that are involved. The goal set at Cairo was $17 billion in annual spending by the turn of the century, a third of which would come from international donors, although significant progress toward this ideal, or the other specific recommendations that grew out of the conference, has been slow.

Consequences

Few would argue that the continued rise in global population has much to do with environmental stress, or that the quality of life, for all who live on the Earth, depends to a great degree on how many of us are here. Collective actions and policies to stabilize population have in many countries been directed chiefly at birth control. Setting population goals and policies in the context of human rights and health and economic well-being of families in any country attacks the deeper roots of the population problem and couples it to other social needs. Like most more lasting fixes, it also asks more of national governments and donor organizations, raising the question of whether the hopes so roundly endorsed in Cairo can be realized, and when.

Go to Population Policy: Consensus and Challenges

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