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Feed the World

August 24th, 2009

I’m just back from Tesco where the range and choice of food available is quite amazing. I am still living with images of hungry Ethiopian people imprinted on my mind and how so many millions are living in a state of food insecurity. We really are part of the rich and over-fed minority in our world.

A report on today’s BBC website, and which will be highlighted in Newsnight, points to an imminent crisis with regard to food production and the moves that many nations, including the UK, are making in order to protect food supplies in the future. One British company is leasing huge areas of land in Ukraine from which it hopes to harvest 60,000 tonnes of wheat. Arab nations have land in Africa and China is in Cambodia. This new-style colonialism has massive implications for the local farmers and landowners, and the idea of rich nations taking land in under-developed countries is highly questionable. But this report points out that if the predictions about a global food shortage prove correct, the balance of the ethical argument may shift.

Graph

The disturbing part is that so many changes in our world are inter-connected. John Beddington, the UK government’s chief scientific adviser, warns of a possible crisis in 2030. Specifically, he points to research indicating that by 2030 “a whole series of events come together”:

  • The world’s population will rise from 6bn to 8bn (33%)
  • Demand for food will increase by 50%
  • Demand for water will increase by 30%
  • Demand for energy will increase by 50%

He foresees each problem combining to create a “perfect storm” in which the whole is bigger, and more serious, than the sum of its parts.

It’s interesting that one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse described in Revelation 6 brings famine to the world, and while it is a serious famine, there is an indication that the foods essential for sustaining life will remain available (Revelation 6:5,6). But they will only be available at greatly inflated prices, and once food has been bought, there will be nothing left for other necessities. And the horseman that brings famine does not ride alone, but is accompanied by other horsemen who bring war, death and disease.

It’s clear that we live in a broken, unjust and messed-up world. But the same book that warns of the destructive horsemen also points us to a future world where “they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore” (Revelation 7:16). In addressing the needs of the people in our world we remind ourselves that while we have “not yet” arrived at a solution to these huge problems, we must work so that “already” we begin to see some features of that new age breaking into these troubled times.

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