Wednesday, April 29

Blogging For Hope: Hunger And Hope

Scientific American recently published an article that asks a question designed to strike at the heart of everything we know: Could food shortages bring down civilization? The article, by Lester R. Brown, included three key concepts, before calling for a massive and rapid intervention.

• Food scarcity and the resulting higher food prices are pushing poor countries into chaos.
• “Failed states” that export disease, terrorism, illicit drugs, weapons and refugees.
• Water shortages, soil losses, and rising temperatures from global warming that impact food production.

"As the world’s food security unravels, a dangerous politics of food scarcity is coming into play: individual countries acting in their narrowly defined self-interest are actually worsening the plight of the many," he wrote. "The trend began in 2007, when leading wheat-exporting countries such as Russia and Argentina limited or banned their exports, in hopes of increasing locally available food supplies and thereby bringing down food prices domestically."

John Holmes, writing for the UN Chronicle, cites an earlier date. He pinpoints that food prices began to rise in 2004 while production increased at a pace slower than demand. The result? According to Bread for the World, 963 million people across the world are hungry and 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes daily — one child every five seconds.

There Are Big Calls To Action, But Change Happens Small.

When the fact and figures become so immensely staggering, people tend to tune out and shut off. After all, what can one person possibly do to change the world? How could helping one person matter, when it fails to help the nearly one billion who need help now? How will talking or writing or posting about any specific world problem possibly help? How indeed.

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned from working and volunteering in the nonprofit sector was that people tend to contribute less when the tasks seem overwhelming. (The same can be said in the private sector too). So much so, the outcome results in characteristics similar to depression, except en masse.

It's not uncommon for people feel sad, guilty, or avoid taking any action because "doing anything is too much effort" or "nothing one person can do has any impact." It's just not true. Change happens in small, sometimes unnoticeable ways.

Heifer International Makes A Difference.

And sometimes it is noticed. Heifer International has more than 180 projects that make a difference all over the world. In fact , since 1944, Heifer International has helped communities learn to become self-sufficient by raising animals that provide direct benefits such as milk, eggs, wool, fertilizer, as well as indirect benefits that increase family incomes for better housing, nutrition, health care, and schools.

It's more than a hand out, it's a direct and sustainable hand up. And its those small successes that make all the difference. Here are just a few from and bloggers. They contributed more than 10,000 individual posts and actions (and counting).


Rich on 4/29/09, 4:41 PM said...

More Words:

Here's a link to the initial post, released a mere 21 day ago.

Briandrpm on 4/29/09, 7:46 PM said...

Hi Rich, Great post. The UN Chronicles was a nice find which I will be adding as a resource to my blog. Like the idea of small changes adding up to a big difference if we are persistent and keep moving forward.

Rich on 4/30/09, 8:00 AM said...

Thanks Brian,

It's the same with everything we do, I think. When we're faced with something daunting, focusing on the small stuff that will get us there is easier and comes with many more successes. Appreciate the comment!

All my best,

timethief on 4/30/09, 9:01 AM said...

It was interesting to read the comments on posts for the Bloggers Unite for Hunger and Hope campaign. I read several from North Americans who were concerned that poverty in America and Canada was being ignored by their governments who were sending funds and food overseas instead of being spent at home. What they didn't get was what Lester Brown stated in his Scientific American article.

Brown discusses how food shortages could be the weak link that brings down civilization. He reveals that the biggest threat to global political stability is the potential for food crises in poor countries to cause government collapse. Those crises are brought on by rising demand and ever worsening environmental degradation.

Without a massive intervention to reverse these three environmental trends (falling water tables, eroding soils, and rising temperatures), Brown argues, more and more states will fail, ultimately threatening civilization itself.

Rich on 4/30/09, 3:21 PM said...


I read and was fascinated by Brown's assessment. He is right in that we can no longer look at local issues as isolated issues because they have a tendency to spill over into neighboring and interdependent countries.

We certainly need big picture people. However, the efforts put forth by individual people are usually best invested in immediate and direct aid that leads to sustainable solutions. At least, that is the way it needs to be communicated to move an entire people toward action. Success follows success. And those first successes are often tied to small advancements.

Nice addition. I'm glad you found Brown's article as interesting as I did.



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