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  • Darwins +1865/-9

In the US we really don't understand global poverty and why starvation happens. It is clear from comments like "feeding people just encourages them to have too many children and we need to thin down the herd".

If having enough food and a social safety net led to people having more kids, the largest families in the world would be in Scandinavia, not the third world. And the people who need to "thin down" are those of us in the wealthy countries sucking the world dry of resources for non-essentials that we see on advertised on tv. The world's poor make a pretty small carbon foot print.

Poverty is to a great extent the norm, geographically and historically. Most people survive on the edge, with just enough to get by and be comfortable most of the time. People on the edge have a few more children than they can care for, because they know that a few will die as infants. The ones that remain begin working and earning their keep while still small. When they grow up, they will contribute to the family and support the old folks. It makes perfect sense for poor people to have large numbers of children.

Most people (except deluded lotto-playing Americans) realize that they will never be rich, but they want more than just basic survival. If we in the wealthy countries want poor folks around the world to have fewer kids, we need to help these families have basic health care and sanitation so their kids don't die, and more safety and stability in their lives so their governments can provide stuff like education and income support for the elderly. 

Famine, that is, starvation to the point of death, on the other hand is geographically and historically unusual. People have generally figured out the basics of how to grow or obtain food, how to store food for hard times and what to do when supplies run low. When people do not have access to enough food to sustain life, it is because several things have gone very wrong at the same time, and it is beyond the ability of local people to fix.

Nowadays, famine is pretty much created and made worse by human beings, usually because there is a war and one group wants to starve out another. We know months, or even years, in advance that a famine is going to hit a particular group in a certain area. The early signs are clear: drought conditions and crop failures,  people begin selling off their food animals, and eventually even pregnant goats and sheep go to market; people being eating their emergency stored grain and eventually even eat their seed grain.

By the time people are packing up and leaving their villages looking for food, the famine conditions have been in place for a long time. Add in a civil war, where people are strategically shooting at the farmers so they can't even plant their crops in the correct season to catch what rainfall there is, and you end up with a famine a la Darfur/Sudan. And you get refugees walking miles to feeding centers and news photos of desperate mothers holding babies that look like stick figures.

Finally, there is always food available for people with money, even in famine-stricken areas. The problem is almost never an absolute lack of food. It is the inability of poor people to afford the food (sometimes very expensive and imported) when they run low on supplies. I have lived in really poor places and, although I lost weight and got sick, I was never in danger of starving. Because I had a)money and b) the ability to leave before things started to get too bad.
Changed Change Reason Date
Traveler Good post June 08, 2013, 07:27:14 PM
junebug72 insightful, intelligent June 08, 2013, 05:58:37 AM
Jag awesome as always June 07, 2013, 03:34:58 PM
Quesi yes June 07, 2013, 03:15:02 PM