As the UN prepares to assess the Millennium Development Goals this week, will tension between the consumption of the North and the development of the South doom both to a future of crises and scarcity? Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss argue that allowing the Millennium Goals and their environmental aims to slide would be a false economy.
Our planet will clearly need to practice a different type of development, one that is sustainable
In 1928, Mahatma Gandhi observed: "God forbid that India should ever take to industrialisation after the manner of the West.
"The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom (the UK) is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of 300 million took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts."
More than half a century before anyone had even considered the term "sustainable development", Mahatma Gandhi warned of the dangers facing a rapidly developing world.
Almost 80 years later, the population of India has quadrupled, and the US - the world's greatest over-consumer - has a population of 300 million.
The risks prophesised by Gandhi have started to come true.
Eight years ago this week, in September 2000, more than 100 presidents, prime ministers and leaders of the world's nations met in New York and unanimously agreed upon the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
These goals focused predominantly on providing nutrition, energy, water, education, healthcare and environmental protection for one half of the world's one billion poorest citizens, by 2015.
Having now passed the halfway point to 2015, heads of government will meet in the UN General Assembly in New York this week to assess progress towards achieving those goals.
A reality check is definitely in order. It is estimated, for example, that none of the targets will be met in sub-Saharan Africa if current trends continue, and this is before account is taken of the real effects of the recent crises in food and energy, the rapid increase in impacts of climate change, and the major implications of a global economic slowdown.
Crisis from nowhere
In the past year - each in only a matter of months - two parallel environmental and economic crises have seized global attention.
The energy and food crises could quickly derail the global economy
In late 2007, prices of food began to soar, fuelled by increased consumption in rapidly developing countries, by extreme weather that damaged harvests in numerous in agricultural regions, and by global financial speculation.
At almost the same time, the cost of a barrel of oil started to spiral upward. It too was fed by increased developing country consumption and global commodity speculation, but also by political threats to production and by the breathtaking failure of the biggest oil-consuming nation to implement any meaningful energy reduction policies.
Much in the way that Hurricane Katrina woke up Americans to the fact that global warming had real impacts and that they could happen anywhere, the present food crisis has made clear that we could be only one drought, one rice failure, or one crop infestation away from provoking paradigm-shifting reactions in developed countries.
Whatever form that reaction might take - a riot over food prices in an American inner city? Government rationing of rice in Japan? Mass arrests of striking farmers in France? - it would irrevocably and drastically shift the global political reality.
The unanticipated emergence of these crises symbolises how quickly events thought to be under control can spin out of it; how issues that seem to be independent of each other can set off mutually restricting limits on action; and how much closer than we'd realised the world might be to series of "tipping points" beyond which there are few constructive ways to avoid global catastrophe.
Contrary to the pledge proclaimed on the eve of the Rio summit by then US President George Herbert Walker Bush, the American lifestyle must indeed be negotiable
A specific example of those impacts - and there could be many - is the rise in the price of rice, a basic food crop, from $425 a tonne in January 2008 to $1,080 by April 2008.
Calling it the "silent tsunami", Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN World Food Programme, described the impact of the food and energy crises like this: "Those people living on less than $2 a day cut out health and education, and kill or sell their livestock.
"Those living on less than $1 a day cut out protein and vegetables from their diet.
"Those living on less than 50 cents a day cut out whole meals, and sometimes go days without meals."
Exacerbating the situation has been the international financial crisis that has pushed most nations' economies towards or into economic recession. That recession is helping to intensify the very food and energy crises that helped bring it about.
As the challenges for the poor continue to escalate, what has been the response of the developed countries?
Development assistance has dropped from a high of $107.1bn in 2005 to $104.4bn in 2006 - and recent OECD figures show a further fall by 8.4% to $103.7bn in 2007.
This represents a decline to 0.28% of GDP by the industrialised countries, which - as recently as 2002 in Monterrey at the UN Conference on Financing for Development - had committed to providing assistance at the rate of 0.7%.
Meanwhile, according to Euromonitor International, worldwide retail sales of dog and cat food topped $45bn in 2007, which signifies a growth of nearly 43% in five years.
Squaring the circle
The big question therefore remains: what would the world's economy have to look like to allow it to resolve these emerging crises and achieve the MDGs?
The industrialisation of Western nations has been resource intensive
Our planet will clearly need to practice a different type of development, one that is sustainable.
Such a model was agreed at the 1992 Earth Summit, in Rio. Governments there recognised "common, but differentiated, responsibilities"; in other words, that rich countries need to reduce consumption while poorer countries have a right to develop, but must do so sustainably.
Climate change provides a critical example of the need for such integration.
Part of the increase in food prices has been caused by the negative impact of growing corn to provide biofuels for energy - a linkage that had been overlooked by policymakers.
This failure illustrates the importance and difficulty of co-operating between sectoral areas and specialties.
It shows why development, environment, trade, and economics must all be incorporated in order to formulate effective policies.
There has been significant progress in moving some previously controversial environmental proposals into the political mainstream.
A promising idea has emerged of using of individual carbon budgets, while the goal of reducing carbon footprints is already accepted by many corporations and leading politicians.
The important point is that any successful strategy must move towards reducing total consumption - especially among the affluent populations that have been guilty of the greatest excess.
Contrary to the campaign pledge proudly proclaimed on the eve of the Rio summit by then US President George Herman Walker Bush, the consumption-driven American lifestyle must indeed be negotiable.
The failure to implement the agreements of the Earth Summits in Rio and Johannesburg has facilitated the emergence of multiple environmental, economic and development threats.
Gandhi described human beings as behaving like locusts - but he did so in order to encourage humans to turn in a different direction
Will the industrialised nations now cite their weakening economies as an excuse not to fulfil their commitments to the MDGs, thinking that might help bolster their own economies?
They will be very tempted to; but it would be disastrously self-defeating.
Reverting to a policy of economic nationalism and self-interest could quite likely make worse - not better - the crises in energy and food and the global economy.
It was, after all, the failure of the US and EU to drop their agricultural trade barriers that kept developing country farmers from expanding production, and significantly contributed to the food crisis in the first place.
On the other hand, adequately funding the MDGs could provide precisely the kind of global economic stimulus (given its investment in energy, food and water infrastructure, and its infusion of income to the poorest consumers) that could help lift all economies out of recession - including developed countries.
In his quote above, Gandhi described human beings as behaving like locusts - but he did so in order to encourage humans to turn in a different direction.
We, as a species, no longer have 80, 50 or even 20 years to take that turn.
It is time for all individuals to reconsider their attitudes regarding their consumption patterns.
It is time for political parties to be honest about the options the world faces.
It is time for governments and the UN to take action necessary to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and to pioneer a development path on which all the world's billions can survive sustainably on this one planet.
Felix Dodds is executive director of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, and Michael Strauss is executive director of Earth Media
The Green Room is a series of opinion article on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website
Do you agree with Felix Dodds and Michael Strauss? Is the world doomed to face a future of crises and scarcity unless development becomes more sustainable? Would allowing the Millennium Development Goals to slip be a false economy? Or is the MDGs' 2015 deadline a false line in the sand?
Soylent green anyone? Yum!
If the economy can't be managed or controled to help maintain the "rich" how can anyone expect it to be used wisely to aid the "poor"? Greed rules, not healthy moral values.
Robert Bennett, Tucson, Arizona, USA
The Milleium Development Goals dont make any sense! Why should we raise 500 million people out of poverty, when the only existence they have ever known is what we define as poverty? It is not poverty from their perspective. When populations become more affluent, they consume more energy ; the consumption of more energy contibutes to global warming. In fact, it is the developing nations, trying to become affluent, who have put the world economy and ecology in its present bind. And why is it only the responsibility of the developed nations to help the undeveloped? They can pursue their own economic models, generate their own wealth - they cannot rely on us to give them everything they aspire to own!
As for increasing food prices, that was a direct result of the rising price for oil. Oil = fertilizer and tractors and vehicles to move the food to market, and often-times generators used to pump water through pipes to irrigate. Who was demanding more oil? Developing countries. $103.7 billion is not the correct figure ; factor in the increased cost of anything that depended on oil in developed countries, and that is the true amount of money that developed countries have paid to the developing.
The Millenium Development Goals can only damage our world further. I say we scrap the whole idea!
David, Dallas, USA
Since the Industrial Revolution, people of developed nations had romanticized- albeit unknowingly- the utopia of idea tinkerers such as Edward Bernays. To further and advance humanity was to invest in technology in order to achieve greater happiness. The principle of self-interest aligned so well with this, it is exactly why mass consumerism works. We advance, but at the great expense of others. Understand that this system is flawed. We enjoy a self-image purporting that we are compassionate about helping each other. Yet the world economic model has not a single aspect of it that would suggest that we are actually as compassionate as we think. To add, it is no secret that centralized governance is difficult to administer. Stop and think, really, how can a group of a few hundred federal leaders, of whom many do not hold elective positions represent the consent of a number approaching 9 billion!? How can we ignore that in the past wars were fought, and people had died in defiance of the idea of a divine right to rule? All the while Saudi Arabia and Great Britain tax citizens to keep the fountains running in the palaces? I do believe that the authors of the article see the world in the same light I do. But the closing statement asks for accountability on the part of world leaders. Whereas I believe it is up to the citizenry to approach the fact that their taxes go to places they would rather them not. That developed countries do not give sustainability a chance because they wish to preserve the current economic model. Effecting our lifestyles in order to reflect sustainability would no doubt affect economics.
Khizar Javed, Mississauga ON, Canada
The 2015 deadline looks like a pipedream. Western consumers aren't willing to substantially lower their standard of living and the only tool government has to force them, higher taxes, can only be raised so high before voters revolt. However, looking at the continuing cycle of financial crises and the looming pension crisis in many countries it would appear our standard of living is going to decline sharply whether we like it or not. It may take an extra decade or two but it's coming.
Scott W, Port Orchard, USA
For me, the pursuit of the MDGs also requires a philosophical debate. We need to pursue a system that releases people from their materialistic demands, which have led them to be sinful in a way that alludes to the biblical sense (greed, gluttony, lust etc) and which have in turn led them to exploit those weaker than them in order to maximise their gains. By changing human behaviour in terms of consumption, we can ensure that change is sustainable rather than simply reactionary.
Anoushka Boodhna, London, UK
Yet again the authors completely miss the main driving force for all of this overconsumption and that is overpopulation. If we do not take steps to curb population growth then nature will do it for us. All it would take is better education.
John Lilley, Kings Langley UK
The MDGs is the most viable manifesto for the positive transformation of Nigeria and African states but what do we get from our leaders? The resources being used to fund corrupt practices while needless expenditures are more than enough to take us at least, very close to the promised land. The MDGs are well thought out directive principles for humanity's development.
Journalists For Development Communication, Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria
The root problem is greed and ignorance of people who then elect their governments and support their commerce and industries; we then we get what we deserve. Our economy is predicated on growth in population, in production and consumption. We cry foul when the population is not growing and we respond by enticing families to have more children. Huh? The citizens of "most powerful nation" (the USA) display their incredible greed: yearning for wealth they don't need or deserve, (golden parachute for Lehman Brothers executives - they should get bankrupt with the company they ran), people ignorant on how to handle money taking debts they cannot pay (did I hear a trillion?). They also demonstrate their ignorance knowing more about movie stars than about science, history of the world or economics. It may not be much better in other rich nations. Then they force their system on countries where it just cannot work.
Any single approach would not work, what is needed is the address the problem on all fronts. How about:
- Make people accountable for their behaviour, people living beyond their means, environmental groups forcing bad policies (bio-fuel) etc.
- Curb the greed; does anybody really need to make more than a million a year?
- Work out the economic model for a no growth society.
- Get the population growth under control, everywhere. No excuses, no finger pointing, no "you first".
- Education (Lenin's "learn, learn, learn"); democracy works well only with people who understand the world around them. Stop rewarding ignorance and put the knowledge on the pedestal instead.
This is a tall order but so far it seems that we just talk and beat about the bush; it is time to act.
George Zboril, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
I think Dodds and Strauss have constructed a piece for the mainstream media that is a long time coming. Bravo! They have started a wake up call to all who have not yet realized it: that this might very well be the most interesting time in human history to be alive. But here is a declaritive: let us not place this article, nor its authors, on a transcendental pedistal. Do not enshrine this article, specifically, as the key to averting world crisis. It is the product of several hours of hard work at the keyboard by two people. It would be unfair to place the whole burden of perpetuating something as important as world livlihood on the shoulders of their words.
Rather, I say we enshrine the author's great understanding by writing a thousand more origional articles that emulate it. If we can get enough unique itterations of this sentiment on the pages of too many periodicles, then I think that the era of brain-drain in American public service would continue to wane. If enough people could understand that doing good was a viable shift to our service sector economy; if enough people could see that socail actors can make good salaries; if enough people could see that saving the world's problems was in their best interests in a huge number of ways... Then the challenge of providing a tomorrow for all would be in a number of capable hands.
Sam Chereskin, Chicago, USA
Our current economic woes could provide us in the developed world with the opportunities we need to make great strides toward a more sustainable future. We must steer our economies in a new direction anyway, real estate and construction will no longer suffice. I.T. jobs will not employ the masses. Individuals and businesses should be given considerable tax incentives for reducing our own consumption and making strides toward increased energy efficiency. Energy consumption could be greatly reduced simply by properly insulating buildings, but we have no incentive to do so. In America, the average amount of food consumed or wasted per person is in excess of 3000 calories, vastly more than is needed to survive. If the voters and leaders of the western world can agree that something must be done on the scale of WWII, a concerted engagement of millions of individuals toward a common goal, we might have a chance of salvaging the positive advancements of human society.
Organizations similar to the military could be created as a means to rebuild the infrastructure, i.e. -building wind and solar farms, rail lines, converting yards into farms and providing young people with useful field experience, money for college, and health care plans. Individuals could be given government scholarships for studying in fields that will encourage a more sustainable future. The youth of today are a much more altruistic bunch than we give them credit for. They are waiting for opportunities to help save the planet. These apocalyptic scenarios we hear on a daily basis are based on projections that that we will continue with business as usual. The fact is that we don't know what we could accomplish until we try. It's time to alter our values from selfish individualistic pursuits, to saving the planet for our children. The American dream is a pipe dream anyway, everyone cannot have a house and a car, or we'll all be toast. Write your elected leaders, and make your voices be heard.
P.S. read Thomas Friedmans new book - Hot, Flat, and Crowded
Mark Mazzocchi, Hailey, ID
Have you ever been at the edge of a deep canyon, or the observation deck atop a tall skyscraper? Do you recall the sense of uneasiness you felt when you peered down into the abyss below? Well, that same feeling of unease is now affecting many of us watching the evening news or reading the newspaper. There is a big drop in front of us, and fear of its consequences is understandable, as we observe so much in our world going wrong - economically, socially, politically, militarily, educationally and religiously. Our entire way of life is in trouble, and people are beginning to realize that we are standing at the edge of a global disaster with the potential to sweep away everything we ever thought of as permanent and stable.
What will be the final outcome of a world spinning out of control? Can the "American spirit" once again pull itself up by its rugged bootstraps of self determination in a last-ditch effort to forestall the seemingly inevitable train wreck ahead? Is there something or someone from somewhere able to save us from our destructive selves? Yes, there certainly is! Your Bible reports the encouraging good news of a coming time of restoration of all things, when law and order are re-established on earth (Acts 3:20-21; Isaiah 2:3). There is a hopeful and fantastic future for all of mankind! Jesus Christ is returning as King of kings, and Lord of lords to rule this earth! (Revelation 19:16; 5:10) The Kingdom of God will replace this world's erratic and hopeless governments with one that is stronger, more powerful, and infinitely more benevolent than any political body ever assembled by men (Daniel 2:44-45; Revelation 11:15). This government of God, along with His saints, will at last bring real justice, peace, and prosperity to a society of incessant gloom, despair and agony (Zechariah 14:5; Micah 4:1-4).
Kelvin Rhyne, Memphis, TN USA
While I think we should help, who helped us when we developed? We did it alone & they should help themselves and get rid of corruption and war which is causing huge amounts of waste & preventing them from developing. We're already helping (and should help more) but they should help themselves.
Ash Thomas, London, UK
In addition to what is being written Gandhiji also said, 'The world has enough to Provide Man's Need, but not his greed'.
I think this aspect deserve more observation and serious thinking, by the Heads of the Nation and decide their policy based on this dictum.
Manohar rao, Bangalore, India
Development constraints facing developing countries have so many features. Therefore, to tackle these constraints, the entire humankind must be willing to.
Remember! Agriculture is central to developing countries' economies as more than half of their people make their living from farming. Therefore, if overwhelming majority of world's population live in developing countries and if developing countries´ farmers do not achieve their export expectation due to market distortions, then, the entire humankind is endangered specie. We have nothing to talk about the sustainability of common future.
Addressing agricultural problems is critical for food security, poverty alleviation and, indeed, for attainment of Millennium Development Goals.
Donaciano Phiri, Maputo/Mozambique
I completely agree to the point that it is time for all individuals to reconsider their attitudes regarding their consumption patterns. People think that the way we live now will remain for ever, ignoring the effects on Global warming and over consumption. Instead we would reach a point where we would be completely denied of Oil, not by any special means, but naturally by scarcity. As the industry and consumption grows up and up, this point is in near future itself. Its true that the political parties should be more honest in this regard, as they are trying to decrease the effects of oil scarcity by providing subcidies and tax cuts to back themselves, without realising that they cannot do this for long. People would also get into a false impression that the oil prices would be controlled in some means by the government. The developed and developing countries should support good research in using conventional energy sources and electric power combinely. The non polluting feature of electric energy could be acheived only if we can use conventional energy to generate that.
Arun Peter, Cochin, India
It is us in the rich world through our political leaders that have made these commitments to help poorer nations achieve these goals; however, dissatisfying it is us the rich world that is currently the binding constraint, not coming through with our offer of greater aid (reaching 0.7% of GDP) and trade (failure of DOHA to actually be an agreement that is beneficial to the LDCs and middle income countries) Consequently, we have set the collaborative goals with the poorest nations and are not providing them the means required to achieve them. This is an opportunity to put the developing world, which is increasingly important in the global economy on a improved trajectory for the next few decades, where global goals, under truly global leadership in a new US President in the near future, can ultimately be achieved, with a fraction of the money that is being spent on other causes (War on Terrorism and Recent Global Financial Crisis). The resulting benefits will serve to improve the lives of all the world's inhabitants, seeing great improvements in the quality of life of the world's poorest, while also helping middle income nations up the ladder of economic development to emerging market status and in our self-interest, ultimately improving the prospect for a less prolonged global recession where domestic demand is increased within the developing world and thus exports from the developed world are in greater demand. While nearly a trillion dollars of US taxpayers money has gone to help the financial services survive in the past week alone, it would be foolish to not devote a fraction of that to help achieve the MDGs that are in the long-term interest of global growth and will help improve the quality of life for the majority of the world's population.
Mark Merkur, London
If we push the cord from both ends, we will break it, while getting nowhere. If the prevailing economic model is "productivity," and the demand for consumption; if socially ,"individualism" reigns, how are supposed to address the true problems ripping away the worlds social fabric as we harness its abounding wealth for the progress of life?
Salma Saad, Toronto, Canada
The US and EU biofuel mandates are interventions against a free market, which cost hugely to our economies as well as in other regards. The OECD and the JRC, the EU's own scientific panel, both quantified this year how this cost was hugely exorbitant for any climate benefit; the JRC further warns that US ethanol is probably doing more to harm the climate than help, and that it is not clear if EU biofuels were helping with the climate fight either. Yet this same summer, MEPs have repeated voted in favour of enforcing biofuel targets and are poised to do so collectively on October 8. In the US, Barack Obama continues to back the ethanol mandate to Midwestern audiences in spite of having admitted its contribution to starvation. Geldof and Bono's One campaign has also been strangely silent on biofuels - is this because Geldof has invested in a biofuel company while Bono has boasted of how he runs his car on ethanol?
andy smith, united kingdom
Having to close down my school due to very high electric bill and rent, I can't help wanting to get involved in sustainable living. How do I start if my capital gain is downhill?
Miriam Aldebol, Fajardo, Puerto Rico
A clear case that our fight to get to the top and be the best at everything has once again backfired. Capitalism is failing. Of course the rich say that its the way to live in a "free" world, but what about those who go days without food? Would a socialist approach to the world's problems resolve the needs of millions if not billions around the planet? The government is the people and I believe that the government having more of a humane approach in dealing with world issues is the answer. How about the world powers help out those who need the help, at the exchange of nothing. How about we stop making the people suffer due to embargos and sanctions and actually start giving humanitarian aide. How about we stop policing the world and start worrying about the interest of the people. The issues of today cannot be handled with the strategies of the past. Get it together world.
Donald Aguirre, slc utah
and this may be one reason why the overdevelopped countries hesitate to do the necessary: we live in parts of the one world where we do need heating in winter, a basic disqualification of our situation. Just this circumstances who probably helped these civilisations to grow up the necessary ambitions which let us to this desastrous situation now. The economic system produces crisis after crisis out of its own, just by definition. The crux is that to create a private fortune of 10 M € one has to destruct the facilities of others worth of about 40 M €, payable in cash by the poor or by nature. No question what we have to change in this system
Peter v.Bandemer, Singen, Germany
More and more power and control is being funnelled into fewer hands.
This applies across the board, whether retail, media, banking or even (as per the E.U.) government. The agenda of the few is what, do you suppose?
The welfare of all?
Or of the few?
I'm just askin' ...
Raymond Breakspear, ASHFORD, Kent, U.K..
Yes, the prognosis as Felix and Michael state. Our institution has been saying this since its inception in 1992. Now the world must react before the human dream is curtailed in this present century. It is not hype, we really are running out of time. What will it take for people in the political and industrial driving seats to see the folly of their present strategies for humankind I would respectfully ask and indeed plead for?
Dr David Hill, Executive Director, World Innovation Foundation Charity (WIFC) Bern, Switzerland
dr david hill, bern, switzerland
Just think where India would be if its population had NOT quadrupled in the last 80 years! The single, and I repeat, single, biggest cause of world poverty is over population and until that is meaningfully addressed there will not be any decline in world poverty.
Bruno Wallenburg, Sunbury, Ohio USA
"Development assistance has dropped from a high of $107.1bn in 2005 to $104.4bn in 2006 - and recent OECD figures show a further fall by 8.4% to $103.7bn in 2007." Do the math! It does nothing to help credibility by making up numbers, or manipulating them incorrectly.
Gyorgii Frankich, Bloomington, Illinois, USA
Central governments can do very little to help the poor and hungry. The only way to help is to rely on the markets, without subsidies or trade barriers. The market is an anarchy in the true sense of the word. It will eventually satisfy all demands and regulate supply. Governments don't like anarchy because they can't control it for their own or their voters ends. It is surely a crime that most of the world is hungry, and their ideas and aspirations unrealised. We in the west will have to modify our greedy consumption of food, energy, travel, knowledge and pleasure, but in the long run it's the only way we will all survive beyond this century! For a start we should be devoting all our research facilities into finding the cause of the collapse of the bee population. We only have 5 years (apparently) before we all starve! LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTION, LONG LIVE THE WORLD!
David Farmery, London, England
The answer is to live more simply. Stop rushing around like headless chickens; stop earning more and more to buy pointless rubbish; slow down and refuse to be pushed into more and more activity; work near where you live so you can stop commuting and even WALK to work; just buy what you NEED not all the things you WANT; buy food which is produced locally or even grow your own; put on an extra jumper or dig the garden to save on heating etc etc. Why own more than one house when you can only live in one at a time? I could go on and on......
We might even start to enjoy our lives more when we stop a little more often and stop wanting more and more. Then there would be more to go to the poorer people in the world. Endless growth makes zero sense either economically or in terms of access to resources for all. People who have more than they need could even give some of it away.....now there's a thought!
This is why I have repeatedly pounded the message; this is "Human Activity" - it is the one true measure of the entire ball of wax; and remains the product of (number of individuals) x (individual impact).
The effects of increasing future population is dwafted by the far more rapidly increasing individual impacts of the people already here. We don't need to worry about what happens when the population hits 9 billion, or 12 billion. The increasing impact of the 6 billion already here is going to do all the fatal damage, and it will happen far faster; Intel are expecting 2 billion - 33% of the human race to rush out and buy a computer in as little as 5 years; effectively doubling the number of people living high impact, planet damaging Western lifestyles - that effectively doubles the damage, and in as little as 5 years.
And Ghandi was right; we have - past tense - have (already) stripped the world like locusts. It is all interlocked and interelated; environment and economics - and economics does kill people. That is the lesson of the Irish famines; it was not a failure of the potatoe crop. But rather that the industrial revolution in England had sucked all the money out of the rural Irish economy, and when the one crop failure did come, there was no money left to pay for food.
Steven Walker, Penzance
The authors write "Part of the increase in food prices has been caused by the negative impact of growing corn to provide biofuels for energy - a linkage that had been overlooked by policymakers." Yet they call for more governmental, or hyper-governmental, intervention for "sustainability".
1) What, exactly, is "sustainability"? Over how many years do we integrate to test for "sustainability"?
2) If governments and NGOs who pushed for "bio-fuels" did not forsee the affect on food prices, we can't rely on them for large scale management of anything, especially the world economy.
3) Oil from the ground comes from dead organic matter. It is as much "bio-fuel" as that made from corn.