Tambra Tice

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What is the REASON behind world hunger?

I understand that there is poverty in the world, and I understand that in some of these places there is no water and the soil is not very good. But it seems incomprehensible to me that with all the wealth and excess food stored up in developed countries, and boats and planes and trains and automobiles to transport the stuff, WHY is it not being done? And how can we MAKE it happen? Please help me to understand this.

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    Sep 6 2011: "Stuffed and Starved" by Raj Patel is a good introduction to disparity of wealth in food issues. Nearly all food reaches a bottleneck in distribution.

    But just shipping food off to starving countries will do little good in the long run.
    Regardless of soil quality if people are living there it is habitable, stop growing westernized crops to sell and start going local crops to consume would be the first step in the right direction.
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      Sep 6 2011: I don't know a lot about agriculture in those countries so I'm really not sure what will grow where, but your point sounds like a good one, Christopher, and thank you for suggesting "Stuffed and Starved"...I looked it up on amazon.com and read the first few pages...it was enough to prompt me to order the book! Sounds like a very interesting (and sobering) read.
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    Sep 6 2011: Countries are forced by "conditionalities" attached to IMF and World Bank loans to convert their agriculture to cash crop monoculture for export in order to repay the loans. Domestic foodstuffs fall into scarcity and the country is then forced to import the forced cash crops of other nations until they run out of money. Who benefits? The lending institutions and the middlemen shippers. It's a huge Milo Minderbinder con and our asleep at the wheel news media are useless.
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      Sep 6 2011: I'm sorry Walter, but I'm not exactly sure what all that means...you'll have to 'dummy it down' for me a bit in order for me to know what you're talking about...(but thank you for the attempt to explain it to me anyway!)
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        Sep 6 2011: Sure, Tambra, sorry if I condensed my point too much. If a country needs to borrow money to build roads or something similar to improve the quality of life of its citizens, the big global lenders attach conditions to the loan presumably to insure the loan's repayment, but there are hidden goals. One of those conditions is to make the farmers plant a cash crop that can be sold on the global market, like soybeans or pineapple or nut trees. The lenders do this by guaranteeing the farmers an income because their hidden partnership with shipping and storage companies lets them control markets to their advantage. The country in question then is not producing enough variety of farm crops to feed their own people and they are forced into another bargain with the hidden partners of the lenders to buy the variety of foods that they used to produce for themselves.

        Buying these foods on the open market is more expensive than raising it your self. So the lender makes money from the interest on the loan while the country goes further into debt by borrowing more money from guess who? It's a con game and our news agencies don't educate us, so I blame them as well.

        If you want to know how big and powerful these global food distribution companies are, research nested corporate ownership via the Standard and Poore's reference books in any library and online. For example, 90% of all global foods are stored in facilities owned by 5 food giants: Bunge, Cargil, Dreyfus, Continental and Nestles. They are ALL headquartered in Switzerland. Their power is immense and no one knows or cares. Basically our problem is that we don't know how the world really works, there is far too much that is hidden from us, hidden in plain sight.
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          Sep 7 2011: Thank you Walter, for that explaination; I do understand much more now. I think I will do a little research on this. Maybe I'll write a letter to Anderson Cooper at CNN and see if he can do a story on this! (He just finished a week long story on the starving people in Somalia, so I think he would be interested in this, if he doesn't know about it already)

          And you are probably very right about all the stuff being hidden from us in plain sight; I don't doubt that for a second.
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    Sep 7 2011: It is really difficult to feed a nation unless the nation itself does not do something to feed themselves. that is why donations do not work.
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    Sep 7 2011: I remember awhile back I saw this documentary on this really primitive tribe somewhere I cant remember what country it was but these guys chased this lion for like 3 days straight to kill it for food. It just got me thinking about how modern we are now. I mean think about it. Civilizations for thousands and thousands of years have learned how to survive off of the earth. And thankfully ( and not accidentally) the earth provides every resource for this. But if some catastrophy were to happen I mean we wouldnt know what the hell to do. I think teaching sustainable living skills/living off the grid is also a good resource for starving countries and us too really. Ha, quick story- A few years ago I went to live and work on this farm. Well, we only ate what we grew and the goal was for me to do this for a year. I had no experience with farming at all so they put me in charge of the strawberries (because they were the easiest to take care of):) Anyhow, after harvest we had a "harvest party and I freakin slaved over those straberries 6 am- half- asleep- picking- @$%#% weeds- slaved. But anyhow when everyone came together at this festival to eat and they served the strawberrie shortcake for desert- next to my unborn child I have never been so proud of anything in my life- I really felt a new experience like I was connected to the land or something- I even teared up- it was pathetic. :) But I learned that there is an organic sort of joy in no tbeing connected or dependant on mass produced food. It was really an eye opening thing for me. And as a write this Im stuffing my face with pringles but anyhow..
  • Sep 6 2011: Tambra
    I have been mulling over an answer for several hours now. I wish I had one now. There is no one reason. Like most complex problems, it takes some strange twists and turns to find a real answer.

    What it will take on one level is enough political will by enough people to make real changes in about a ton of government programs and policies including ethanol, wheat subsidies and who it is we choose to help feed in another country. I still believe it can happen on this level, but not until people get really serious about the problem.

    Start writing your congressperson and Senators. Let them know how you feel.

    Start giving to a group who is actually feeding people who are hungry and not just sending letters copied from chalkboards by kids in their "program." There are lots of groups trying to get food out there to people who need it. Support those programs. You can't feed everyone, but you can give food to someone.

    Get a group of people around you who are willing to do the same thing, then let them start writing letters and giving money.

    No one should die of starvation.
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      Sep 7 2011: All excellent suggestions, Michael; thank you for sharing your thoughts...I need to do a bit of research on the internet to find out what percentage of donations to each place actually go to the people and what percentage goes to their overhead, but I do fully intend to find someplace to give. As far as the letter writing is concerned, I am definitely going to do that as well. This is an atrocity which every every citizen on earth ought to be screaming about until their voices are heard. And you are right...NO ONE should die of starvation.

      "Again I tell you, it will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24
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    Sep 6 2011: The same thing that underlies pretty much every problem: our perpetual need for validation.

    It is what makes having what others do not have appealing to some - particularly those who cannot find the pleasure/value intrinsic to the item they have.

    (I'm supposed to be finishing a book on this broader subject, but feeling somewhat unmotivated.)
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      Sep 6 2011: Gisela,can you say this in a way that I can understand it too?
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        Sep 7 2011: At the core of everything that we (as a species) that leads us to seek out that which does not directly fulfill us, is the idea of validation.

        So, if I head to the kitchen for a sandwich, that is fulfilling a direct need.

        If I head to a specific restaurant for dinner, that could be to fulfill a craving - or if I don't actually derive any pleasure from eating there, but instead I go there to be seen at that restaurant, it's about validation.

        People who buy, for example, large screen televisions, not because they derive pleasure from watching them, but from inspiring envy in their social circle, or for because it marks some achievement, are operating from this same space.

        Any time it is not enough that I have something (money or objects, whatever), but I require that others do not have it, then I am operating out of this need.

        So, when you ship grain or whatever aid to a nation, and the dictator stores it rather than allowing it to be distributed to the people, it is because of this peculiarity of the human psyche.

        (It manifests in myriad other ways as well: people having jobs they hate but are socially desirable, hiding homosexuality while preaching anti-gay marriage, embracing NAIRU, and so on and so forth.)

        There's no actual need for people starving, other than human beings. (In 50 years with the population expansion as it is, maybe.)
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          Sep 7 2011: Thank you Gisela
          At least I understand you now.
          In my view all those people that are like what you describe, crave for a bit of love. They haven't got it and they can't give it.
          They substitute it with other things as many parents do with their children to give them things rather than a hug, respect, time and attention.
          This is a social issue that has much to do with the structure of Western societies and for a part is forced upon other societies as well.
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    E G

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    Sep 6 2011: Because the hunger have to exist.
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    Sep 6 2011: never try to point a finger at others. Look around you actually Africa, if they cultivate properly in and around their home i think it would be sufficient to be without hunger. Its all in our hands how we use the resources in and around us properly. Stop blaming start thinking, I am an Indian TED fan, think like TED.
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    Sep 6 2011: What do you question Tamra: How the hunger came to be or how to solve it ,or both?
    The cause of it is a big story but in short I can say that it's due to the interference of the Western world. in the past as well as today. I would love to tell the whole story because much of it is unknown to most of the people and not popular by the media and especially so in the U.S.A.

    To solve it however will need a lot more than simply to send food over there.
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      Sep 7 2011: Frans,
      I question how could this situation ever have come into being in the first place, that millions of people are literally starving to death and the whole world (whom ever is able) is not coming to their rescue? And for this to have been going on for so LONG and not be 'fixed' by now...well, it blows my mind. If you have a story to tell, I would be very interested to hear it! (along with how you got the info!)
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        Sep 7 2011: Part 1 of 2
        What I can tell about the cause of hunger in the world I can only tell in general to keep it short . I can’t give any source for it because it is an accumulation out of the hundreds of documents and stories over many years. I hope this will give any insight.

        Before the 15th century AD all lands we called primitive then and we now call the third world were relative harmonious. There were low scale conflicts and native cultures which were relative beneficial for the sustainability of the communities. Those cultures were grown out the conditions of the landscape dictated and their natural demands on the habitat. Hunger was periodically and natural as the pressure became too much on what nature could provide.
        As missionaries tried to convert those peoples their cultures were replaced with a strange culture that was devastating for their way of life. They could only survive if they adapted to farming and commerce as it was normal in Europe. Following the track of those missionaries were merchants and soldiers. They occupied the land founded nations at their own choice and forced those people to work as hard as possible. Governments made deals with the most corrupt native leaders and exported all goods home: spices, wood, minerals, slaves and all they liked. Later on there were some reforms and later again planters that organized it all on their behalf without making it any better. After the world wars those countries got one by one their independence which meant that they could choose their own flag.
        • Sep 7 2011: Frans
          I cannot say I agree much with you. The indigenous people's were not living some idyllic existence. Most fought other tribes or groups, most of the time they did have enough food to eat, but were actually victims of weather, disasters and everything else we are.

          If you will really examine history, you will see that not all missionaries fit your scheme. Thousands went out and brought a better life to people. Large companies are an integral part of today's problems, but they are not the only "bad guys" here.

          There are corrupt leaders here and there, in developed and non-developed countries. Food has been used as weapon and a carrot to coax "good" behavior from almost ever developed country.

          The answer is not to return to some non-existent idyllic past, but create enough political will, change foreign policies, and feed as many people, men, women and children as we can. For every child we save, we save a human being.
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        Sep 7 2011: Part 2 of 2
        These were no nations to begin with but a bunch of peoples that lost their cultural foundation and land. Most of these nations were and still are mismanaged by corrupt leaders that no longer deal with foreign governments but with big companies. Companies that for almost free export their: spices, minerals, wood, slaves and all they like. Governments abroad as those of these nations profit from this robbery, they support this, sustain this and prolong this as much as they can. In this last part the US plays the biggest part which gave rise to the term of imperialism used by those who suffer from this policy. Wars and conflicts in the past to change things made things worse in most cases.

        Now after generations with better education on all sides there is some liberation with new dangers coming from companies like Monsanto that are a thread not only for those nations but for the whole world. For this it is better to follow some links on the subject.


        Another issue is the way that on both sides of Africa and some other places the ocean is depleted of fish by big trawlers so there’s nothing left for the local fisherman that lived from it for centuries. The pirates on the shore of Somalia are a reaction on this. The list goes on and on and as long as we feed those hungry people without addressing the causes we are deepening the misery, for every child we save it will become an adult for whom there is no place left in our world.
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        Sep 7 2011: @Michael M
        I'm glad with your reaction. Indeed it wasn't all paradise but in a relative equilibrium with the environment.
        As I said it I gave a overall picture because there are lots of local variations on the theme.
        Your remark on the mission isn't relevant because not until the end of the 19th century some missionaries started to alleviate social misery but then "civilization" was already established in the new order and the heart of most cultures had disappeared.
        Because of this it is impossible to return to the old ways but instead help to build these countries to modern standards.
        The first need is education for children but also for farmers on how to make the best of the local resources and for entrepreneurs to start enterprises on commerce and manufacturing with micro-credits. They need support to build a good infrastructure on the ground as well as in government.
        We have to provide them as rich countries access on the world market on a fair basis and get over our hypocrisy.
        • Sep 7 2011: A tenuous equilibrium at best is how I would describe it. Roman Catholic missions began in the 16th century primarily in Latin America. Even there however it was mixed. Along with the "conquest" came many good people, notably Franciscans in Mexico and other places, that did not exploit. People like Bartolome de las Casas worked against the enslavement of the indigenous. Certainly the Spanish crown and its governors were not all clean.

          Protestant missions began in the late 18th century particulalry in India and SE Asia. Hospitals and other benevolent efforts were very common place. People like William Carey in India had that as an utmost concern in the early 18th century, not the late. Obviously there was manipulation by companies like the East India Trading Company. There were misguided attempts at "civilizing the natives."

          On the problems of hunger, there were people who sought to help.

          Many of the people in rural areas in places like Mexico, Central America and South America actually are able to sustain themselves quite well, just not at our "standard of living". They need help making a better quality of life, not quantity of life. They need things like access to clean water, better planting methods, and medical clinics.

          I agree that access to world markets should be much freer.
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        Sep 7 2011: @Michael M
        Michael, if I gave the impression that missionaries were the bad guys than I must correct myself.
        They had the best intentions but were ignorant of the effects of their work. Also they had no respect for those peoples and their values. They didn't understand that some people had sometimes strange ways because that was the only way to survive under those local and harsh conditions. With their belief they converted the people also into the Western culture which didn't fit unless they got land for farming.
        By doing all this they created without intention the circumstances that were ideal for merchants and traders to exploit those people.
        Of course with all those Christians there also were intelligent people and mystics that disapproved all that but they were and are few.
        Being Dutch we had the VOC which as far as I know was the first multinational and gave our country the golden age but it was all on expense of forced labor.

        To your remark on South and Central America I will say for two decades it is going better now since the US changed their foreign policy.
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    Sep 6 2011: Food politics
    Food used as weapon
    Wastage of food
    are 3 main reasons behind hunger that what I feel.

    Long discussions on the same were there in following thread , can check http://www.ted.com/conversations/3969/what_should_be_done_about_the.html
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    Sep 6 2011: There is no law to prevent people of being jerks as Jacob mentioned. Ironically we call it liberty...
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    Sep 6 2011: Ha, Well I just read that recently in France the CFO of Facebook and his friends were spotted having drink fights with 10,000 dollar bottles of Champagne. Thats like at least like or 3 countries worth :)
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      Sep 6 2011: Not to mention that Apple now has more money than the U.S. Treasury...how about they take some of those greenbacks and some of that clout to Somalia (for example) and start getting these people fed! They can worry about how to fix the 'long term' problem while their doing it, but they could at LEAST get food into their bellies while they're thinking about it! )And when I say 'they', I am not only referring to Apple, which I only used as an illustration for the amount of money they have; I'm talking about every single filthy rich human being on this planet! Where is their humanity? Do they not have a moral conscience? If the problem is the lawmakers who pass laws which 'bottleneck' the aid coming in to the countries, can't something be done about that?
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        Sep 6 2011: I love your reaction but how do you think those people got rich in the first place?
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          Sep 7 2011: I know Frans, I just wish they'd all have an epiphany or something and miraculously the 'big picture' would crystalize right in front of their eyes..."People are starving! I have more than I will ever need! I need to DO something!" ha ha ha! I know it's not likely, but I will pray for it none-the-less :-)
  • Sep 6 2011: there are a lot of reasons, which, added to the fact that it's so widespread, is why it's such a difficult issue to fix. The fact that food costs money is among the biggest, because extreme poverty makes it impossible to get food for most people where starvation is most prominent. plus, when you've got areas like somalia where there's an incredibly harsh drought, and you can't grow crops locally on a large enough scale to feed everyone, then of course starvation is going to follow. One of the closest we can get to a solution would be to teach locals how to grow crops and have donations to the area directed at irrigation and other agricultural needs for beginning farmers.
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      Sep 6 2011: Thank you for your thoughts Dema. I'd like to comment on a couple of things you said.

      1) " The fact that food costs money is among the biggest, because extreme poverty makes it impossible to get food for most people where starvation is most prominent."

      I don't see why those who HAVE money do not/can not spend it on getting the food to the 'have nots'. The fact that 'food costs money' is really 'no object' to those who have the money to begin with, so why is it so hard to GET IT to them?

      2) While there are harsh droughts in such places, I would think that with our modern day technology, we could come up with a way to grow plants & raise animals in those harsh environments...I mean we put men on the moon, mapped the human genome, and have cloned animals...and yet we can't figure out how to grow food in drought stricken areas? Seems something is terribly amiss.

      What about drilling wells? Surely if you dig deep enough you can find water there, right? And irrigation systems for when it DOES rain, or what about building a great pipeline? If the gas companies can do it to get gas from one place to the next over thousands of miles, why couldn't they do it to get these people water? And I can hear people who are reading this say, "Where is the money coming from to do all this?" To that I say, "From all those who HAVE it!" And even as a last resort, if all else fails or cannot be done (which I find preposterous) why don't we relocate these people to places that DO have food and water? (I'm fairly certain that if you asked the parents of starving children if they would be willing to leave their 'home' and move somewhere else if they knew it would save their children, that they would say yes.)
      • Sep 7 2011: you made some very good points, but unfortunately the people making insane amounts of money in the world don't usually donate a lot, especially not enough to completely solve hunger, or even on a wide scale. You're absolutely right, though, they SHOULD be donating their money, and when you make as much money as some people do it seems absurd to not to give it to those who have nothing at all. In terms of the droughts, I thought maybe teaching that sort of harsh-conditions agriculture and developing and irrigation system would be a great idea but it's also a huge project that would not only require money but many, many volunteers. Any way you put it, it seems, it costs an enormous amounts of money to implement a project on a scale that would significantly impact those in need. As for relocation, it would be very difficult to relocate those people to places with sufficient amounts of food, because the vast number of people who are starving is staggering. And if we really did manage to move all those people, it might cause food shortages in the towns we move them to. As I said before, hunger is a deeply complex problem made worse nowadays by the worldwide economic issues we face even in the U.S. But I'm sure any solution we have for hunger would be found agreeable by anyone suffering from something so terrible.