The most basic human right

In 1993, the south african photographer Kevin Carter would capture in Sudan one of the oldest human horrors: hunger.

kevin-carter-vulture.jpgAccording to the Programa Mundial de Alimentos (World Food Programe), today 24.000 people die of hunger or from causes related to them, every day. Around 75% of them are children younger than 5 years old. Also, it is estimated that around 800 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Stalin used to say “the death of a man is a tragedy. The death of millions is statistics”. If you want to shake yourself from the apathetic power of statistics, take any of this cifres and start counting people on the street, your class or your home. In that way, you’ll know the inhuman tragedy behind this numbers.

Normally, it is said that the hunger problems in the world are due to scarcity and overpopulation. None is truth. More so, problems like hunger or indigence show that most of the challenges we face today would be easily resolved if it wasn’t for our separation, which shows our failure as humanity. Violence today is inherent to our ways of life.

For example, in the XVIII century China had the population the US has today, and it was capable of feeding all of its population with the technology of the time (Source: Farmers of Forty Centuries: Permanent Agriculture in China, Korean and Japan). Also, in 1907 Japan had a population of 50 million people, all self-sufficient. If you sum to the latter that between 1940 and 2000, one farmer with wide technology went from being able to feed 19 people to feet 155, it is understood why in today’s world there is so much food that, between the food that is wasted in the United States and Europe, the world could be fed at least twice.

Regarding overpopulation, that myth can be easily questioned when it is understood that what exists is a huge agglomeration around cities. If every hectare was utilized, all the world’s population could be localized in the state of Texas and, as we saw, could be fed (Source: Realizing a New Train of Thought: The Zeitgeist Movement Defined).

Since the ending of the World War II, Human Rights have emerge as demands to the states and individuals. Nevertheless, rights that costed money to implement, like the right to food, have been long forgotten or subordinated to the so called non patrimonial rights, as life. Supposedly, securing the right to life or freedom of thought is not dependent on a monetary investment, when in reality its respect totally depends on patrimonial rights like the right to food, health or education. Without these, human rights are nothing but a nice discourse, a symbology for turning off the fires of revolution.

At the same time, in the “developed countries” the right to adequate food should be demanded. Curiously, countries like the United States, where food is abundant, has high numbers of malnutrition, because many people do not supply with food its true function: nutrition. It is so much like this, that in many places it is cheaper to eat a Mcdonald’s hamburger than an apple.

A simple way of increasing the availability of foods in a city like Bogota would be to plant fruit trees in all public parks. At this moment thousands of trees already exist that do not produce anything, and it would only require to change them to fruit trees so each hungry person can go there and eat. Again, the solutions are everywhere, and what is really challenging is our ideology, all of our social conditioning.

The dominant economic discourse says: if we put fruit trees, people would stop buying on supermarkets; they would stop working, and turn lazy; poor people like to be poor; we are here to survive; there is scarcity. For example, why can we assure that everybody receives at least one minimum wage on which to live? Our economic logic says that people have to earn the right to live, that their existence depends on their utility. In a world in which since childhood we are reminded that we’re here only to survive and compete, that’s exactly what we get. This is the ideology that must be really transformed if we want to change the world that we live in.

Hunger in the world, like the majority of our problems today, is not systematic but systemic. Necessarily, in a socio-economic system mounted around a pyramidal structure, where everybody is competing for getting to the top, the bulk of the population will be just at the base. The triangle, after all, is not as perfect as the circle is.

If you’d like to know more about these topics, I recommend the work of Peter Joseph and Amartya Sen

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