back to article Oxfam's 'Grow' world hunger plan: More peasants

Oxfam's latest campaign, "Grow", seems so lovely and cuddly that to criticise it is almost like torturing puppies. What could be wrong with trying to feed the hungry and thus make the world a better place? Alas, if wishes were kings we could all be monarchs for the day and what's wrong with the campaign is not the initial wish …

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Meh

To be completely cynical...

Isn't it in Oxfam's best interests that there are still peasants? Without peasants, why would we need such a charity?

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tas
Alert

Now *that* is cynical!

There are actually very good economic arguments to consider rich countries as "Bad Samaritans", especially through their use of the financial conduits, sometimes known as the Unholy Trinity of the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

But to stretch that to purely humanitarian registered charities is ... well, let's just say you've got one hell of a rubber band there!

On the whole, I think Worstall covers most of the points well.

1. However, while he does not say it explicitly, there seems to be an assumption that the market is almost completely sufficient to solve this long-standing problem. I would counter that the role of a developing country's government is critical, especially since Worstall rejects the idea of long term peasantry. For example: import of more advanced farming technology, education/retraining of subsistence farmers, infrastructure development (roads and irrigation, in particular), local/national seed banks, local agricultural methods and knowledge repositories, geographical map creation, careful land management to balance agricultural use vs and industrial and residential use (including energy plants such as natural gas and oil drilling), ecological management (including minimizing de-forestation which has a direct impact on soils and flooding).

2. Futures/forward/option trading can add to price volatility. The whole point of a financial market is to price in information as soon as its available. Unfortunately, that can mean that the market moves well ahead of the underlying commodity (known as the cash market), especially since speculators do not have to hold until physical delivery to make a profit. This issue is aggravated when the cash market is under-developed because there is a large disconnect between the information, knowledge and education of the producers (lets call them the "peasants") versus the speculators/arbitrageurs and hedgers. It also forces one national price for the same physical good, even if different costs accrue regionally. All these characteristics are perfect to eliminate inefficiencies in well-developed cash markets or geo-politically sensitive/controllable goods (e.g. oil) and likely do reduce price volatility in that situation. But they are far from likely to produce the same medium-term/long-term benefits for a developing country's "infant industries", if introduced too early, since the total costs and inefficiencies are so high.

3. Yes, Oxfam are right. Food and crop prices will go up - a LOT in the coming decades. In a sense its already started, corn futures have already hit $7 a bushel, up from $2 a bushel five years ago. In that same period, soybean futures climbed from $6 a bushel to $14 a bushel, and cattle and hog futures hit all-time highs. Consider, the United States is by far the world’s largest grain exporter. It exports about 90 million tons of grain annually, though China requires 80 million tons of grain each year to meet just *one-fifth* of its needs. Consider, for example, more than 90% of the China's population is rural, yet the country's growth continues to set real per-capita growth records year-on-year. Not only will +1 billion people want more food, but they'll want more meat which consumes more grains and much more water. In addition, with all the factors I gave above and more, balancing agriculture and industry in any country is tough, just look at EU CAP policy, but try doing that for +1 billion souls desperate for a better life...!

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Childcatcher

I was going.......

to plug my fundraising website:

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/GenD

I'm walking 100K in 24 hours to raise money for Oxfam & the Gurkha foundation but I guess everyone reading these comments is now going to be against Oxfam so probably won't want to make any donations (no matter how small) to these charitable causes

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/GenD

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Anonymous Coward

@Andy ORourke

Dammit, you beat me to it.

Of course, if you read Andy ORourke's comment and thought, "I'm not giving money to Oxfam." but have, this far down the comments, mellowed and thought, "Well, at least they're trying." you could donate here instead: http://trailwalkingdead.wordpress.com/

PS: _My link_ includes a free blog post with a story about zombies.

PPS: Every pound helps.

PPPS: It's a cut throat business this fund raising malarkey.

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Anonymous Coward

Middle class hypocrisy.

These idiots sit around in their centrally heated houses sipping their latest fad wine at dinner party’s and witter on about how these people shouldn't be allowed the luxuries they could not live without.

These people disgust me, they have even less shame than they have intelligence.

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Re : Middle class hypocrisy

"These idiots sit around in their centrally heated houses sipping their latest fad wine at dinner party’s and witter on about how these people shouldn't be allowed the luxuries they could not live without.

These people disgust me, they have even less shame than they have intelligence."

Steady on - I may disagree with a couple of Mr Worstalls points, but that a bit rough on him and the rest of the journalists at El Reg...

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Anonymous Coward

@Norfolk 'n' Goode

Hmmm, you have an interesting view of the middle classes.

Charities were pretty much created by the upper classes and this days most of the support and money comes from the middle classes.

The working classes, of course, being too concerned about getting food on the table to really worry about people outside their immediate sphere.

These days, most Brits who self-identify as "working class" sit around with their wide screen TVs and mortgages just like every other idiot. It's unlikely that you're any different. Well done, you're as much of a hypocrite as the ones you just invented.

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Headmaster

Meanwhile, at D. Party's suburban home ...

>party's

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Stop

One issue with the article....

"Can't make a profit ........ We say this to car makers"

Really?

Have you seen how many bailouts / goverment "loans" car makers get?

Most would of gone bust decades ago if it wasn't for goverment help....

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Indeed

Most of the car makers would have gone bust in fall 2008 or winter 2009 if not for gov't bailouts.

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true, true

however

2 letters

C

A

P

1 years worth of that makes all bailouts t all companies (banks excepted) pale into insignificance.

that said, losing chrysler (in the uk) in the 70's was no big deal (seeing as i didnt work for them)

losing spuds, say, to a hostile takeover from tofu would be a catastrophe1

(whaddya mean it cant count as one of 5 a day? you'll be saying the tomatos in my ketchup and beans in my coffee dont count next! - it's political correctness gone mad i tell you)

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We can't put off buying essential food, unlike new cars.

True but that was due to a short term collapse in consumption rather the car industry not being profitable in the long term (at least for larger manufacturers). Perhaps if there was a futures market for cars this could have been avoided?

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Farm or?

What?

The point that's being missed here, surely, is that with Africa lacking much in the way of an industrial base, the alternatives available to people outside the cities is to farm or do nothing very much. So the alternatives at present would seem to consist of a large proportion of the population engaging in subsistance farming or a rather smaller (but more affluent) proportion of the population engaging in more efficient farming while the rest starve because they cant afford to buy the food that's being shipped off so that western right-wing rugged individualists can buy food out of season.

Radio 4 recently interviewed Nicola Horlick who's leading a drive for western speculators to buy agricultural land in South America so that they can make a tidy profit from 'modernising' farming over there. When specifically asked what would happen to the surplus rural population, she airily replied that they could move to the cities and get 'jobs' (nature unspecified) there. What jobs would they be, perchance?

Oxfam's proposals may appear simplistic. But right now they're probably achievable.

All this 'throw it to the market' stuff isnt. What's essentially being proposed is 'trickle down' and 'trickle down' doesnt work.

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Anonymous Coward

title

Er, maybe the surplus labour could be used to build industrial capacity, as was the case in the developed world?

If we are serious about increasing food production, that means increasing farming productivity. There is nothing magical here.

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Gold badge

Trickledown can work

If you have richer farmers, because they're using land and growing crops more efficiently, then they'll be richer. That's rather the point. Richer people buy goods and services. Subsistence farmers eat most of what they grow, and don't have much, if any, money.

People buying goods and services means businesses and jobs. People who've stopped subsistence farming can run those businesses or take those jobs. Depending on how land ownership is managed, they might even avoid getting screwed in the process.

This can be incredibly painful, as enclosure and industrialisation were in Britain in the 18th/19th Centuries. It doesn't necessarily have to be. Although any structural economic change is going to have winners and losers, however well managed.

But subsistence farming isn't the perfect rural idyll. Sustainable economic and political development requires a population who aren't all growing food, and it takes a working economy to support education and healthcare. The change from one to the other entails hardship, but as I said subsistence farming isn't a rural idyll, especially without healthcare, which subsistence farmers can't afford.

Like democracy, capitalism is the worst system in the world. Except for all the others.

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It's a balancing act

> Subsistence farmers eat most of what they grow, and don't have much, if any, money.

ISTM the basic problem that Oxfam has is managing their donors. On the one hand they rely on the chattering classes to put their hands in their pockets to bail out the "poor hungry farmers" in dusty countries. On the other hand, if they turn these PHFs into productive, industrial workers the chatterers will worry that they're contributing to global warming with all their "new" CO2 emissions. [It's not lost on me that it's usually the 4x4 brigade who are so worried about other countries getting up to _their_ standard of living and "destroying the planet" with _their_ emissions]. Just as they now "tut" about the Chinese having the temerity to want electricity in their houses, and meat an' stuff.

Therefore to keep the donations flowing, and as has been pointed out: themselves in business, the PHFs mustn't starve to death, but mustn't get too consumerist either.

Luckily for Oxfam, that's very unlikely to happen as the dusty country's long-term problems are less about food and more about drought, war and corruption: all of which cause each other. Until someone cures those fundamental barriers to investment and growth, the PHFs and their families are pretty much doomed to a subsistence lifestyle - no matter how earnest Oxfam and their followers get.

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Subsistence is efficient

>If you have richer farmers, because they're using land and growing crops more efficiently, then they'll be richer. That's rather the point. Richer people buy goods and services. Subsistence farmers eat most of what they grow, and don't have much, if any, money.

Which is extraordinarily efficient - they are producing (roughly) X output for X input.

Modern 'efficient' farming can't achieve anything like that - with various inputs of fertiliser, energy and transport, an 'efficient' farm would be lucky to produce X from an input of 2X.

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Anonymous Coward

title

When it comes to food production, I'd also like to see a worldwide ban on the ruinous business practices employed by Monsanto with regards neighbouring farmers to those using Monsanto patented GM seeds. Basically, they threaten the fuck out of said farmers when their seed stock becomes naturally cross pollinated with their neighbours GM stock resulting in the farmer either losing most of his own seeds and going bust or being forced into paying for Monsanto seeds he/she didn't want in the first place.

This kinda bullying is utterly disgusting and is my major gripe with GM crops (of which could help to dramatically raise productivity levels).

Odd they don't mention it in their report.

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Devil

GM crops

...are the spawn of the devil, anyway, so why should they care? I heard about this guy who ate a pizza with GM flour, and he grew an extra head. No, honestly.

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Devil

@ nyelvmark

"GM crops...are the spawn of the devil"

In a few years more, when the loss of genetic diversity -brought by GM crops and Monsanto's "aggressive marketing" -comes back to bite our asses, people will say this a lot. But they won't be smiling.

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Devilspawn seed?

I would mostly take Greenpeace, the organic movement and similar charities/lobbyers to task over the "GM controversy".

The rubbish health worries ("grow extra heads") have been sold to the always-worrying middle class with a good helping of science fear and hyperbole --- so that you either reject the GM outright or reject the worries outright and use it out of context (like the "grow extra heads" comment above) to dismiss whatever displeases you.

The big problem with GM is the licensing and customer lock-in of epic, even beyond-Microsoft, scale: you have to buy sterile monsanto seeds every year (instead of keeping a fraction of your harvest each year, to continue the cycle), as it's the only one available to work with the necessary glysophate weedkiller. If prices fall, it's not a matter of having a monotonous diet anymore (you can only eat your own produce, until selling becomes worthwile again) --- it's a matter of losing everything as you cannot replant next year; leading to local food shortage OR profit for a transport company instead of a grower.

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@Mephistro

Then a few years after the genetic diversity policy removes GM crops people won't be saying much. Too busy starving as their crops are no longer drought, flood, plague or disease resistant.

Ah well, at lest they're diverse right?

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@ Veldan

Let's assume for a moment that you understand the implications of loss of crops's genetic diversity. Let's assume that you know that in that diversity there are already genes able to cope with draught, floods and specific plagues. Let's assume that you understand the implications of sowing exclusively clones -that is, genetically identical plants- everywhere, and the implications in plant epidemiology...

Nah, that's assuming too much. Forget about it.

Furthermore, your post seems to hint that Monsanto seeds are resistant to all those factors, which is clearly not the case. The up side of the actual situation is that it provides great business oportunities. For Monsanto, not for the farmers or the consumers.

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Anonymous Coward

Globalisation gets in the way

We have the situation now where farms have closed in areas because there is not enough money to keep them running. People Starve.

Then big companies come along and offer to buy the land. 'Great' say the people 'they can afford to run farms and we wont go hungry'

Big company buys the land, starts growing flowers because its the best money maker they have from the land. Export them to all the rich countries and make profit. People still starve.

Not that some of these starving people help themselves. A friend of mine was out there for a few months. The locals don't bother their arse doing things as 'the white man will provide'

Give a man a fish and he'll be fed for one day.

Teach him to fish and he'll sit on his backside demanding his free fish.

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WTF?

I would suggest to you....

That your friend is lying and you're a fool for believing him.

""Give a man a fish and he'll be fed for one day.

Teach him to fish and he'll sit on his backside demanding his free fish.""

I've seen some stupid things posted on here but that's got to be one of the dumbest yet.

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Joke

Make a man...

...a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

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USAID

Imran Khan wants the US to stop sending so much aid to Pakistan, not because he wants the Great Satan out of Pakistan's affairs, but because all that money, grain, etc from USAID starts sloshing around and fuels corruption.

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Anonymous Coward

And I would suggest to you...

...that you have no anecdote, just well-meaning cognitive bias.

I was in touch with an old Indian friend a while back, who, in the years since we were last in touch, had been back with her family to try and start a business over there to bring tourists in and so bring money into the economy, and got completely lied to and ripped off at every turn by the very people they were trying to help.

My Bengali friends also have issues every time they go there, just getting badly treated by people expecting to milk them for whatever they can get.

I don't know why, but poverty does seem to put a lot of people into the idea that others owe them a living - something the 'everyone's a victim' NuLab bleeding hearts bought into hook, line and sinker, thus corrupting the 'to each according to his needs' bit of their philosophical couplet.

But never mind anecdote - it's a well established fact the aid has bred a culture of dependence, rather than lift people into a self-sustaining viable way of life. Of course, that could be largely down to their breeding rather than a failure of the provided techniques. (Between the 80's drought and the current one, Ethiopians managed to double their population)

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Unhappy

I wish it was stupid but...

What I hear from 90% of the people who I know visit Africa (it is a big place and yes one country in it is very different to the next as is one village to the next but) because of decades of handouts people do just expect food to turn up and have taken a fatalist view of the word. We have no food, let us hope the aid workers hear about it soon. All of the people who I have spoken to who went out to dig wells said that they were offering to show people how to dig wells and 90% of the people didn'y want to, that is what charity workers are for.

Now I also have heard some great stories of Africans who do take pride in their country and their people but they are in the minority. Many will campaign to make the lives of their countrymen better, they will try to educate people to be better farmers, live better lives and so forth but many people will not.

As far as the Oxfam suggestion that most of Africa should be subsistence farmers I have 3 points I would like to make:

1. It sounds stupid but remember that industrialised farming is not sustainable; we use huge amounts of fertiliser and fuel to grow crops which equates to many times the calories that the crops themselves provide. If growing 10kCal of sugar beat takes 30kCal of petrol and 10kCal of fertiliser then it is a loss in energy that something has to make up i.e. fossil fuels mostly at present. (I made the numbers up, look up some sustainable farming papers and take a pinch of sault with you but it gives you the idea of the probably problem).

2. In UK when industrialisation hit we all had food because we were mainly subsistence farmers with a small amount of support industry. This meant that as a factory opened a few people went to work for it and a few farms went short handed but there was still enough food. Then some new farming tools turned up and some farms didnt need so many labourers but that was OK some/most of those were needed in the coal mine or factory in the next town. This was a gradual process but it meant that most of the population stayed at the same level of wealth (no money with food -> little money to buy food -> more money to buy food and simple goods -> more money to buy a few luxuries too). This worked because we did not have some rich economy next door to sell flowers too and it was always a priority that we could buy food (no workers = no work done = no more profit). Gradual change is essential and this might mean 20~30 years of Africa farming in simple ways so that they can then sell there tiny surplus and stat working a the next level of industry.

3. I kind of made this point in 2 but there is more to it. Industrial farming currently uses too much energy. If we want crops for fuel they must take less energy to grow, harvest, process and transport than we can USE from them. I used sugar beat above because I know it is one thing that could make ethanol. In Brazil sugar cane is grown, harvested and processed in small areas so that the energy balance works. By making the ethernot near to the fields you concentrate the energy so that you are not carrying heavy crops many miles. This is not a very profitable way to make money but it is very profitable in terms of energy. We have two choices in the future; we need to either pay a fair price for all the energy we use or we need to make it in a very very cheap way. It may well be that Industrial farming needs to become less productive per acre; this be done by putting less energy into it (in fertilizers etc) it will also mean that developing countries which could not (economically) afford fertilizers will become more competitive. To balance the scales we may need to take some of the load from one side and move it to the other rather than just try to add more and more to one side while the other grows.

Economics is a very complicated thing and clearly something has not gone right for Africa. I hope that we can find the answer to keep people fed very where but there are so many factors it will never be a simple fix and will always require constant monitoring and changes to the plans. The important thing is to have people who will make the effort and then try our best to work out how that effort should be applied.

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Really

We have generations of people in this country who have no intention of holding down a job as the state will provide, what makes you think a similar percentage of people elsewhere are any less likely to have worked out a similar outlook on life?

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Anonymous Coward

@Norfolk 'n' Goode

Just because someone has seen something that doesn't match your view of the world, doesn't make them a liar.

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eroei

Farming does need to be more localised , all that road transport , ports, shipping etc just ensures that we've spent about 1000 calories on each calorie we actually eat.

I agree about farmers subsidies - if you cant make a living producing something as essential to life as food , somethings going wrong.

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Happy

Why is Oxfam racist?

They are not racists, but rather believe that pre-industrial age way of life is superior to life tainted by capitalism. Just think what legions of leftists are doing to the Indians of the Amazon...

Anyway, this piece is an example of what I really like in The Register!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Statistics and associated mistruths

I think the thing that annoyed me more than anything about the reporting on Oxfam's report was the headlining of the estimated food price rise over 20 years. Flipping heck, it's going to more than double! It's the end of the world as we know it!

I swear, stuff like this makes me want to go round every journalist's house with a cricket bat and bash some knowledge of geometric series into them. OK, so "Food Prices will rise by 3.5-5.5% per year for the next couple of decades" isn't a sexy headline, but to not even mention that in the article body is somewhere close to criminal. I suppose Tim over-reducing the "Double in 20 years" to "rise a bit" at least offers a bit of balance.

Which isn't to say that the implicit contradiction between abandoning subsidies and the saviour role of companies that seem to exist solely to maximise subsidy-based income makes any sense. Those infrastructures that should be used to save the world, in the midwest and Argentina have only been developed thanks to subsidies and tax breaks. The assumption that what works for the rich part of the world will work for the poor seems to be like the assumption that the subprime mortgage market would work. I don't quite remember how that one worked out... Some aspects will undoubtedly work - who knows which ones? - but a wholesale export seems to be plain nuts, what Marx didn't call the idiocy of city life.

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Unhappy

Yet more deflection from the real problem

The real problem, that no-one is publicly prepared to admit, is over-population.

Global population is due to pass 7 billion later this year, and headed for 10 billion by 2050. Consider that after WW2, the population was only 2.5 billion, and we can see that shortages of everything are going to occur much sooner than we like to think.

Most of the world is not capable of sustaining the current large population, never mind producing more food, which will allow more reproduction which ....

Large areas of the world (including Europe) are, or will soon be, suffering water stress. Not enough fresh water for living, never mind for more intensive agriculture.

Current intensive farming using fertilisers is just stripping the existing land of nutrients. Once this land is exhausted, then a famine like nothing we have seen in history will occur.

So maybe it will all balance out in the end, and the population will return to a more sustainable level.

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Big Brother

Desalination

Desalination and Plant Gel. Man can synthesise all the soil nutrients we need, we no longer require mother natures decrepit hand.

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Gareth - you've fallen for

the UN Populations Division sudden revision of their estimate last month. Previously they were predicting that global population would peak at 9 billion around 2050. Suddenly - despite all the evidence being that we're actually undershooting that trend, with reproduction rates having halved in the last 50 years - they have decided to boost their figures, no doubt for political reasons. The way to get reproduction rates down, as history demonstrates, is greater development. More here:

http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/10560/

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Unhappy

Overpopulation

It seems to me that there are several aspects of overpopulation, some of which can be unpleasant to consider. This is the reason I am posting this anonymously, because some people may really not like what I am saying.

I am not an economist or a sociologist, or someone who studies cultures, but I believe strongly that we need an enlightenment of the population of all countries with a rising population due to birthrate that can only be provided through education.

I'm fairly certain that if we looked, we would see situations in poorer countries that are improving where the population is rising rapidly as a result of better availability of food, better sanitation, and increased access to modern medicines. The reason for this hinges around these countries previously having had a high mortality rate, which required families to have many children to achieve something like a stable population.

As soon as the mortality rate starts falling, these people must learn to have fewer children. But try explaining that to them when they still have the mindset that values many children! If western organisations start education programmes to attempt to change this mindset, they are accused of preaching, meddling or in some cases trying to destroy the local culture.

It is at this point that I become contentious. I feel that the Aid agencies are making this worse, by providing resources and medical help that allows more people to survive to the point where they then need to be fed (and indeed are able to procreate). And the argument about teaching people how to support themselves is a spurious one unless backed up by this knowledge that they need to limit the size of their families.

Without this, the countries will always end up in food or water poverty, because the population will just grow to consume the available resources.

What would I do about the problem? Tell the Aid agencies to stop? Let people starve? Enforce population control?

I really don't know, and fortunately for me, it is not my place to come up with a solution. I am cowardly ducking the problem.

I also know that I can be called a hypocrite, because here I am in a western country that has gone through this already to achieve a stable(ish) population (with the UK birthrate at 1.84 per woman, the population should be falling, but immigration keeps it growing), but the lessons of history will show that this was not without pain. I would like to spare improving countries this pain, but I believe that it cannot be done. We will just push the global population to the point where the planet cannot provide, regardless of how efficient farming becomes. Making food production better merely delays the crunch.

I fear that even without the problems of climate change, things can only get worse. If I look at it selfishly, I am glad that I have entered my second half-century, and will probably not live to witness the inevitable.

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People have been suggesting a peak of 10 billion for a long time ...

if anything it was revised down to between 7.5 and 9 billion, which was plainly unrealistic.

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Happy

Anyway, growth is the economists answer.

Realistically, how can you keep expanding and 'grow' your way out of over-population?

It's like suggesting that to deal with the pensions time-bomb we need to produce more babies to support the ageing population.

Admittedly, one day population growth will slow, but we will have long-ago exhausted the carrying capacity of the Earth, or more likely, been wiped out by disease or famine.

Or been demolished to make way for a by-pass ...

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Coat

Shoot the Pope then

Following the trend of most reports on any of these subjects, I'm going to pull some numbers out of my arse and prove to you that the entire overpopulation problem in the world is caused by catholics: over 80% of the developing world is religious, and over 75% of all aid is provided through religious-based NGO's that also provide 'education' (read: brainwashing) that intentionally discourages contraceptive use.

Either the plan is to infect an entire continent with HIV and harvest the ensuing HIV-proof genetic material to save rich AIDS victims in a stunning plan of medical genocide, or we need to line the good fathers up against the wall and divert a substantial percentage of the world's rubber production to Africa.

Of course, not something Oxfam could get behind for fear of upsetting all those trendy muppets who have suddenly rediscovered their Christianity as a way of livening dinner party debate with followers of The Great Dawkins.

Damn, I appear to have soiled myself with incoherent rage. Coat please!

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The problem that loads of people publicaly admit.

"The real problem, that no-one is publicly prepared to admit, is over-population."

If no one is publicly prepared to admit this problem, how come this point is made several times on any discussion about anything even slightly to do with the environment?

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Publicly admit

Because they they go on to try and solve a different problem, like global warming as a deflection from the REAL problem.

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commodity speculation.

well done El Reg. Another excellent incisive piece.

I too don't understand the demonisation of commodity speculators, OK they are bankers, but not the same ones as owe us a trillion.

The existence of a futures and options market does seem to restrict abuses of position by the big customers, supermarkets lets say, who might offer a derisory price for a farms total output on a take-it-or-starve basis.

Commodity trading allows a 3rd party to offer a better price, without needing as a pre-requisite all the infrastructure to deal with the goods. He knows that the supermarket will have to offer a less derisory price once their supplies get a bit short. He can even arbitrage the fixed price he has given to the farmer, to offer options against excessive price rises to the supermarket. Its all a bit complex regarding what futures and options deals can be struck, the essential point is that they are able to be struck without requiring the means to deliver them, the market is then more liquid, which is a key ingredient for fairness.

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Flame

fossil fuel subsidies massively understated

"The fossil fuel subsidies are all being paid out by more or less repressive regimes like China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, to subsidise the consumption of petrol and the like."

That is unfortunately only a tiny part of it. Assuming the consensus on climate change correct, to the extent fossil fuel use increases incidences of extreme weather and damage caused, we're all either subsidising this through higher insurance premiums (insurance company actuaries are not driven by scientific opinion on this but by the hard data of claims) or through uninsured losses which don't get charged back to the fossil fuel mining and drilling companies or methane generating landfill operators. This is a similar argument to the costs of chemical industries in the Victorian era when these treated poisoning a fishery downstream as someone else's cost, but in the 20th century had to account for the management costs of cleaning up their act on their own books.

The externality subsidies of fossil fuel use far exceed the direct subsidies quoted.

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Editing glitch

This "Oxfam seems to think that this will reduce emissions:"

Should read "the EU seems to think that this will reduce emissions:"

This is one of the things that Oxfam were right on, that it won't. My fault, sorry.

Re Nicola Horlick on Today.....I was the back up person to go on if she decided she couldn't do it. As you can tell, I would have been less polite than Ms. Horlick.

"The point that's being missed here, surely, is that with Africa lacking much in the way of an industrial base, the alternatives available to people outside the cities is to farm or do nothing very much."

You're the wrong way around there. It's the surplus of labour that leads to us finding new things to do, not the new things to do sucking people off the land.

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High unemployment

is a good thing, then?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Editing glitch

Nice to see you get through an entire article without mentioning Adam Smith! On the matter of a "surplus of labour", you get that already in the developing world thanks to a variety of factors including things like Big Agriculture dumping produce and pricing farmers out of their own markets, or much the same people denying farmers access to the big markets.

What happens next, when those people are forced to find other things to do, is that people migrate, often to places like Europe - a home of Big Agriculture, of course - where politicians will do their most "butch" of voices in promising to deal with the "immigrant problem". In other places, some people are driven to a lot more threatening behaviour, if you take the Horn of Africa (and north-east Africa in general) as an example.

It's all very well seeing the positive side of people finding new opportunities, but those opportunities have to be there in the first place. It also doesn't help that such newly unemployed farmers would find themselves looking to create such opportunities in some of the most corrupt and badly governed countries on the planet.

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@ Tim W.

Quote Tim Worstal:

"You're the wrong way around there. It's the surplus of labour that leads to us finding new things to do, not the new things to do sucking people off the land."

I'm afraid that it's you who is wrong. You're not thinking this through. In the long-term, you may in fact be correct - eventually that gap may fill. But it wont fill without prior investment in the industrial infrastructure, or in education, of in transport links etc etc. Remember that Britain and the rest of Europe got lucky - as farming got more efficient, the Industrial Revolution was just getting into gear. We already had rail links and canal links and had a pretty small, densely populated country to start with.

And subsistence farming doesnt have to be poverty-level farming. Farmers who are growing enough food to feed their families can move on - combine as farming cooperatives, invest jointly in machinery, negociate with distributors from a position of strength and generally put themselves into the position of running a relatively strong local economy.

THEN you can bring in industry

A lot of people here have banged on about the unintended consequences of Relief. But there are also unintended consequences that go with global organisations sticking their oars into countries that lack the institutions to counterbalance that power shift. In the western world, such global organisations are at least to a degree counterbalanced by democratic institutions and the Rule of Law.

I have no particular problem with large capitalist institutions making large amounts of money. As long as they function under a modicum of control.

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Oh yes?

>It's the surplus of labour that leads to us finding new things to do

When, in human history, did that ever happen?

The Enclosures didn't generate industry, it created a vagrancy 'problem' (which has echoes into the 21st century) - and many thousands died.

This piffle is emblematic of a sloppy argument.

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