Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Famines as a Military Weapon: Is Europe in Danger?

Philosophy News image
 Above, a Dutch girl photographed at the time of the "hongerwinter", the famine that hit The Netherlands in 1945, during WW2. One of the best ways to make wrong predictions consists of extrapolating from a too small set of data. You see that when people speak of the "Pause" in global warming, but it is a very general rule. About famines, in 1968 Paul Erlich predicted extensive worldwide famines that were soon to occur in his book "The Population Bomb" (1968)  That didn't happen and, instead, famines declined worldwide to the point that an optimistic view of the future became prevalent. In 2011, in his book "The Better Angels of our Nature" Steven Pinker argued for the opposite of Ehrlich's predictions, that there will be no more major famines in the world for the foreseeable future.In this post, I argue that both Ehrlich's and Pinker's predictions were affected by the classic mistake of extrapolating from too few data. Ehrlich was influenced by the famines of the 1950s and 1960s, in particular by the Chinese famine of 1959-1961 that killed a number of people estimated in the range of tens of millions. Pinker, instead, was influenced by the lull in famines of the past 30 years or so, that can't be considered as a rule in human history. But can famines return for real? In the West, when we discuss this subject, we tend to think of famines as events of the remote past that will never return. Or, if they will, they will affect only those remote countries where hordes of dark-skinned or slant-eyed people already live in near-starvation conditions. We forgot how close in time was an age in which hunger was a fact of life and famines a common occurrence. That's the reason why we see books such as "One Billion Americans," by Matthew Yglesias, published, where the author happily neglects the problems involved with supplying food and energy to a U.S. population three times larger than it is nowadays. The real problem with assessing the possibility of. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: Cassandra's Legacy

blog comments powered by Disqus