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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 30, No. 8. 1967.

Gap between rich and poor nations widens to an abyss — Hunger and population

Gap between rich and poor nations widens to an abyss
Hunger and population

Hunger and population

"Explosion" is the emotional but accurate word used to describe the tremendous growth rate of the human species.

It took the human race from the beginning of time to 1950 AD to reach the 500 million total. But the world's population increased by this amount between 1950 and 1962.

The concensus of opinion among experts is that the present world population will have doubled by the year 2000, to over 6000 million people.

The population explosion is a fact, not a theory, it is the result not of an increase in human fertility, but a decrease in the human death-rate as the age-old threats of disease, famine and to a lesser degree, war, have receded.

There is a threat to human existence in this explosion.

In underdeveloped areas of the world, Asia, Africa and Latin America, the rate of population growth is exceeding the rate of food production and economic development.

Unless a double effort is made to control tins disproportionate growth on a widespread scale, by restricting population expansion and increasing food output and gross national products, then another response could well intervene. Either a natural response such as the return of famine or disease, or a cultural response such as war.

Any of these results in one part of the globe will affect the rest of the world—bringing further misery and death to underprivileged areas, and threatening society culture, and human existence itself everywhere.

United Nation's statistics indicate that between 300 and 500 million humans are at present suffering from acute malnutrition, and another 1000 million are suffering from malnutrition in varying degrees.

While there is an increasing awareness in the industrialized societies of what these figures mean, little is being done to reduce them, and the gap between the richer and poorer areas of the world is growing.

The average individual income in the industrialised nations is 1900 USA dollars. In the agrarian or underdeveloped countries it is 130 dollars. On present rates of growth, the difference in 10 years will be 4000 dollars against a mere 800 dollars.

One method of reducing this gap is to slow down the rate of population growth. The population of industrialised regions increased by 41.1 per cent from 1920 to I960. In underdeveloped areas it increased by 70.5 per cent over the same period.

It has been estimated by Mr. W. J. Hall, Victoria University lecturer in Asian Studies, that the average Indian today has at his disposal half the amount of food that was available to each of his parents.

Static quantities of food and increasing numbers of people mean further malnutrition and less ability to increase food production.

It is true that there are social and economic dangers inherent in reducing the rate of population expansion too rapidly. Some of these have become evident in Japan where a shortage of industrial workers is expected in the 1970's.

But Japan's was a case of rapid reduction of growth in a highly industrialised society. In other areas, such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Pakistan, results of family-planning schemes have been conspicuously successful.

Roman Catholics have often attacked family planning as an answer to the problems of overpopulation, arguing that birth prevention is being advocated as a sole solution, which is untrue, and stressing the unrepresentative difficulties that nave become apparent in Japan.

Catholic gynaecologist Dr. John Rock has written:

"While population control alone cannot resolve the population crisis, no combination of other measures can succeed without it."

The second approach to mitigating the problems of overpopulation is to increase food production and expedite economic development.

For over 10 years the increase in food production throughout the world has exceeded the population increase by one per cent. (New Zealand's annual food production increase is four per cent.)

But these figures are not representative of food and population increases in the underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In the past Ave years the population of Latin America has increased by 11 per cent, whilst its food production has increased by only 6 per cent. In Europe over the same period food production increased by 11 per cent and population by four per cent.

Colin Clark, the Cambridge agricultural economist, has estimated that by using efficiently only the present amount of land cultivated, ten times the population of the world could be adequately fed.

Scientific methods can be used to fertilise unproductive ground, to halt erosion, to eliminate pests, and to irrigate arid soil.

The implementation of such techniques in what are at present relatively unproductive areas requires imported capital and skilled personnel.

Only if food production in-creases substantially, popula-tion growth is reduced, and wealthier countries make more foreign exchange available to underdeveloped nations, can the gap between the privileged and the underprivileged be reduced, and their respective gross national products be equalised.

The underdeveloped regions have valid reasons for doubting the good-will of the Western industrialised nations.

The latter have given 55 billion dollars of economic aid to Africa, Asia, and Latin America from 1950 to 1965. But in one year these same coun-tries spend 120 billion dollars on their military hardware, and the United States spends 20 billion dollars on her space programme.

For the first time in history there is a widespread awareness that poverty and misery need not exist in underdevel-oped areas of the world, and that its existence and its intensification is a threat to the wellbeing of every human.

"The earth's savage scar, in the words of Emmet John Hughes, "is not the Iron Curtain, but the Dollar Curtain."