Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
This small farmer in Burkin Faso had to plant five times since the drought dried his seeds.
Among the many things that the Buddhist principle of conditionality teaches us, three are particularly pertinent to any endeavor to diagnose and alleviate suffering on a global scale. The first is that events and processes that appear remote and disconnected from one another may be intimately connected through subtle chains of influence operating subliminally across the systems that generate them. The second is that conditions that appear slight and insignificant on their own can converge to produce effects massive in their impact. The third is that human volition is an important factor in the web of conditions and can thus transform even processes driven by the weight of physical laws.
These three principles are evident with startling clarity in the acceleration of climate change. As to the first, science teaches us the basic chain of conditions involved in anthropogenic global warming. We use coal to generate electricity, burn petroleum derivatives to power our vehicles, ship goods across continents, raise cattle for food, and we thereby release gases that trap heat and warm up the planet. Continue reading
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, points out that earlier civilizations often collapsed because of food shortages brought on by unsound agricultural practices. The Sumerian civilization sank because their soil was ruined by rising salt levels, the result of a design flaw in their irrigation system. The Mayan empire fell due to soil erosion, caused by excessive land clearance to feed their population. We now stand in a similar position, facing an acute threat to our own food system, and the immediate danger comes from a changing climate. But there is a major difference between our civilization and earlier ones: we have a clear scientific understanding of the roots of the crisis and are thus in a better position to respond to it. Collapse is not inevitable. The big question we face is not a “why” but a “whether”: whether we will act effectively before it’s too late.
Brown also says, in the same context, that economic and social collapse was almost always preceded by a period of environmental decline. This indicates that there is generally a margin of time in which we can pull back from the brink. We’re now in that phase of decline, and the need to act promptly and decisively to preserve the world’s food system cannot be overemphasized. We’ve already delayed too long. At present close to a billion people suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition. If the food system fails to produce enough food to feed the planet, millions more, mostly children, will be consigned to a life of perpetual want, even to death by starvation. In countries stricken with food shortages social chaos will erupt and food riots break out. Migration will increase from poor countries to more affluent ones, triggering a backlash of resentment. States in the poorest regions will totter and fail, perhaps unleashing more waves of violent terrorism. Continue reading
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
On Wednesday of last week, the same day that I was writing my recent blogpost highlighting the need not to make cuts to food stamps–“Nourishing Change,” published August 1st–the New York Times published an article about the likely impact that cuts in funding for food stamps would have on the poor. I only got to see the Times article Friday afternoon (August 2nd) through a link sent to me in an email. While my post was written independently, the Times article confirms my case.
The article, “House Plan on Food Stamps Would Cut 5 Million From Program,” by Ron Nixon, features a study released on Tuesday by the Health Impact Project in Washington, which points out that if the House proposal to cut food stamps by $20.5 billion were enacted, 5 million people would lose eligibility for the program. Of these, a half million do not even get enough to eat now, with the aid of food stamps. An additional 160,000 to 305,000 recipients who do get enough to eat would also lose their eligibility and the ability to adequately feed themselves. Continue reading
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Yesterday evening, when I sat down to check out the news, I immediately came across two articles that almost blew the nonexistent hair off my head. The first, on Common Dreams, announced: “Canada Vows Plunder in the Arctic.” According to the report, Canada has just assumed the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a consortium of states bordering the Arctic which met in Sweden this past week to discuss the region’s future. One would think the leaders of these nations, alarmed by the melting of the Arctic ice that takes place for ever longer periods each summer, have been anxiously discussing how we can preserve this natural wonderland and prevent its pristine beauty from being further defiled by the greedy hands of man. But let’s not fool ourselves. With global demand for oil and natural gas on the rise, they have other visions swimming around in their heads: of ships plowing the Arctic seas and previously inaccessible reserves of minerals, gas, and oil suddenly coming straight into their pockets.
Moved by the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled the ongoing conflict in Syria, Buddhist Global Relief has made an emergency donation of $10,000 to the World Food Programme (“WFP”) to help feed families forced from their homes.
According to the WFP, over 1.2 million people are displaced inside Syria and some 250,000 people have fled the country and become refugees in neighboring countries. Many fled the conflict zones with their families under shelling and gunfire from both government and rebel forces, often able to bring along only the clothes that they were wearing. Harsh conditions in refugee camps—including plummeting temperatures and flooding—are making for a life of intense suffering. Many families living in tents lack heaters and winter clothing.
Food for these families is the most critical need. It takes only $72 to provide a month’s worth of food for a Syrian refugee family. BGR’s donation will feed 138 families for an entire month during the difficult winter season.
The WFP is the food assistance branch of the United Nations, and it is the world’s largest humanitarian organization addressing global hunger. It is funded entirely by voluntary donations. To read more about the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and to make a personal donation, go here.
We are thankful to BGR’s generous donors who are making this emergency food donation possible.
Charles W. Elliott
Each October 16 is World Food Day, a celebration of the founding of the lead international agency for global efforts to combat hunger: the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). World Food Day has been observed every year since 1979, in more than 150 countries, raising awareness of global poverty and hunger. It serves as a wonderful example of international cooperation and community-building to help the poor, exemplifying our common humanity and basic goodness.
For World Food Day 2012, Buddhist Global Relief joins the FAO and our partner, Oxfam America, to both celebrate FAO’s work and to raise awareness of how much more work must be done to ensure a world in which everyone has enough food. We still confront the unacceptable: one billion people continue to suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition in a time of unprecedented plenty.
The FAO’s tireless work to end hunger is well worth an annual celebration. It has been a central driving force for worldwide fulfillment of the human right to food. It responds to soaring food prices by helping small scale farmers raise their output and providing direct aid. It supports projects in more than 100 countries to enhance food security, providing early warning and emergency response to mitigate the impact of natural disasters on food security. Its Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition (AAHM) creates global connections between local, regional, national and international institutions which share a common commitment to the rapid eradication of hunger and malnutrition. FAO “Goodwill Ambassadors” such as Jeremy Irons and Céline Dion attract public and media attention to the problem of hunger. Its online campaign against hunger, www.EndingHunger.org, is a vital networking campaign to build the movement through social networks, presenting world governments with more than three million signatures on a global petition to end hunger.
World Food Day is a wonderful opportunity to share your concern for the world’s poor and hungry with your family, friends and community. You can “walk the talk” and join Buddhist Global Relief’s Walks to Feed the Hungry by walking with us, or simply making a walk donation through our First Giving page.
As Oxfam America suggests, you can host a simple World Food Day dinner on October 16th that “fosters a conversation about where your food comes from, who cultivates it, and how you can take personal actions that will make the food system more just and sustainable.” You can get discussion guides and free materials from Oxfam at: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/campaigns/food-justice/world-food-day. You can organize a “food and fund drive” for local food banks and pantries. In the United States, if you don’t know where your nearest food bank is located, you can find one in the nationwide list at: http://www.feedingamerica.org/Home/foodbank-results.aspx. Food banks help feed tens of millions of people in the United States. They need your support and food donations.
Taking action can be as simple as picking up the phone. Call your political leaders and representatives and ask them: what specific, concrete steps are they taking to end hunger? Each one of us can find our own best way to help on World Food Day. For more information, visit Buddhist Global Relief’s World Food Day page at http://www.buddhistglobalrelief.org/active/WorldFoodDay.html
Posted in Agriculture, Global Hunger, Hunger in America, Walk to feed the hungry
Tagged Children's hunger, FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization, food insecurity, Global hunger, Hunger in America, Oxfam, United Nations, World Food Day
Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
Last month, the international relief agency Oxfam issued a briefing entitled Extreme Weather, Extreme Prices, which deals with the impact of extreme weather events on global food prices. The briefing, a summary of a longer research report, makes an important distinction between two kinds of effects that climate change will have on food production as our planet grows ever warmer. The first, the one with which agronomists and climate scientists have primarily been concerned, is the incremental decline in average crop yields caused by gradual increases in global temperature and changes in precipitation patterns.
As temperature rises to a certain optimal range, crop yields rise proportionally until a peak is reached, at which point, with further increases in temperature, they start to decline. Studies of rice harvests in the Philippines, for example, show that for each degree Celsius rise in temperature above the optimum during the growing season, yields of rice decrease by 10%. A similar pattern has been noted for other staples. Drops in production inevitably cause food prices to escalate. Research suggests that the average price of staples such as corn could more than double over the next twenty years, with up to half the increase due to changes in average temperatures and rainfall patterns.