Modern Famine—Its Root Cause and Lasting Solution
DOES it not seem incredible that, with such seemingly favorable advances, man’s progress in feeding earth’s population is all but canceled out? Many factors, as we have seen, contribute to this. But why is it occurring now? To answer that we must go back to World War I, which started in 1914. But why go back almost sixty years?
Because that year marked what an American newspaper called “the beginning of most of our present international troubles.” How so? Because the divisive spirit of nationalism took hold on mankind to an extent without precedent. This led to further distress. Historians say—and many other persons still living can verify—that World War I brought in its wake one of the most terrible famines of history, taking in most of Europe and Russia. The war ruined fields in vast areas. Transportation systems were disrupted. The horrible effects of resulting famine contributed, in turn, to another devastating holocaust—World War II.
“It must be remembered,” observes the book 1918, “that the road for those [World War II European] dictators was cleared largely by what the people of those countries went through in the terrible winter after [World War I].”
The second world war repeated the cycle—but on a greater scale. A former U.S. surgeon general tells us: “After World War II, there occurred the greatest worldwide shortage of food in history.” And since that time, yes, right down to this moment, there have been countless smaller wars and revolutions, triggered by nationalism and producing more starvation. Nor is it simply by disrupting agriculture and shipping that the wars since 1914 have produced famine.
They have intensified the spirit of nationalism. Wedges have been driven between nations of men, separating and antagonizing them. As a result, when a nation has bountiful crops does it share readily with poorer nations? If it appears to be politically advantageous, yes. But the richer one may also be paying its farmers not to grow food, even though thousands of people who live in other nations are known to suffer malnutrition!
Yes, for these reasons—all of which are the fruits of nationalism—man’s technical advances in farming methods have all but been canceled out.
How the Bible Predicted Modern Famine
Most significantly, the famine situation we see now was foretold in Bible prophecy for this very time period since 1914. Consider what the prophet’s vision at Revelation 6:4-8 describes:
“And [there] came forth, a fiery-colored horse, and to the one seated upon it there was granted to take peace away from the earth so that they should slaughter one another, and a great sword was given him. . . .
“And I saw, and, look! a black horse, and the one seated upon it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice . . . say: ‘A quart of wheat for a day’s wage, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wage; and do not harm the olive oil and the wine.’ . . .
“And I saw, and, look! a pale horse, and the one seated upon it had the name Death. And Hades [the grave] was closely following him. And authority was given them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with a long sword and with food shortage and with deadly plague and by the wild beasts of the earth.”—“New World Translation,” 1950 ed.
Is this not an accurate picture of how war, followed by famine and plague have ridden across the earth since 1914? But, it might be asked, has not this cycle of war followed by plague and famine always existed? The basic pattern is not new. But the scale of these conditions here described is out of the ordinary. The figurative phrase “the fourth part of the earth” shows that the Bible is referring to a large fraction of the whole earth. That has certainly been fulfilled, as never before, since 1914. But can we know for sure that those words in Revelation definitely apply since that date?
We are assisted in this by identifying the first horseman, concerning whom the Revelation says:
“And I saw, and, look! a white horse; and the one seated upon it had a bow; and a crown was given him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest.”—Rev. 6:2.
Other texts, including those from Revelation itself (Re 19:11-13), identify the one seated on the “white horse” as Jesus Christ. Since he was ‘given a crown,’ this account must refer to the time when Jesus would begin to rule as king over the earth. He would then, as it were, start to ‘conquer’ his enemies. To whom would he give attention first?
To his closest enemies, the invisible Satan and his demon angels. They were ousted from heaven to earth. The results were: “Woe for the earth . . . because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Rev. 12:12) What form of expression would this “woe” take?
This is revealed in answers that Jesus gave to his disciples. Interested in his future rule, they asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” Jesus then foretold visible evidences that would take place on earth to signify that he was ‘present,’ actually ruling from the heavens. Within the space of ‘one generation,’ he predicted, many things would occur before he completely destroyed this system of things. Notice what Jesus said was included in the evidence to be looked for:
“Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.”—Matt. 24:3, 7, 8, 34.
Jesus said that when he started to rule there would be war. The book of Revelation indicates that this would be world war, because it says that the second horseman with his “great sword” ‘takes peace away from [not just a few nations, but] the earth.’ The first such world war began in 1914. Afterward would come global food shortage and high food prices. Revelation shows that, not just the poor, but even the wealthy would feel the effects of limited food supplies. The prophecy warns them not to draw too heavily on their supplies of ‘olive oil and wine.’ (Rev. 6:5, 6) All of this is part of the “woe for the earth” clearly marking our period since 1914 as the “time of the end” for this present corrupt system of things.—Rev. 12:12.
Proper Attitude When Suffering from Hunger
Those who live in areas where food may be restricted today can particularly see the reality of Jesus’ words. Unfortunately, many of such people have become embittered by these conditions and turn from God. How much more discerning, though, is the person who sees in these events the fulfillment of God’s Word!
God’s true servants know from experience that he cares for all who genuinely ‘seek first His kingdom.’ (Matt. 6:33) This does not mean that God will never allow his own people to pass through temporary suffering, even hunger. Even the faithful Christian apostle Paul said that in his intense ministry he experienced “hunger and thirst.” Yet he was confident that nothing, including hunger, could cause him to become separated from God’s love in Christ. (2 Cor. 11:27; Rom. 8:35-39; Phil. 4:11-13) The apostle was sure, too, that even if God should allow him to die he had the promise of a resurrection.—Acts 24:15.
So, in our time, rather than give out because famine strikes, do as Jesus advised: “Raise yourselves erect.” Why? “Because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) Be assured that, since the part of God’s Word predicting food shortages for our time is coming true, the rest of his promises will also become reality.
This means that God’s new order is near at hand. After the King Jesus Christ completes his ‘conquest’ of the present wicked system of things, righteousness will prevail everywhere. No more will there be divisive nationalism, corrupt politics and selfish commercial elements to oppress the people. Under the kingdom of God, this earth will be made a delightful place in which to live. God promises that he will “wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” Food shortage and malnutrition will become never-to-be-repeated things of the past. Man is not in position to bring such a thing about, but God is, and he has given his sure word of promise that he will do so.—Rev. 21:3-5; 16:14, 16.
It is not just impoverished people that need to keep a clear vision of God’s new order. As recorded at Luke 21:34, 35, Jesus warned those who were not in extreme poverty: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth.”
Therefore, those in ‘rich nations’ who, for now, still have more than a sufficiency of food, must be careful not to center their affections on material prosperity. Doing so would mean failure to appreciate the significance of our times. Rather, each person who would live in God’s new system must learn now how to put Jehovah’s worship first in his life.
Just think about it: a marvelous new order is near at hand. God himself, the Creator of heaven and earth, has promised that soon all earth’s goodness, including the bountiful food it can supply, will be used for the benefit of all righteous men and to the glory of God. The present selfish world society, favoring a minority of well-fed people and slighting the needs of the majority of poor, hungry ones, will be gone forever. In its place Jehovah “will certainly make for all the peoples . . . a banquet of well-oiled dishes, a banquet of wine kept on the dregs, of well-oiled dishes filled with marrow, of wine kept on the dregs, filtered.”—Isa. 25:6.
Does life under such conditions, in a world where righteousness controls, appeal to you? If so, now is the time to inform yourself about the prospects and to learn what is required in order to attain it. Jehovah’s witnesses will be glad to assist you, free of charge. Invite them to visit you, at a convenient time, to discuss these prospects.