Food Shortages—An Evidence of What?
INCLUDING this as part of “the sign” of what the Bible calls the conclusion of the system of things, Jesus said that “food shortages” would occur “in one place after another.” Giving us reason for hope, however, he explained that these food shortages would be an evidence that “deliverance” was “getting near.”—See Luke 21:7, 11, 28.
Are the food shortages signifying imminent deliverance really in evidence today? Many people think so. Do you?
Consider the Facts
War is a prime cause of food shortages, so it was only to be expected that the first global conflict, World War I, would be followed by serious food shortages. It was. World War II was even more catastrophic and likewise the food shortages it helped produce.
The problem at the end of World War II was so serious, in fact, that in 1945 the United Nations formed its first permanent specialized agency, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). Designed to alleviate the problems of world hunger, it accomplished much good during its first 20 years of activity. And yet, as the Britannica Book of the Year 1966 revealed, the basic situation did not change. We read:
“The Food and Agriculture Organization’s 1965 assessment of the developing imbalance between the world’s population and its probable ability to feed itself revealed a situation that many considered serious if not, indeed, alarming. . . . Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota termed the food gap ‘the number one problem of the last third of the 20th century.’”
In 1978, over ten years later, the problem persisted. In fact, it was getting worse (see chart), leading the then U.S. President Carter to set up a 20-member Commission on World Hunger. Its purpose: to determine how the problem of world hunger could be eliminated by the end of the century. An admirable goal, but could it be reached?
What Caused the Problem?
To put all the blame simply on overpopulation would be misleading. The matter is really much more complex. The scientific journal Bild der Wissenschaft comments: “The determining factor does not seem to be the rate of population growth in itself but the failure of governments to pursue an adequate agricultural program.”
Also not to be overlooked are so-called natural causes, like drought and flooding, which in 1981 were responsible for reducing an estimated 14 million Chinese to emergency rations. Political upheaval and labor unrest can also cause food lines, as they in fact did in some eastern European nations that same year.
Another cause is best exemplified in Africa. About the world’s hungriest continent, where 23 of the 29 countries currently classified by FAO as having “abnormal food shortages” are located, the magazine New African writes:
“Before the impact of colonialism, Africa was self-sufficient in food. There were surpluses which were traded within the continent. But as European powers divided up Africa, they also forced cash-crop production onto African societies.
“This shift has accelerated since the end of World War II. Africa has been ‘developed’ as a producer of cash crops for the Western world. . . . Luxury crops such as flowers, tea, coffee and cocoa, and industrial crops such as rubber, cotton and sisal.”
These and many other factors have contributed toward making food shortages a global problem. How many more millions are doomed to die before it can be solved?
Outlook for the 1980’s
The World Food Council’s conference held in Arusha, Tanzania, in 1980, issued a report saying that the prospects for developing nations had never looked so gloomy. It prophesied that the 1980’s might well turn out to be “the decade of food shortages.” The Council’s Executive Director Maurice Williams was moved to say: “I wish I could say I had hope for the future, but I fear that we are headed for a period of permanent food crisis in Africa.”
Man’s success in preventing the causes of food shortages—droughts, wars, political upheavals, disease or pests, natural disasters—is limited at best. And political expediency, poor management, transportation bottlenecks, bureaucratic snags, shortsightedness, and greed make the problem even more difficult to overcome. Gordon Taylor, author of The Doomsday Book, says that far from being solved, “the crisis . . . will become more and more imminent as we approach the end of the century.”
The President’s Commission on World Hunger has reached similar conclusions. Reporting on their findings, Time magazine said: “The hunger problem today is vastly different from that of the past, when recurrent famines killed millions. Now there is so little food in so many parts of the world, year after year, that fully 25% of the globe’s population is hungry or undernourished, and one person in eight suffers from debilitating malnutrition. . . . The report predicts that a major shortage of food could occur in the next 20 years—with disastrous effects.”—Italics ours.
In summary, what do these facts show? That present food shortages affect more people now than at any other time in history, that rather than being temporary in nature as in the past, they are becoming a permanent feature of today’s world, and that despite scientific progress no human solution seems forthcoming. These facts make this phenomenon of food shortages something new, just exactly what we would expect to see in fulfillment of Jesus’ “sign.”
But do not forget that Jesus said that “food shortages” experienced “in one place after another” would be clear evidence that “deliverance” was “getting near.” Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to help you learn more about this exciting prospect.
[Graph/Picture on page 13]
(For fully formatted text, see publication.)
IN MILLIONS WITH INSUFFICIENT FOOD
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000
1970 360 1977 420 1981 800
(ACCORDING TO FAO FIGURES)