Mexico, 1980. Interview with Dr. Norman Borlaug about wheat development and factors affecting production. For reactions to this model of food production and distribution, see: An Economic History of Global Food Markets (Raj Patel) and The future of food (Vandana Shiva).
In this three-parts video, Dr. Vandana Shiva explains the science of biotechnology (genetic engineering), and the dangers it poses to the world’s food supplies. For a contrasting view, see: Biotechnology (Gordon Conway).
Author and activist Raj Patel explains the economic history of global markets in food production.
Professor Sir Gordon Conway discusses the role of science and innovation in driving food production in the 21st century. For a contrasting view, see: The future of food (Vandana Shiva).
In Natural Capitalism (Amory Lovins), Lovins argues that just as it was impossible 250 years ago to conceive radical labour productivity, it is equally difficult today to imagine radical resource productivity. But then what about this lightbulb?
Professor Al Bartlett begins his one-hour talk with the statement, “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” He then gives a basic introduction to the arithmetic of steady growth, including an explanation of the concept of doubling time. He explains the impact of unending steady growth on the population of Boulder, of Colorado, and of the world. He then examines the consequences steady growth in a finite environment and observes this growth as applied to fossil fuel consumption, the lifetimes of which are much shorter than the optimistic figures most often quoted. See also: Legend of the chessboard (IBM’s Mathematics Peepshow).
Here is Hans Rosling’s extremely popular video where he presents a world of reducing inequalities (also available on TED talks). His argument has been criticised on the following points:
- On the horizontal axis, the distance between $400 and $4000 is the same as the distance between $4000 and $40000 (this is called a logarithmic scale). It can be argued that this is misleading. He says that most countries are now in the middle (and he points at the middle of the graph). These countries appear in the middle of the graph, but in reality they are not in the middle of the income gap. Because of the logarithmic scale, most countries are in the lower income range.
- One reason to use the logarithmic scale is to expand the lower range, in order to see what changes might be happening there. This is probably why he did it, to show that things seem to be moving at the bottom. According to other studies, the gap between nations is bigger now that it was 200 years ago. They are not converging. Wealthy nations have grown at much faster rates than poor nations. If you add up the per capita incomes of the richest 20% nations and compare that to the per capita incomes of poorest 20% nations, the gap is growing (see The cat chasing its tail (Me)).
- FInally, he shows the per capita incomes of different countries. It can be argued that this is also misleading, because that mathematical average does not say anything about what is really happening to the gap between poor people and wealthy people living within those countries. For example:
- The UNDP (2010) states that rising income inequality within countries (as Gini coefficient ) is the norm: for every country where inequality has improved in the past 30 years, in more than two it has worsened.
- There is (growing) inequality in wealthy nations. See: Record inequality between rich and poor (OECD), The top 1% (Fault Lines), The 99.99% versus the 0.01% (The Guardian).
- There is (growing) inequality in China (Wealth Gap Rising Sharply in China (David Bandurski)) as well as in India (Changing poverty criteria ‘drops’ the number of poor in India (RussiaToday, The Guardian, The Hindu)).
- For an understanding of the situation of poor socioeconomic groups in the South, see: The end of poverty? (Philippe Diaz)
The gap between rich and poor in OECD countries has reached its highest level for over 30 years, and governments must act quickly to tackle inequality, according to a new OECD report, “Divided We Stand”.
This short film describes how food speculation works, what the dangers are, and what needs to be done. It may not show all the details, so here are a couple of reports for further reading on the matter: Henn, M. (2011). The speculator’s bread: What is behind rising food prices? EMBO Reports, 12(4), 296-301 and Oxfam International. (2011). Not a game: Speculation vs food security. Oxford: Oxfam GB.
British documentary on the effects of automation and new technology on workers and the workplace. The film compares the promise of business spokespersons about the potentially liberating aspects with the corporate motivation for installing such equipment: higher profits and destruction of worker power. According to the film, the result is weakening of worker and labor union control and the production not only of fewer jobs, but work that requires less skill, is more monotonous, is less social in nature and is lower paying. It includes perspectives provided by Dr. Harry Cleaver, an economics professor at the University of Texas.