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).
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.
Excerpt from ‘In Praise of Idleness’ by Bertrand Russell: “Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralising. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?”
In part 1: Ecological Economist Herman Daly gives an answer to the question: “What is the distinction between economic and uneconomic growth?”
In part 2: Ecological Economist Herman Daly gives an answer to the question: “What is the difference between globalization and internationalism?”
Manfred Max-Neef is a Chilean economist who focussed on ‘development alternatives’. After teaching economics at Berkeley in the 1960s, he served as a Visiting Professor at a number of US and Latin American universities. He has worked on development projects in Latin America for the Pan-American Union, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Labour Office. In 1981 he wrote the book for which he is best known, ‘From the Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics’, published by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Sweden. It is concerned with practising ‘economics as if people matter’ among the poor in South America. In the same year he set up in Chile the organisation CEPAUR (Centre for Development Alternatives). He was Rector of the Universidad Austral de Chile in Valdivia and currently teaches and lectures globally. He received the Right Livelihood Award in 1983.