Manmade Hunger

FROM Climate News Network (February 4, 2013)

The prediction by scientists that humans would respond to climate change by becoming hobbit-sized in order to survive has already happened in Brazil. A near-starving population in the north-east of the country produced a generation of children who became pigmy-sized adults after being brought up on a diet of rats, snakes and cacti. Adults grew to only 1.35 metres (4ft 6ins).

This is exactly what scientists had predicted. They were looking at the fossil record of the last time the world had warmed by 6°C, 55 million years ago. In a warmer world, the 30 scientists concluded, plants became less nutritious and mammals, insects and even earthworms had to eat more to survive. In response they became smaller and reproduced earlier.

The Climate News Network reported exclusively on the work of the Bighorn Basin Coring Project, involving scientists from the US, UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, on 7 January. Dr Phillip Jardine, from the Department of Geography at Birmingham University, said that dwarfism was expected to be a successful survival strategy.

Unknown to the scientists on the project, this apocalyptic vision of the future had, in fact, already occurred. In the 1980s Brazil’s Northeast, the poorest, most backward region of the country, much of it semi-arid, was hit by a prolonged drought that left millions of families starving. Without food, they resorted to eating rodents and cactus plants.

They were encouraged by a local Red Cross doctor, José Pontes Neto, who said: “Go on eating rats, snakes and chameleons, they are a source of protein.” But the doctor warned that the infant population in the drought areas was so riddled with intestinal worms and chronic hunger that the result would be a generation of “nanicos” – dwarfs.

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One of Brazil’s leading researchers into nutrition at the time, Dr Nelson Chaves, blamed the region’s chronic sub-nutrition not only on the long-lasting drought, but on the existing unequal social structures.

In a report published in April 1984, entitled Northeast: Drought, Hunger and Misery, carried out by IBASE, the Brazilian Institute for Social and Economic Analyses, a well-respected NGO, he wrote:

“Due to protein deficiency, the stature of the population in Zona da Mata (the main sugarcane growing region) is progressively diminishing, becoming similar to that of African pigmies.

“But the dwarfism of the African pigmy is genetic, while the march towards dwarfism we see here is from sub-nutrition. It is a consequence of progressive endemic hunger, caused and maintained by man. It is hunger resulting from economic and social inequality, from poverty… The final result is a deteriorated population, sick, hungry”.

Dr Chaves said that while the sugarcane plantations, owned by the local elite, received financial support from the then military government, impoverished rural workers were ignored.

At the time, the workers were not even allowed to keep vegetable plots for their own subsistence, because every inch of land had to be used for sugarcane. Underpaid and exploited, people could afford to buy little food. Their basic diet, consisting of beans and manioc flour, lacked protein. Meat was almost never eaten.

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We are supposed to believe that things like starvation and famine are just the unfortunate consequences of Nature. Sick and dying kids are merely Nature chewing up the surplus population. But it’s not true. Hunger is manmade. Poverty is manmade. Children suffer because men in grey suits in glass towers decide that it is profitable to let them suffer. Climate change is occurring because it costs money to prevent it and we allow children to die so that a very few can enjoy unprecedented wealth.

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