Sce­nario Anal­y­sis

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

No two famines are the same, yet, su­per­fi­cially at least, most have a lot in com­mon. The usual symp­toms might in­clude high food prices be­yond the reach of the poor; in­creases in evic­tions, and in crime and an­ti­so­cial be­hav­iour; va­grancy and mi­gra­tion in search of em­ploy­ment and char­ity; ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment; hunger-in­duced re­duc­tions in the birth and mar­riage rates; protests and re­sis­tance that give way to ap­a­thy and hope­less­ness as the cri­sis wors­ens; early phil­an­thropic ef­forts that, in the more pro­tracted crises, give way to donor fa­tigue; fear of, and lack of com­pas­sion to­wards, the vic­tims; and, above all, in­creases in mor­tal­ity from dis­ease and star­va­tion.

There has prob­a­bly never been a famine where a more car­ing rul­ing elite could not have saved more lives. But there are dif­fer­ences too. The con­text may be eco­nomic back­ward­ness and crop fail­ure, but the short­ages of food or pur­chas­ing power that can lead to famine need not re­quire a big har­vest short­fall: war or hu­man agency may be enough.

Some famines last only a few months (So­ma­lia in 2011-12, the Dutch Honger­win­ter of 1944-45), while oth­ers straddle sev­eral years (Ire­land in the late1840s, China in1959-61). All famines bring out the best and the worst in peo­ple, and gen­er­ate at­ti­tudes and ac­tions that are dif­fi­cult to pass judge­ment on.… World­wide, famines’ve laid bare the dark, or­di­nar­ily hid­den side of hu­man na­ture.

From “Eat­ing Peo­ple is Wrong, And Other Es­says on Famine, Its Past and its Fu­ture”

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