Paul Lachine

Hunger in a Complex World

SINGAPORE – According to the United Nations Population Division, the world’s population reached seven billion in 2011. By 2050, that number will have risen to more than 9.3 billion. As the world’s population grows, so does pressure to eliminate hunger – but progress so far has left much to be desired.

In the early 1980’s, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was asked why, after 35 years of independence, the country had made only limited progress in alleviating poverty and hunger. She replied that government policies often had unexpected negative consequences in other areas – consequences that sometimes canceled out, or even exceeded, positive effects.

Today, many countries are learning Gandhi’s lesson. Indeed, in an increasingly complex and interconnected world, policies directed at a specific issue, such as hunger, can be ineffective – even counterproductive – unless they take into account related issues. After all, food cannot be produced, transported, distributed, or even eaten without significant effects on energy consumption, as well as effects on land, water supplies, health, and the environment.

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