17 July 2011
Norman Pagett writes:
Collection boxes in the street and television and radio appeals are calling on us to help East Africa’s hungry as the region faces the worst famine in half a century. While everyone wants to help, it is impossible not to recognize the causes of this recurring tragedy.
As a semi-desert, the region is severely constrained in its capability to support life. Numbers have now risen beyond that capability, with the inevitable consequence that those people with the means to do so are fighting over diminishing resources: land, water and food. This damages the environment still further, and displaces tens of thousands of people. The lucky are those who make it to refugee camps, where they become dependent on aid given reluctantly by neighbouring nations. The less fortunate die in the attempt. Add to this, endemic corruption at all levels of officialdom and you have a disaster that can never be truly resolved.
This is a tribal society, and while we might look on such horror with European eyes, those doing the fighting care about nothing but their own survival. This is mankind in extremis, driven to desperate measures by overpopulation. Yes, we can help, this time.
Ethiopia now has a population of 85,000,000, but let’s fast forward another 30 years. With a growth rate of 2.6% that means there will be double that number. Within the same timescale, the world as a whole will have 2 billion more people. Deserts, like the rest of the world, are filling up with people who then expect to be supplied with food and water. While we focus on charity today, the brutal reality of overpopulation will overwhelm us within a generation.