Pundits around the world are warning that a food crisis is either imminent or is already happening. In its 2022 report, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) stresses the “remarkably high severity and numbers of people in crisis or worse … in 53 countries/territories.” Moreover, continues the WFP report, “The number identified in the 2022 edition is the highest in the report’s six-year existence.” The humanitarian information service ReliefWeb also reported that “Globally, levels of hunger remain alarmingly high. In 2021, they surpassed all previous records … with close to 193 million people acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance.” For all the severity of their reports, I think they are underestimating the gravity of the developing crisis, whose only solution is to understand our mutual responsibility and the consequent actions we must take.
The food crisis will not be solved by stocking up on staple foods. We are not talking about hurricane preparedness kits or anything of the kind. We are looking at years, not weeks or months, when many people around the world will have no food. This is not another crisis; it is the beginning of a famine. People will be so hungry that they will behave like animals, in the worst sense of the word.
Eventually, the anguish will force us to recognize that the only reason for the famine is our own behavior, and not any external factor. The question is how long it will take us to understand.
The food crisis, like virtually all crises, does not need to happen. It is happening, and worsening, only because there are people who benefit from it, or simply because no one cares enough to stop it.
There is complete imbalance in human society between the haves and the have-nots, between the powerful and the powerless, between the privileged and the deprived. This inequality manifests in every aspect of our lives. Until now, the food aspect was relatively minor in the developed world, and affected mostly Africa and Asia. But since our alienation toward each other has intensified, so have the crises we are inflicting on each other. Now that the food crisis has spread to the West, as well, everyone is alarmed.
The hunger is only beginning. For the time being, it is more about empty shelves and temporary shortages, but as I said above, this is only the beginning. We do not want to hear that the cause of all our problems is our own narcissism. But if we are hungry enough, and long enough, we just might be willing to listen and change how we behave toward each other.
It may come from a leader who is sincere about uniting all of humanity, or it may come through some other medium, but in the end, we will all have to accept that we can no longer remain inconsiderate. Hunger will change us. I cannot say how long we will need to “fast” against our will, but the empty stomachs will make the minds receptive to the idea of unity.
Once we realize that we are all dependent on each other and begin to act accordingly, everything will change. We will discover that the problem was not shortage of food all along, but unwillingness to share it and distribute it. We will find that clean drinking water is abundant if we only want it to be accessible to everyone.
What applies for food and water certainly applies for education, housing, and basic health care. We do not need much more than that to be happy. We can dedicate the rest of our time to cultivating positive relationships. If we nurture mutual responsibility in the community, in the country, and in the world, we will have no crises to worry about.
These words may sound naive, but mutual responsibility is the only solution that will work, since the lack of it is the only cause of the crisis. The WFP has tried everything and failed precisely because it has not tried the only solution that actually addresses the problem: our hatred for each other.
Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2020 and World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley speaks during the award ceremony of the Nobel Peace Prize at the Oslo City Hall in Oslo, Norway, December 10, 2021. Cornelius Poppe/NTB/via REUTERS