Cormac O Gráda


On his book Famine: A Short History

Cover Interview of May 24, 2009


It would thus be foolhardy to predict far into the future.  In several respects, however, the outlook for the next decade or so is more hopeful today than in the past.  The good news, as I argue in the final chapter, is that the huge increase in global living standards since 1900 and the accompanying globalization of disaster relief mean that poor but peaceful regions of the world are less at risk nowadays than even in the 1980s.  It also helps that there are no Stalins, Hitlers, or Maos on the horizon.

Nor is the current economic recession, though worrying and severe, likely to become a lasting one.  After all, the big rises in world food prices in 2006-07, which led to serious rioting in many places, and which some commentators deemed a sign of things to come, are now almost forgotten.  Global food production per head is subject to fluctuation but it has been rising.  Almost every country in the world, even the poorest, has already embarked on the transition towards lower fertility and smaller family size.  Famine early warning systems are in place, and dozens of NGOs eager and ready to help.

The prospects of avoiding famines across the globe during the next decade or so are probably better than they ever have been.  Nonetheless, it would be foolhardy to rule out the return of famines of biblical proportions sometime in the future.  The recurrence of major war, regional or international, can never be ruled out.  Such an eventuality would mean that all bets about making famine history are off.

© 2009 Cormac Ó Gráda