Page 6, 28th January 1949

28th January 1949
Page 6
Page 6, 28th January 1949 — GOOD E BAD EN !

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Food For Thought

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By Bernard Kee Ian

pourics and economics are, to-day, mere embellishments of the basic fact that there is too little food for all to have enough. This angry book* tells the melancholy tale of man's greed and stupidity in raping the earth and leaving deserts all over the world. Intensive cultivation for quick profits and the ignorance of backward peoples have reduced the fertility of the soil from Bengal to Peru. The land has been mined instead of farmed.

The ruthless destruction of forests has altered the distribution of rainfall. sending it swirling across good land. On its way the water picks up the precious top-soil and deposits it in the rivers. Such indiscriminate tree-felling also destroys the land's natural protection leaving it unguarded from erosion by wind. There are now Dust Bowls throughout the globe.

A Christian Concern

This abuse of God's gifts is nothing short of blasphemy, and so the problem is of particular importance to Christians. Let those who scorn back-to-the-land movements scorn them no longer. City-dwellers who imagine milk grows in bottles and bread in the shops should read Mr. Vogt's terrifying book. The author, Chief of the Conservation Section of the Pan-American Union, knows the grisly facts. One may he cited: in the Pacific last year ships reported a wall of red dust 8,000 feet high and 400 miles long. The seamen were mystified until they learnt that it was top-soil blown from the Australian coast 600 miles away.

Christians cannot afford to ignore this tremendous quesfion for another reason. The population of the world is expected to increase in the next forty years from 2,000 million to 3.000 million. Some authorities, Mr. Vogt among them. say that food production cannot keep pace with the population. Malthus said the same thing and proposed later marriage as the solution. The neoMalthusians prepose scientific birthprevention. Mr. Vogt goes so far as to advocate the withholding of food shipments and subsidies to countries who refuse to reduce their birth-rates. True. not all experts are so gloomy but none are optimistic. Our own Sir John Boyd Orr believes that the great expansion in food production that is essential may be made possible by modern agricultural methods—and a great deal has already been done—but those huge tracts of country. with gaping gulleys which were fertile a decade or two ago, testify that man is literally losing ground.

Mr, Vogt claims that agricultural science alone will not solve the problem. To judge by the eulogies given to the new anti-tsetse drug, Antrycide. Mr. Vogt seems to have been given the lie. But has he? It is fairly certain that he is smiling sardonically at the enthusiasm of the Colonial Office and the British press. (One cannot help thinking that the enthusiasm is not unconnected with our relations with Senor Miranda.) He would maintain, on the evidence of the miserable past, that the drug will do more harm than good. The remaining forests, he would say, will be destroyed, new land will he developed, new herds introduced and, in twenty years. instead of the promised " vast beef farm." the old process of overgrazing and soil erosion will have made more deserts. One of the functions of a prophet is to warn the people. Let us heed the warning.

The Problem

This problem touches every human being. The newspaper proprietor who agitates for more newsprint asks for more( trees to be felled, more water to he released to erode more land. Let hint use what he has to explain such problems; Miss Havworth's activities should not qualify for a single log. The man who asks for a larger meat ration asks for more cattle to he put on land already overgrazed. The woman who asks for more wool asks for more sheep to break up land already eroded.

There are points at which one can argue with Mr. Vogt; his condemnation of European farmers in Africa, for example. To accuse them of get-rich-quick methods is, if it ever were true. entirely out of date. Anyone who knows the continent could have told him that the methods introduced by European agriculturists provide the ooe hope for Africa's material salvation. His solution to the problem, too, is unlikely to be accepted by the world and is, of course, quite unacceptable to Catholics, but his general thesis

is unchallengeable. The jacket of his hook quotes the Ness, York Times: "Your children will bless

Vogt for writing it." Not if Mr. Vogt ha e his way, they won't. They won't he born. Their future parents, however, must read it.

• Road to Survival. By William Vogt. (Gollancz, 15s.)

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