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Geopolitics

Why World Hunger Won't Go Away

Two new books and a docudrama ask hard questions about how so many can still go hungry in a world of technological advancement and economic growth.

Dinner's served: Bruno Parmentier's "Zero Hunger, Ending Hunger In The World"
Dinner's served: Bruno Parmentier's "Zero Hunger, Ending Hunger In The World"
Philippe Arnaud

PARIS — José Graziano da Silva, director general of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently said that "hunger leads to conflict, and conflict exacerbates hunger."

Three very different new books examine the global agriculture situation, the reality of agribusiness, and the pressing need for new regulations of what can be called the "global food system."

Though the situation is slightly less critical than in 2008, a year that saw food prices soar, hunger still affects 850 million people around the world. Bruno Parmentier, author of Zero Hunger, Ending Hunger In The World, connects that number with another one, the 1.46 billion people who are overweight.

To this expert on agricultural affairs, hunger is neither a technical nor an economic problem, in the strict sense of the term. "Hunger is first of all political," he writes. "It has always been the consequence of ignorance, war and the absence of state, of conflicts to gain control of natural resources. And now it's also a by-product of globalization and the absence of public control over multinational companies."

But the essential message of Zero Hunger is optimistic. Yes, it is possible to eradicate hunger in the 21st century. The Zero Hunger Challenge launched by the United Nations in 2012 at the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development is "within our reach." There are solutions. They include defending small family agriculture, developing techniques of agroecological production, targeted support, etc. Parmentier advocates an "ecologically intensive" agriculture model that is more productive, sustainable and economical.

Some countries are moving in the right direction — for example, China, Vietnam and Brazil. India, however, is stagnating and others are actually regressing, such as sub-Saharan African countries. The book also describes the overconsumption of meat as one of the most formidable challenges. Between 1980 and 2012, annual Chinese consumption of meat rose from 14 to 60 kilograms. In France, it is over 80 kilograms.

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Geopolitics

The Days After: What Would Happen If Putin Opts For A Tactical Nuclear Strike

The risk of the Kremlin launching a tactical nuclear weapon on Ukraine is small but not impossible. The Western response would itself set off a counter-response, which might contain or spiral to the worst-case scenario.

An anti-nuclear activist impersonates Vladimir Putin at a rally in Berlin.

Yves Bourdillon

-Analysis-

PARISVladimir Putin could “go nuclear” in Ukraine. Yes, this expression, which metaphorically means “taking the extreme, drastic action,” is now literally considered a possibility as well. Cornered and humiliated by a now plausible military defeat, experts say the Kremlin could launch a tactical nuclear bomb on a Ukrainian site in a desperate attempt to turn the tables.

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In any case, this is what Putin — who put Russia's nuclear forces on alert just after the start of the invasion in late February — is aiming to achieve: to terrorize populations in Western countries to push their leaders to let go of Ukraine.

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