Indian farmers shocked observers Tuesday when it was announced foodgrain production increased despite a massive drought hitting the country, reflecting the resiliency of India’s agriculture sector.
The Agriculture Ministry estimates the country will produce 252.23 million metric tons of foodgrains despite the drought impacting 11 Indian states. It’s something that was unthinkable just a few decades ago when mass starvation was the result of massive droughts.
India’s resilience to the current drought reflects a growing trend around the world. Famines are no longer the problem they used to be, according to those who study global hunger, and massive famines affecting millions of people have all but disappeared.
“Indeed it is all too easy to overlook historic, but unheralded achievements of the last 50 years: the elimination of calamitous famines (those that cause more than 1 million deaths) and the reduction almost to a vanishing point of great famines, or those that cause more than 100,000 deaths,” Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, wrote in a 2015 report on world hunger.
Prominent academics believed in the 1960s that mankind was on the brink of mass starvation, as rapid population growth outstripped the ability to feed ourselves. Apocalyptic biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote in his 1968 book “The Population Bomb” that:
The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programmes embarked upon now.
Ehrlich wasn’t alone. William and Paul Braddock, brothers, released a book in 1967 called “Famine, 1975!” that predicted humans would outstrip their ability to feed themselves by 1975. The book predicted the U.S. would be able to feed some poor countries, but forced to choose which countries starved because food would be so scarce.
White House science czar John Holdren was also among the apocalyptics. Holdren co-authored a 1969 essay with Ehrlich where they argued “man’s present technology is inadequate to the task of maintaining the world’s burgeoning billions, even under the most optimistic assumptions.”
“No effort to expand the carrying capacity of the Earth can keep pace with unbridled population growth,” they wrote.