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Nations and Decisionmakers Not Preparing For The Singularity Will Fall Behind!

This may be one of the most important articles you have read for preparing yourself and helping your nation prepare for the earth-changing technology shock coming in your lifetime.

Gesture recognition enables humans to communicate with the machine and interact naturally without any mechanical devices. Photo shows a child being sensed by a simple gesture recognition algorithm detecting hand location and movement.

‘We stand on the threshold of the most profound and transformative event in the history of humanity, the “Singularity” ‘, declared Ray Kurzweil, probably the savviest scientific visionary today.

The Singularity is the sooncoming era – expected to begin in the next 10 to 25 years, as estimated by scientists, when technological progress will happen so fast that the daily life of every man and woman on earth will be drastically and irreversibly altered in ways that the best of human minds can hardly even contemplate today.

There are leaders in many nations today who haven’t the faintest clue what awaits them and their nation in their lifetime. Their unpreparedness is actually making their nations at great risk of being left behind and at the mercy of those nations that foresaw the paradigm shifts about to overtake them and acted swiftly to cope with them.

Says Ray Kurzweil:

‘This merger of man and machine, coupled with the sudden explosion in machine intelligence and rapid innovation in the fields of gene research as well as nanotechnology, will result in a world where there is no distinction between the biological and the mechanical, or between physical and virtual reality. These technological revolutions will allow us to transcend our frail bodies with all their limitations. Illness, as we know it, will be eradicated. Through the use of nanotechnology, we will be able to manufacture almost any physical product upon demand, world hunger and poverty will be solved, and pollution will vanish. Human existence will undergo a quantum leap in evolution. We will be able to live as long as we choose. The coming into being of such a world is, in essence, the Singularity.’1

When is the Singularity expected to explode upon the world? It’s closer than most people in the world realize.

According to Kurzweil, by the mid to late 2020s, the effects of the nanotech and genetic revolution will be felt globally in every society. It will affect your life and mine drastically, if we are going to be around for another decade or so. It will radically transform the way we work, play and rest. At the end of the 2030s, artificial intelligence (AI) will exceed human intelligence – it means, in layman’s language, a robot will be more intelligent than even the brainiest human scientist in the world then. And when that happens, what’s the need for human beings in most of the workplaces and offices today?

The Singularity will be the single greatest work, lifestyle – and let me emphasize this – government system altering event since society began, far exceeding the impact of the industrial revolution, or the discovery of electricity, or the invention of the computer, or the institution of democracy.

Consider the implications of a society where AI is vastly superior to BI (brain intelligence).

Probably the immediate impact would be felt by both white- and blue-collar workers. Most of what they do now with their human brains and hands can be done much better by robots with intelligence and capabilities far exceeding those of humans. Present professional skills will become redundant. Society will have to discover new uses for human input.

Another area that will see amazing advances is the human body itself.

With the use of AI, medical science will be able to redesign and rebuild – molecule by molecule – our bodies and brains, so as to eliminate many diseases and increase the capacity of the human brain. But note this, scientists also admit that no matter how much we can improve human intelligence, BI will never reach a stage where it will be able to match the capability of AI. In the words of Hans Moravec of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, man will always be ‘second-class robots’. Let me remind you that we are talking of events that are expected to happen within one or two decades from now!

How prepared is your nation for this greatest event in the sociological, political and cultural history of the world?

Now, what is the reason that most government authorities are not as earnest as the AI technologists in anticipating the advent of the Singularity?

Since the beginning of history until this generation, our forbears expected life and society to remain much the same as it had always been, with just improvements to what had already been invented and discovered. Even the industrial revolution was a culmination of generations of innovative developments in mechanics. But the technological developments since the invention of the computer and the internet (with satellite tv also contributing in a major way) suddenly altered the way people had worked and lived for generations until then. Many nations were simply unprepared and neglected taking drastic steps to prepare for the historic changes that began to sweep society, the homes and the workplaces globally. I remember with sadness that in my own state the decisionmakers did not have the prescience to grasp the opportunities that came their way to make their state the leader in the nation’s IT revolution. When computers first made their tentative appearance in my state’s offices, they were violently resisted. A local newspaper, decades later, reported,

‘Reminiscing about how the first computer installed in the government sector a decade back was brutally smashed and broken by agitators who called it “an enemy of the unemployed youths”, the chief minister said these very computers are going to bring employment in the country.’

The opportunities that came first to my state eventually went to some other states and these states today are the locales of the globally renowned IT centers in this country.

Drastic change, for the common leader, is not easy to accept, if they think it is going to disrupt the way they have been working and thinking all the past years. When calculators first made their way into offices in my state in the 70s, there was a huge outcry among many political leaders that it would adversely affect the economy of the state as fewer human calculators would be needed to be employed as a result. But nobody could sweep away the avalanche of calculators falling onto the office desktops (desktops once used to mean the top of an office desk). Then came the conquest of the workplaces by the computers, then came satellite tv…and then on nobody wanted to watch the state-run dreary channels anymore. New innovative minds had to quickly replace ossified and job-secured government employees producing the same old programs for a helpless audience who had no choice of channels. The technological advance on various fronts was so forceful and global that no government could stop this juggernaut from rolling through the midst of their people and disrupting everything that had been remaining unshaken for generations and centuries.

I repeat the crucial question: What is the reason that most government authorities are not as earnest as the AI technologists in anticipating the advent of the Singularity? The answer can be nutshelled in one sentence: They, in the words of Ray Kurzweil, couldn’t understand the ‘quickening nature of technological innovation’. Or in other words, they continue to think of progress in the linear perspective and not in the exponential perspective.

Says Ray Kurzweil, ‘I emphasize the exponential-versus-linear perspective because it’s the most important failure that prognosticators make in considering future trends.’

This failure of perspective is the biggest reason why most government leaders in the past were caught unprepared for the massive paradigm shifts that happened as a result of the IT revolution, and why most government leaders today are not doing enough to prepare for the imminent incredible changes in both government functioning and societal requirements.

If you are a government decisionmaker, your refusal to transcend your linear perspective will prove in a few years time to be your biggest failure in preparing your citizens to successfully cope with the coming paradigm shifts in the way they work and live. If you are a corporate leader, this failure will mean that your business is swiftly headed in the direction of becoming a dinosaur within a decade or two.

Photo Courtesy:  Sarah Worthy –

Courtesy: Sarah Worthy –

So what’s linear and exponential perspectives?

Until about the beginning of the 20th century, human progress since the first man took his first breath was anticipated and experienced at a slow and unnoticeable rate. Our ancestors expected the future to resemble what they had already experienced with some obvious advancements here and there. The bow and arrow, for example, that the first hunter (possibly Nimrod, the founder of Babylon) used wasn’t much different from what William the Conqueror’s archer used in downing King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings more than 5000 years later. Some paradigm shift occurred when gunpowder was discovered. Then again, progress continued from this new line. The balls fired from the cannons used in the battle of Gettysburg went a further distance than did the iron shots of George Washington’s time, but followed basically the same technology…until the cannonballs were replaced by shells. Artillery development took a new turn from that point.

The pace of linear development in the military sphere was also the pace of progress in all other areas of human endeavor. Until the 20th century.

Beginning around the turn of the 20th century, the rate of change saw a sudden acceleration. Technological expansion which had been had been linear until then – that is, expanding by additions of a constant, say, a machine capable of producing 10 units improves to 20, then to 30, 40 and so on – suddenly became exponential, that is, expanding by multiplication of a constant, 10 units becomes 100, then 10,000, then 1,00,000,000 units, in the same period of time that a linear expansion took to produce 40 units.

But so far the rate of the exponential change itself remained low; nevertheless high enough to turn many traders in my town to switch from using mainly the bullock-cart driven country roads to trafficking mainly on the global cyber highways in just about 30 years. Now what is happening is that the rate of exponential progress itself has become exponential.

The exponential growth that the 20th century saw in its 100 years was achievable in just 20 years at the rate of the exponential growth experienced in the year 2000! But that rate of change seen in 2000 has kept increasing, so much so that in just 14 years (by 2014) we would have achieved as much as the entire 20th century did. The exponential rate will keep increasing so that in just 7 years from 2014, that is, by 2021, technology will achieve as much as it achieved in the 100 years of the 20th century. To sum up, it is estimated that the 100 years of our present century will see the equivalent of 20,000 years of progress at today’s rate. But note carefully, it is 20,000 years at today’s rate. But today’s rate is also increasing exponentially, so the actual progress will be much, much more!

Because the common man, and government leaders in general, have not really grasped, not that the present progress is exponential, but that the rate of exponential progress itself is accelerating, they are going to be shaken to the core of their beings by what’s going to happen to their lives and their countries in the very near future. The social, cultural, political and technological scenarios that are coming in their very lifetimes will stun them all beyond belief.

Here are some of the scenarios, for your personal and professional preparation, based on the estimates of scientists such as Ray Kurzweil.

Beginning in about 10 years, society will be radically transformed by tremendous changes in three related areas of human endeavor – genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics. These transformation will usher in the Singularity.

By the year 2020, the genetic revolution will happen in full swing globally. Nanomedicine researchers predict that by then 50 percent of naturally occurring medical problems will be eliminated, and that will cause human life expectancy to jump within one generation to 150 years. When we able to prevent 90 percent of naturally occurring medical problems, we’d live to be more than 1,000 years old.

In the field of nanotechnology, even more amazing changes are predicted for the near future. With nanotechnology, scientists will be able to rebuild our physical world, including our bodies and brains, molecule by molecule, atom by atom. (estimated date, 2020s)

An exciting application of nanotechnology is in the administration of medication into the body to fight diseases. Nanoparticles, controlled wirelessly from outside the body, can navigate drugs inside the body and release them in specific locations where treatment is required. Once they reach the targeted areas, they will destroy pathogens, correct DNA errors, eliminate toxins, and perform many other tasks to eliminate disease and rectify damage. Man’s average lifespan, consequently, will increase dramatically to several centuries.

And now they are on the verge of being able to carry out cloning processes that can replace damaged and aging cells and organs. Got a damaged heart? No probs, just get it replaced with a brand new clone of it. Somebody lost a limb in an accident? Nothing to panic. He or she can have their hand or leg back as good as, or even better than the old one.

How long before this clone replacement becomes common practice in hospitals? The report is that they are ‘on the verge’. According to Kurzweil, ‘by the mid to late 2020s, the effects of the nanotech revolution will be wide spread and obvious’.

Nations-and-Leaders-3The most earth-changing application of the nanotechnology, expected around 2030, will be the merger of human mind and machine intelligence, which will ‘greatly boost our pattern-recognition abilities, memories, and overall thinking capacity, as well as to directly interface with powerful forms of computer intelligence. The technology will also provide wireless communication from one brain to another’.

Wireless communication from one brain to another? That’s telepathy! The age of being able to communicate with other human beings just by thinking is almost upon us! We are talking about events that will break upon the world in our lifetime – in the next 15 to 20 years!

Of all the technological revolutions that will mark the Singularity, it is Artificial Intelligence – robotics – that will rise to be the most life-impacting and world-changing event in modern man’s history.

By the end of this century, computer intelligence will be ‘trillions of trillions’ of times more powerful than biological brain capability. Robots will share knowledge and communicate with one another far more efficiently than can humans. Distinction between human and machine will become blurred, as more and more human functions are taken controlled by AI that will display human characteristics.

Entertainment and travel will enter a new dimension – all within the home itself. During the 2020s, our bodies will be able to experience ‘full-immersion virtual-reality environments’ – that is experience a simulated place or activity with all our senses. And, by the 2040s, it will not be a virtual experience; we will be able to do it in full reality. AI and nanotechnology can create any product, any situation, any environment that we can imagine at will!

What are the unknown implications of the awesome advancement in AI for governments and individuals? Already there are organizations that are working to prevent intelligent technology from overriding human control. One of them is the Foresight Institute, for technologists who agree to relinquish the development of machines that can self-replicate without the aid of humans and which can override outside influence.

‘As the Singularity approaches, we will have to reconsider our ideas about the nature of human life and redesign our human institutions. Intelligence on and around Earth will continue to expand exponentially until we reach the limits of matter and energy to support intelligent computation. As we approach this limit in our corner of the galaxy, the intelligence of our civilization will expand outward into the rest of the universe, quickly reaching the fastest speed possible. We understand that speed to be the speed of light, but there are suggestions that we may be able to circumvent this apparent limit (conceivably by taking shortcuts through ‘wormholes’, or hypothetical shortcuts through space and time.)’   Ray Kurzweil 

Says scientist Damien Broderick:

‘We will live forever; or we will all perish most horribly; our minds will emigrate to cyberspace, and start the most ferocious overpopulation race ever seen on the planet; or our machines will transcend and take us with them, or leave us in some peaceful backwater where the meek shall inherit the Earth. Or something else, something far weirder and…unimaginable.’

Leaders in government must change their whole attitude about the future of their country. Unless they are constantly at the edge of awareness of what’s happening in technology, they will be like the leaders in many countries who were caught unprepared when the computer and telecommunications technology began to sweep through their countries.

For example, one such government kept on expanding their wired telephone services for the public until the cell phone revolution swept away all their landline policies to oblivion. In another sector, they worked to improve their programs on national telecast channels until, with the coming of satellite transmission, nobody in their right visual senses wanted to watch them anymore and preferred more interesting private channels. Then, belatedly, they began to adopt to the new paradigms in public service, but not before the public was lured away to the services overtaken by enterprising private business.

Typewriter manufacturers kept making ever more innovative typewriters. Makers of fountain pens, camera film rolls, mastercrafted Swiss chronometers, and other innumerable such presently almost obsolescent stuff kept on adding innovative feature upon feature to their products. Until the global explosion of a totally new invention in their industry suddenly smattered to smithereens all they had worked and lived for until then. Where’s Remington, whose typewriters were once the preferred choice in government and corporate offices, today? Where’s the once-ubiquitous Kodak today?

‘During most of the 20th century Kodak held a dominant position in photographic film, and in 1976 had a 90 percent market share of photographic film sales in the United States. The company’s ubiquity was such that its tagline ‘Kodak moment’ entered the common lexicon to describe a personal event that demanded to be recorded for posterity. Kodak began to struggle financially in the late 1990s as a result of the decline in sales of photographic film and its slowness in transitioning to digital photography, despite having invented the core technology used in current digital cameras. In January 2012, Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In February 2012, Kodak announced that it would cease making digital cameras, pocket video cameras and digital picture frames. In August 2012, Kodak announced the intention to sell its photographic film, commercial scanners and kiosk operations as a measure to emerge from bankruptcy. Kodak sold many of its patents to a group of companies, including Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, Adobe Systems and HTC.’   Wikipedia. Emphasis mine.

Sad. It’s not that they were unaware of what was coming. They were aware of the all emerging technologies that could obsolete their products, but never imagined that it would come so fast, that it would sweep away their world so suddenly and so thoroughly.

The most earth-changing application of the nanotechnology, expected around 2030, will be the merger of human mind and machine intelligence.

Not many governments are readying themselves sufficiently for the sooncoming paradigms in governance. But you, as a professional or a decisionmaker, can do many things to be fully prepared at the individual level.

The one global progress you should watch more alertly than any other development is Artificial Intelligence. This is the one technology that will soon radically change your personal life, your family life, your professional life, and everything else in your life.

Let me end this message with a true anecdote, one which I was a personal witness to.

Bjorn Borg was the greatest tennis player the world had seen in his time. Players then used only wooden rackets. There was no television in my land in those days for me to enjoy his matches, but I read in the newspapers with interest all I could about his matches. Then, in the prime of his glory, Borg decided to quit.

In the years following his retirement, the tennis equipment industry underwent a transformation. For the first 100 years of the modern game, rackets were of wood and of standard size, and strings were of animal gut. Then came rackets made of composites of carbon graphite, with synthetic strings that match the feel of gut yet with added durability. These modern materials enabled the production of rackets that yielded more power and dexterity. When Borg decided to reemerge as a professional player some years later, he came on court…with an wooden racket! All of Borg’s greater dexterity with the traditional racket was no match for the sheer power of the graphite rackets that all the other players used. Of course, Borg was speedily forced back into retirement after a few inglorious match.

I hope those mental factors that caused Borg to overlook the revolution transpiring in the tennis world will not cloud your alertness and that you will keep yourself in constant anticipation of awesome developments in Artificial Intelligence – developments that will change the fundamental way that every profession, every industry, and every government functions today. And I hope that you will do all in your power to influence decisionmakers in your nation’s government to ready your country for the greatest transformation in human history.


Pappa Joseph


1 ’Reinventing humanity: the future of human-machine intelligence’ –




A Bright Future for Cocoa Farmers

Worldwide consumption of cocoa products continues to grow at about 2-3 percent or 60,000-90,000 MT per year. This includes steady growth in the area of dark chocolates, which command premium prices. Projections show global production remaining behind the increasing demand, indicating that there is a clear need for expanded production of higher quality cocoa.


Cocoa grows well in the interspaces between coconut that otherwise is unused land. Cocoa is less labor intensive compared to many other horticultural crops. This enables a farmer to earn an additional income without much investment on inputs and labor and without any investment on land.

Another very important aspect of cocoa is that it is a perennial crop with peaks in April to June and September to November enabling the farmer to earn during monsoon while there is no other income from his farm.

Cocoa Makes Brains Work Better

In an increasingly aging world, medical researchers are seeing more cases of dementia and are looking for ways to make brains work better. One potential source of help may be flavanols, an antioxidant found in cocoa beans that can increase blood flow to the brain, researchers said. A nice cup of the right kind of cocoa could hold the promise of promoting brain function as people age.

Ian MacDonald of University of Nottingham reported on tests given to young women who were asked to do a complex task while their brains were being studied with magnetic resonance imaging.

Among the women given drinks of cocoa high in flavanols, there was a significant increase in blood flow to the brain compared with subjects who did not drink the cocoa.

This raises the prospect of using flavanols in the treatment of dementia, which is marked by decreased blood flow in the brain, and in maintaining overall cardiovascular health. But the cocoa typically sold in markets is low in flavanols, which usually are removed because they impart a bitter taste.

Norman Hollenberg of Harvard Medical School said he found similar health benefits in the Cuna Indian tribe in Panama. They drink cocoa exclusively.

Hollenberg, an expert in blood pressure, studied the Cuna because those who live on native islands do not have high blood pressure. He said he found that when tribe members move to cities, their blood pressure rises. A major difference is the consumption of their own prepared cocoa, which is high in flavanols. In native areas, that is all they drink; in cities they adopt the local diet.

In addition to having low blood pressure there are no reports of dementia among the native Cuna.

‘I see a bright future for cocoa’, Hollenberg said.

Older men in the Netherlands who ate the equivalent of one-third of a chocolate bar every day had lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of death.

Researchers at San Diego State University concluded that dark chocolate may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving glucose levels and lipid profiles.




Governments, Prioritize the Mass Cultivation of Moringa Tree!

The moringa oleifera tree is one of the ways that God is showing mercy to the world he created, not only for the present times but especially for the coming years when the greatest famine in history sweeps through the entire earth. A coming global famine of unprecedented intensity and scope has been forecast by several researchers1; interestingly, it is a major theme in some prophetic scriptures such as the Bible,  which warns of a worldwide famine that will destroy a great percentage of all humanity – billions of people!2

Photo Courtesy:  Tony

Courtesy: Tony

According to Bread for the World, 1.2 billion people on this planet are malnourished, and this number is increasing each year!3 That’s 15 percent of the world’s population, and many of these are children. In fact, every day 16,000 children die from hunger related causes.

Leaders over the nations, and those in positions of authority where they could implement local agricultural projects, should therefore, urgently embark on preparation works which could reduce the suffering of their people during the years of the great famine.

Mass cultivation of the moringa oleifera tree is among the best preparations for the days of hunger. These tiny leaves could potentially save billions of lives in the future, and end the malnutrition of hundreds of millions of people today and the starvation deaths of tens of thousands of children every year. These nutritious leaves can be dried and powdered for future use and will keep for months without refrigeration.

The moringa leaf has 7 times the vitamin C of oranges; 4 times the vitamin A of carrots; 4 times the calcium of milk; 3 times the potassium of bananas; 2 times the protein of yoghurt – nature’s gift to those who cannot afford the luxury foods that contain these vital nutrients.

Again, as the Creator’s act of mercy, the amazing thing about moringa is that it grows in almost exactly in the same places where it is needed most, where malnutrition is most prevalent.

The pods, or drumsticks, are useful at several stages as they grow and mature. The immature pods are cooked and eaten like green beans or used in a stir fry. The diced pods can also be roasted, boiled or steamed as you would okra. The flowers and buds can be eaten raw or cooked, and bees make a delightful honey from their nectar.

The seeds contain about 30-35 percent edible vegetable oil. They can be harvested when at the ‘green bean’ stage and cooked like you would peas. When mature and left to dry, they can be stored for over a year and cooked as you would dried beans.

A sweet tasting oil can be extracted from moringa seeds in a simple press and used for cooking, lubrication, soaps and cosmetic creams. Because the oil burns without smoke, it’s also ideal for lamps and cook stoves. Moringa oleifera produces a heavy crop of these seeds, sometimes amounting to 200 to 300 pounds per mature tree.

Experts say moringa could become a valuable food source and nutritional supplement for malnourished children and pregnant mothers in the developing world. A study conducted in Senegal examined how successful moringa leaf powder could be in preventing or curing malnutrition in pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, and children. The results showed that the children maintained or increased their weight, and the women were less anemic and gave birth to healthier babies.

Moringa’s miraculous benefits are not limited to nutrition.

A billion people across Asia, Africa, and Latin America are estimated to rely on untreated surface water for their daily needs. Of these, two million are thought to die from diseases caught from contaminated water every year, with the majority of these deaths occurring among children under five years of age.

Moringa seed powder can be used as a quick and simple method for cleaning dirty surface water. Studies showed that this simple method of filtering not only diminishes water pollution, but also harmful bacteria. The moringa powder joins with the solids in the water and sinks to the bottom. This treatment also removes 90-99% of bacteria contained in water.

Is there any other food source as beneficial to man as the moringa oleifera and which has the same potential to save masses of people from starvation and malnutrition?

The wise government will keep mass cultivation of this miracle tree among its top agricultural priorities.


Pappa Joseph


 1 See article in this section, ‘The Century of Famine‘ by Peter Goodchild. Among other researchers who predict a global famine are researchers from the University of Leeds who warn that a globally disastrous reduction in crop yields may happen as early as 2030 due to increasing global temperatures.

‘Teacher, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that these things are about to take place?’ He said…There will be great earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places.’  ‘A quart of wheat will cost a day’s pay and three quarts of barley will cost a day’s pay’  Luke 21:7-1; Revelation 6:6 New English Translation





The Century Of Famine

By Peter Goodchild


Humanity has struggled to survive through the millennia in terms of balancing population size with food supply. The same is true now, but population numbers have been soaring for over a century. The limiting factor has been hidden, but this factor – oil and natural gas, or petroleum – is close to or beyond its peak extraction. Without ample, free-flowing petroleum, it will not be possible to support a population of several billion for long.

‘Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. The official at the border (California-Arizona) inspection service said that on this day, August 17, 1936, twenty-three car loads and truck loads of migrant families out of the drought counties of Oklahoma and Arkansas had passed through that station entering California up to 3 o’clock in the afternoon.’

Famine caused by petroleum supply failure alone will result in about 2.5 billion above-normal deaths before the year 2050; lost and averted births will amount to roughly an equal number.

In terms of its effects on daily human life, the most significant aspect of fossil-fuel depletion will be the lack of food. ‘Peak oil’ is basically ‘peak food’. Modern agriculture is highly dependent on fossil fuels for fertilizers (the Haber Bosch process combines natural gas with atmospheric nitrogen to produce nitrogen fertilizer), pesticides, and the operation of machines for irrigation, harvesting, processing, and transportation.

Without fossil fuels, modern methods of food production will disappear, and crop yields will be far less than at present. Crop yields are far lower in societies that do not have fossil fuels or modern machinery. We should therefore have no illusions that several billion humans can be fed by ‘organic gardening’ or anything else of that nature.

The Green Revolution involved, among other things, the development of higher-yielding crops. These new varieties, however, could be grown only with large inputs of fertilizer and pesticides, all of which required fossil fuels. In essence, the Green Revolution was little more than the invention of a way to turn petroleum into food.

Over the next few decades, therefore, there will be famine on a scale many times larger than ever before in human history. It is possible, of course, that warfare and plague will take their toll to a large extent before famine claims its victims. The distinctions, in any case, can never be absolute: often ‘war + drought = famine’3, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, but there are several other combinations of factors.

Although, when discussing theories of famine, economists generally use the term ‘neo-malthusian’ in a derogatory manner, the coming famine will be very much a case of an imbalance between population and resources. The overwhelming cause of the imbalance and famine will be fossil-fuel depletion, not government policy (as in the days of Stalin or Mao), warfare, ethnic discrimination, bad weather, poor methods of distribution, inadequate transportation, livestock diseases, or any of the other variables that have often turned mere hunger into genuine starvation.

The increase in the world’s population has followed a simple curve: from about 1.7 billion in 1900 to about 6.1 billion in 2000. A quick glance at a chart of world population growth, on a broader time scale, shows a line that runs almost horizontally for thousands of years, and then makes an almost vertical ascent as it approaches the present. That is not just an amusing curiosity. It is a shocking fact that should have awakened humanity to the realization that something is dreadfully wrong.

Graph Courtesy: Paul Chefurka, May 2007

Courtesy: Paul Chefurka, May 2007

Mankind is always prey to its own ‘exuberance’, to use Catton’s term2. That has certainly been true of population growth. In many cultures, ‘Do you have any children?’ or, ‘How many children do you have?’ is a form of greeting or civility almost equivalent to ‘How do you do?’ or, ‘Nice to meet you’. World population growth, nevertheless, has always been ecologically hazardous. The destruction of the environment reaches back into the invisible past, and the ruination of land, sea, and sky has been well described if not well heeded. But what is even less frequently noted is that with every increase in human numbers we are only barely able to keep up with the demand: providing all those people with food and water has not been easy. We are always pushing ourselves to the limits of Earth’s ability to hold us.

Even that is an understatement. No matter how much we depleted our resources, there was always the sense that we could somehow ‘get by’. But in the late twentieth century we stopped getting by. It is important to differentiate between production in an ‘absolute’ sense and production ‘per capita’. Although oil production, in ‘absolute’ numbers, kept climbing — only to decline in the early twenty-first century — what was ignored was that although that ‘absolute’ production was climbing, the production ‘per capita’ reached its peak in 19791.

The unequal distribution of resources plays a part, of course. The average inhabitant of the United States consumes far more than the average inhabitant of India or China. Nevertheless, if all the world’s resources were evenly distributed, the result would only be universal poverty. It is the totals and the averages of resources that we must deal with in order to determine the totals and averages of results. For example, if all of the world’s arable land were distributed evenly, in the absence of mechanized agriculture each person on the planet would have an inadequate amount of farmland for survival: distribution would have accomplished very little.

We were always scraping the edges of the earth, but we are now entering a far more dangerous era. The main point to keep in mind, however, is that throughout the twentieth century, oil production and human population were so closely integrated that every barrel of oil had an effect on human numbers. While population has been going up, so has oil production.

Future excess mortality can therefore be determined ― at least in a rough-and-ready manner ― by the fact that in modern industrial society it is oil supply that determines how many people can be fed. An increase in oil production leads to an increase in population, and a decrease in oil production leads to a decrease in population.

In round numbers, global oil production in the year 2008 was 30 billion barrels, and the population was 7 billion. The consensus is that in the year 2050 oil production will be about 2 billion barrels. The same amount of oil production occurred in the year 1930, when the population was 2 billion. The population in 2050 will therefore be about the same as in 1930: 2 billion. The difference between 7 billion people and 2 billion is 5 billion, which will therefore be the total number of famine deaths and lost or averted births for that period.

Passers-by and the corpse of a starved man on a street in Kharkiv during the famine in Ukraine, 1932.

Passers-by and the corpse of a starved man on a street in Kharkiv during the famine in Ukraine, 1932.

We can also determine the annual number of famine deaths and lost or averted births. From 2008 to 2050 is 42 years. The average annual difference in population is therefore 5 billion divided by 42, which is about 120 million.

It is quite possible, however, that the decline in population will not exactly parallel the decline in oil. In other words, the peak of the population curve may well be a few years later than the peak of the oil curve. People might simply live with less oil per capita for a few decades, i.e. they will just sink further into poverty, with greater problems of malnutrition. In fact, as long ago as 1972, the first edition of The Limits to Growth in its Figure 35, ‘World Model Standard Run’, showed a 40-year gap between the peak production of food per capita and the peak of population7.

Many of those annual 120 million will not actually be deaths; famine will cause a lowering of the birth rate. This will sometimes happen voluntarily, as people realize they lack the resources to raise children, or it will happen involuntarily when famine and general ill health result in infertility4. In most famines the number of deaths from starvation or from starvation-induced disease is very roughly the same as the number of lost or averted births3,4. In Ireland’s nineteenth-century famine, for example, the number of famine deaths was 1.3 million, whereas the number of lost births was 0.4 million. The number of famine deaths during China’s Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) was perhaps 30 million, and the number of lost births was perhaps 33 million.

The ‘normal’, non-famine-related, birth and death rates are not incorporated into the above future population figures, since for most of pre-industrial human history the sum of the two — i.e. the growth rate — has been nearly zero. If not for the problem of resource-depletion, in other words, the future birth rate and death rate would be nearly identical, as they were in pre-industrial times. And there is no question that the future will mean a return to the ‘pre-industrial’.

Nevertheless, it will often be hard to separate ‘famine deaths’ from a rather broad category of ‘other excess deaths’. War, disease, global warming, topsoil deterioration, and other factors will have unforeseeable effects of their own. Considering the unusual duration of the coming famine, and with Leningrad5 as one of many precursors, cannibalism may be significant; to what extent should this be included in a calculation of ‘famine deaths’? It is probably safe to say, however, that an unusually large decline in the population of a country will be the most significant indicator that this predicted famine has in fact arrived.

These figures obliterate all previous estimates of future population growth. Instead of a steady rise over the course of this century, as generally predicted, there will be a clash of the two giant forces of overpopulation and oil depletion, followed by a precipitous ride into the unknown future.

If the above figures are fairly accurate, we are ill-prepared for the next few years. The problem of oil depletion turns out to be something other than a bit of macabre speculation for people of the distant future to deal with, but rather a sudden catastrophe that will only be studied dispassionately long after the event itself has occurred. Doomsday will be upon us before we have time to look at it carefully.

In modern industrial society it is oil supply that determines how many people can be fed.

The world has certainly known some terrible famines in the past, of course. In recent centuries, one of the worst was that of North China in 1876-79, when between 9 and 13 million died, but India had a famine at the same time, with perhaps 5 million deaths. The Soviet Union had famine deaths of about 5 million in 1932-34, purely because of political policies. The worst famine in history was that of China’s Great Leap Forward, 1958-61, when perhaps 30 million died, as mentioned above.

A close analogy to ‘petroleum famine’ may be Ireland’s potato famine of the 1840s, since — like petroleum — it was a single commodity that caused such devastation6. The response of the British government at the time can be summarized as a jumble of incompetence, frustration, and indecision, if not outright genocide. ‘There is such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting on them is always desirable’, wrote Sir Robert Peel in 1845. By 1847 the description had changed: ‘Bodies half-eaten by rats were an ordinary sight; “two dogs were shot while tearing a body to pieces.” ’

The news of the coming famine might not be announced with sufficient clarity. Famines tend to be back-page news nowadays, perhaps for the very reason that they are too common to be worth mentioning. Although Ó Gráda speaks of ‘making famine history’6, the reality is that between 70 and 80 million people died of famine in the twentieth century, far more than in any previous century4.

The above predictions can be nothing more than approximate, of course, but even the most elaborate mathematics will not entirely help us to deal with the great number of interacting factors. We need to swing toward a more pessimistic figure for humanity’s future if we include the effects of war, disease, and so on. The most serious negative factor will be largely sociological: To what extent can the oil industry maintain the advanced technology required for drilling ever-deeper wells in ever-more-remote places, when that industry will be struggling to survive in a milieu of social chaos? Intricate division of labor, large-scale government, and high-level education will no longer exist.

On the other hand, there are elements of optimism that may need to be plugged in. For one thing, there is what might be called the ‘inertia factor’: the planet Earth is so big that even the most catastrophic events take time for their ripples to finish spreading. An asteroid fragment 10 kilometers wide hit eastern Mexico 65 million years ago, but enough of our distant ancestors survived that we ourselves are alive today to tell the story.

Somewhat related, among optimistic factors, is the sheer tenacity of the human species: we are intelligent social creatures living at the top of the food chain, in the manner of wolves, yet we outnumber wolves worldwide by about a million to one; we are as populous as rats or mice. We can outrace a horse over long distances. Even with Stone-Age technology, we can inhabit almost every environment on Earth, even if most of the required survival skills have been forgotten.

Specifically, we must consider the fact that neither geography nor population is homogeneous. All over the world, there are forgotten pockets of habitable land, much of it abandoned in the modern transition to urbanization, for the ironic reason that city dwellers regarded rural life as too difficult, as they traded their peasant smocks for factory overalls. There are still areas of the planet’s surface that are sparsely occupied although they are habitable or could be made so, to the extent that many rural areas have had a decline in population that is absolute, i.e. not merely relative to another place or time. By careful calculation, therefore, there will be survivors. Over the next few years, human ingenuity must be devoted to an understanding of these geographic and demographic matters, so that at least a few can escape the tribulation. Neither the present nor future generations should have to say, ‘We were never warned’.


Peter Goodchild is the author of ‘Survival Skills of the North American Indians’, published by Chicago Review Press. His email address is:

1. BP Global Statistical Review of World Energy. Annual.
2. Catton, William R., Jr. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1982.
3. Devereux, Stephen. “Famine in the Twentieth Century.” IDS Working Paper 105.
4. Ó Gráda, Cormac. “Making Famine History.” Journal of Economic Literature, March 2007.
5. Salisbury, Harrison E. The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press, 2003.
6. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849. New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1962.
7. Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis L. Meadows and William W. Behrens III. The Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books, 1972.




Potato Can Relieve World Hunger


As wheat and rice prices surge, the humble potato – long derided as a boring tuber prone to making you fat – is being rediscovered as a nutritious crop that could cheaply feed an increasingly hungry world.

Potatoes has come a long way from its original cultivation in the Peruvian Andes several thousand years ago. Now, about 350 million tons are grown each year, making potatoes the world’s third most-important food crop after wheat and rice.

With the world population expected to grow to 10 billion by 2050 and with most of that growth in the developing world, the need for a nutritious and fast-growing food is more critical than ever. A good source of nutrients like vitamin C and potassium and virtually fat free, the potato is also smart.

‘It’s one of the most efficient ways to convert seed, land, and water into nutrients for human consumption’, says Lee Frankel, president of the United Potato Growers of America.

‘The potato is a good barometer of developing economies’, says Daniel Gustafson of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization. In Europe, potato production has fallen by 1 percent every year for the past two decades, while the developing world – led by India and China – has been increasing production by some 5 percent a year over the same time.

India has told food experts it wants to double potato production in the next five to 10 years. China, a huge rice consumer that historically has suffered devastating famines, has become the world’s top potato grower. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the potato is expanding more than any other crop right now.

Peru’s leaders, frustrated by a doubling of wheat prices, have started a program encouraging bakers to use potato flour to make bread. Potato bread is being given to school children, prisoners and the military, in the hope the trend will catch on.

Some consumers are switching to potatoes. In the Baltic country of Latvia, sharp price rises caused bread sales to drop by 10-15 percent, as consumers bought 20 percent more potatoes, food producers have said.

The developing world is where most new potato crops are being planted, and as consumption rises poor farmers have a chance to earn more money.

As populations become more urbanized and countries more developed, the demand for fresh potatoes declines and the demand for processed potatoes (chips, french fries, and frozen foods) increases. That means more money for potato crops.

‘The potato allows countries to get more value out of their land, their water, and the time spent cultivating because it can be used in so many ways’, says Gustafson.

Potatoes can be grown at almost any elevation or climate: from the barren, frigid slopes of the Andes Mountains to the tropical flatlands of Asia. They require very little water, mature in as little as 50 days, and can yield between 2 and 4 times more food per hectare than wheat or rice.

‘The shocks to the food supply are very real and that means we could potentially be moving into a reality where there is not enough food to feed the world’, said Pamela Anderson, director of the International Potato Center in Lima, a non-profit scientific group researching the potato family to promote food security.

Like others, she says the potato is part of the solution.

The potato has potential as an antidote to hunger caused by higher food prices, a population that is growing by one billion people each decade, climbing costs for fertilizer and diesel, and more cropland being sown for biofuel production.

Potatoes are a great source of complex carbohydrates, which release their energy slowly, and – so long as they are not smothered with butter – have only five percent of the fat content of wheat.

They also have one-fourth of the calories of bread and, when boiled, have more protein than corn and nearly twice the calcium, according to the Potato Center. They contain vitamin C, iron, potassium and zinc.

Genetically modified potatoes that resist ‘late blight’ are being developed by German chemicals group BASF. The disease led to famine in Ireland during the 19th century and still causes about 20 percent of potato harvest losses in the world, the company says.

Scientists say farmers who use clean, virus-free seeds can boost yields by 30 percent and be cleared for export. That would generate more income for farmers and encourage more production as companies could sell specialty potatoes abroad, instead of just as frozen french fries or potato chips.

For developing countries, potato is an excellent option for both food security and also income generation.




We Can Feed EVERY Hungry Person On Earth If We Want To

There is no tragedy greater than the horror of little children literally starving to death because there is nobody to feed them just a few morsels of bread. The photo of a toddler, crouched in the final pangs of starvation, and waiting to be devoured by a vulture that has sensed his impending death, was so shocking that it moved the whole world.

Photograph by Kevin Carter (13 September 1960 – 27 July 1994). Carter was an award-winning South African photojournalist. He was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph depicting the 1993 famine in Sudan. He committed suicide at the age of 33. Portions of Carter’s suicide note read: ‘I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain…of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners’.

Yet this was only one image. Similar images in other circumstances – of children screaming in unbearable pain of hunger – go unnoticed and unknown to the rest of the world. I wish everyone could hear the groans of starving children and their pleas for a mouthful of food, as I have heard in my travels to countries where innumerable kids in each city go to sleep every night on hungry stomachs. Just to cite one encounter of the uncountable many I have had, I was on my way to board a train in a small city. As I passed by the entrance to the station, I heard the loud wailings of a child, and turning to look, saw a 6 or 7 year old child lying on his mother’s lap. She was sitting on the pavement of the entrance. I stopped and went over to them, and asked the mother why the child was crying.

‘He is asking for food’, the mother said, with a smile of hopelessness.

Normally, in such situations in the past, I had purchased food and handed it to the hungry ones, instead of giving them money. But I had to catch my train, and I gave the mother some money enough to buy food for both. I did the best I could in my jobless situation in those days, but the memory of this encounter still grieves me, 30 years later, and whenever the image of the wailing child comes to mind, I wonder if the mother was able to feed her child with daily bread until he was old enough to get his own food.

I have had too many such heart-excruciating encounters, and these experiences has given me an acute awareness of the real state of this world’s afflicted ones, and a great longing to do something about it. This mission is a result of that great desire to do something to bring daily bread to the hopeless hungry people of the world.

If all the nations in the world had joined hands to fight global hunger, I would not have heard the wailing of a starving child in any of my travels. There would have been no Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of a dying toddler with a waiting vulture in the background. Because, if all the leaders in the world put their heart to it, they can have food to feed the world’s entire population one and a half times over!

Now, here are some eyeopening reports sourced from various media, about the world food situation:

‘Both of the world’s leading authorities on food distribution (the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] and the World Food Programme [WFP]) are very clear: there is more than enough food for everyone on the planet. The FAO neatly summarizes the problem of starvation, saying that “the world currently produces enough food for everybody, but many people do not have access to it.” ’
‘The depth of the global food crisis is best expressed by what poor people are eating to survive.
‘In Burundi, it is farine noir, a mixture of black flour and moldy cassava. In Somalia, a thin gruel made from mashed thorn-tree branches called jerrin. In Haiti, it is a biscuit made of yellow dirt. Food inflation has sparked protests in Egypt, Haiti, Mexico and elsewhere. Tens of thousands protested earlier this month in Mogadishu, as the price of a corn meal rose twofold in four months.
‘And while the crisis seemed to come out of nowhere, the reality of hunger is a regular feature of life for millions of people. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 854 million people worldwide are undernourished.
‘Hunger isn’t simply the result of unpredictable incidents like the cyclone that struck Myanmar. In most cases, millions teeter on the edge of survival long before the natural disasters hit. According to UN Millennium Project Web site, of the 300 million children who go to bed hungry every day, only “8 percent are victims of famine or other emergency situations. More than 90 percent are suffering longterm malnourishment and micronutrient deficiency.”
‘The technology and knowhow exist to make our capacity to produce food even greater – if this were made a priority.
‘The world’s wealthiest countries and their international loan organizations, like the World Bank, have cut money for agricultural research programs. According to the Post, “Adjusting for inflation and exchange rates, the wealthy countries, as a group, cut such donations roughly in half from 1980 to 2006, to $2.8 billion a year from $6 billion. The United States cut its support for agriculture in poor countries to $624 million from $2.3 billion in that period.”
‘International ‘aid’ is organized around the principle not of solving poverty but of making profits – and in the process, it usually leads to more suffering. In Ethiopia, the poverty ‘experts’ at the World Bank forced the country to devote good land not to food crops, but to export crops to sell on the world market. As a result, the famine of the 1980s were made even worse.
‘These crises aren’t aberrations, but are built into the system. A recent Time magazine article grudgingly commented, “The social theories of Karl Marx were long ago discarded as of little value, even to revolutionaries. But he did warn that capitalism had a tendency to generate its own crises.” The Time article was titled ‘How Hunger Could Topple Regimes’.
‘The current system and its warped priorities can’t possibly accomplish something as important as feeding the world’s people. It will take a society organized on a completely different basis to achieve this. If we could harness the resources wasted on the pursuit of profit – including the wars that our government funds around the globe – we could feed the world many times over.’
‘The food crisis appeared to explode overnight, reinforcing fears that there are just too many people in the world. But according to the FAO, with record grain harvests in 2007, there is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone – at least 1.5 times current demand. In fact, over the last 20 years, food production has risen steadily at over 2.0 percent a year, while the rate of population growth has dropped to 1.14 percent a year. Population is not outstripping food supply.’   Eric Holt-Giménez and Loren Peabody – Food First
Photo Courtesy:
‘There is enough food grown in the world for everyone. And yet we remain stuck in a food crisis. Half the world’s food is lost as waste and a billion people – one in every six of the world’s poorest – cannot access enough of the other half and so go hungry every day.
‘The Millennium Development Goal to halve hunger by 2015 will be missed without more action – and now a new pledge will be tabled to eradicate it totally by 2025.
‘To do so, leaders must concentrate on helping poor farmers who have been left to fend for themselves on the front-line of hunger, poverty and climate change. Three out of every four poor people depend on agriculture, so that is where global poverty must be tackled. In addition, small-scale farmers hold the key to increasing global food production in a sustainable way that could cope with climate change. The script is pretty straightforward.
‘All countries must invest more in small-scale agriculture, particularly to women who play a vital role in food security, yet who have less access to land and services and tend to lack political voice. Rich countries must increase their agricultural aid to at least $20 billion a year; it hovers now around 4 percent of overseas development assistance, just under $6 billion. Developing countries must commit more of their national budgets. African countries, for instance, have promised 10 percent of their budgets to agriculture. Vietnam invested heavily in its farming sector when it looked for economic growth and food security, and in 12 years turned itself from a country that had to import much of its food to be a major exporter. Last year poverty in Vietnam fell to below 15 per cent compared with 58 per cent in 1979.
‘This year’s G8 summit pledged $20 billion over three years to poor farmers and consumers. This sounds generous but it equates to just $2 per hungry person per year.
‘However, the problem of hunger and poverty in a climate-changing world will not be solved simply by throwing more money at fertilizer, higher-yielding seeds and big irrigation schemes. These things are important but are not always sustainable or what small-scale farmers actually need. We cannot maintain increased food productivity in a low-carbon and resource-scarce world simply by further intensifying today’s farming industry.
‘Agriculture needs to be rebuilt along entirely different lines and poor farmers and countries made central to that change. Countries must invest in farmer-driven extension schemes and social safety nets to help the poorest people to buy food locally from small-scale farmers and traders.
‘The World Food Summit must hold all governments to their promises. We need an International Public Register of Commitments to monitor every country’s commitments and what they have delivered.’   Oxfam International –

There is enough food grown in the world for everyone. And yet we remain stuck in a food crisis.

‘Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity. For the past two decades, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth. The world already produces more than 1½ times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That’s enough to feed 10 billion people, the population peak we expect by 2050. But the people making less than $2 a day – most of whom are resource-poor farmers cultivating unviably small plots of land – can’t afford to buy this food.
‘In reality, the bulk of industrially-produced grain crops goes to biofuels and confined animal feedlots rather than food for the 1 billion hungry. The call to double food production by 2050 only applies if we continue to prioritize the growing population of livestock and automobiles over hungry people.
‘Agroecological methods that emphasize rich crop diversity in time and space conserve soils and water and have proven to produce the most rapid, recognizable and sustainable results. In areas in which soils have already been degraded by conventional agriculture’s chemical ‘packages’, agroecological methods can increase productivity by 100-300 percent.
‘This is why the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food released a report advocating for structural reforms and a shift to agroecology. It is why the 400 experts commissioned for the four-year International Assessment on Agriculture, Science and Knowledge for Development also concluded that agroecology and locally-based food economies (rather than the global market) where the best strategies for combating poverty and hunger.
‘Raising productivity for resource-poor farmers is one piece of ending hunger, but how this is done – and whether these farmers can gain access to more land – will make a big difference in combating poverty and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. The conventional methods already employed for decades by poor farmers have a poor track record in this regard.’   The Huffington Post –


Pappa Joseph




Bill Gates Urges World: ‘Spend More on Farming’


While most billionaires are engrossed in aggrandizing their empires, some are pausing and rethinking their priorities. Corporate empires and governments can exist only if the ordinary citizen can exist in basic contentment, especially with regard to the provision of daily food. But food is becoming scarcer each year, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for the poorer citizens to nourish themselves with an adequate supply of daily food. Bill Gates, understanding this, declared, “We cannot tolerate a world in which 1 in 7 people is undernourished, stunted, and in danger of starving to death.”

In his annual letter posted on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation website, he wrote:

‘Right now, just over 1 billion people—about 15 percent of the people in the world—live in extreme poverty. On most days, they worry about whether their family will have enough food to eat. There is irony in this, since most of them live and work on farms. The problem is that their farms, which tend to be just a couple acres in size, don’t produce enough food for a family to live on…
‘Despite the rich world’s distance from farming, food-related issues are important for all of us. In the 1960s and 1970s, when I was in high school, people worried that we simply couldn’t grow enough food to feed everyone in the world. A popular book that came out in 1968, The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich, began with the statement: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…” Fortunately, due in large part to the Green Revolution, this dire prediction was wrong.
‘But the world’s success in warding off famine led to complacency. Over time, governments in both developed and developing countries focused less on agriculture. Agricultural aid fell from 17 percent of all aid from rich countries in 1987 to just 4 percent in 2006. In the past 10 years, the demand for food has gone up because of population growth and economic development—as people get richer, they tend to eat more meat, which indirectly raises demand for grain. Supply growth has not kept up, leading to higher prices. Meanwhile, the threat of climate change is becoming clearer. Preliminary studies show that the rise in global temperature alone could reduce the productivity of the main crops by over 25 percent. Climate change will also increase the number of droughts and floods that can wipe out an entire season of crops. More and more people are raising familiar alarms about whether the world will be able to support itself in the future, as the population heads toward a projected 9.7 billion by 2050…
‘We can help poor farmers sustainably increase their productivity so they can feed themselves and their families. By doing so, they will contribute to global food security. But that will happen only if we prioritize agricultural innovation…
‘Given the central role that food plays in human welfare and national stability, it is shocking – not to mention shortsighted and potentially dangerous – how little money is spent on agricultural research. In total, only $3 billion per year is spent on researching the seven most important crops. This includes $1.5 billion spent by countries, $1.2 billion by private companies, and $300 million by an agency called the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Even though the CGIAR money is only 10 percent of the spending, it is critical because it focuses on the needs of poor countries. Very little of the country and private spending goes toward the priorities of small farmers in Africa or South Asia…
‘We have the ability to accelerate this historic progress. We can be more innovative about delivering solutions that already exist to the farmers who need them. Knowledge about managing soil and tools like drip irrigation can help poor farmers grow more food today. We can also discover new approaches and create new tools to fundamentally transform farmers’ lives. But we won’t advance if we don’t continue to fund agricultural innovation, and I am very worried about where those funds will come from in the current economic and political climate.
‘The world faces a clear choice. If we invest relatively modest amounts, many more poor farmers will be able to feed their families. If we don’t, one in seven people will continue living needlessly on the edge of starvation. My annual letter this year is an argument for making the choice to keep on helping extremely poor people build self-sufficiency.
‘My concern is not only about farming; it applies to all the areas of global development and global health in which we work. Using the latest tools—seeds, vaccines, AIDS drugs, and contraceptives, for example—we have made impressive progress. However, if we don’t make these success stories widely known, we won’t generate the funding commitments needed to maintain progress and save lives. At stake are the future prospects of one billion human beings.’

To read the full letter, click HERE.


Pappa Joseph




You Can Buffer Yourself Against Future Pain

Heart to Heart
Personal from Pappa Joseph


Courtesy: Tiyo Prasetyo –

Men and women are born for trouble, as surely as sparks fly upwards, so says an ancient scripture. All the power of positive thinking a person has acquired so he can be in control of his emotional state, all the preparations and precautions he has taken to cushion himself against trouble in his life, all the how-to manuals he has read to be happy and successful – they all fail pathetically when a calamity strikes his life.

I believe that many of you who are reading this have experienced at least once in their life the level of pain or sorrow that nothing at that time could have comforted you or reduced your suffering. You just had to endure it alone until the passage of time softened or healed that deep emotional wound.

The loss of a member of the family, or betrayal by a spouse, or a disaster that wipes out all a person’s carefully laid out plans for life…what can the bereaved, the betrayed, and the victimized really do at such times? Nothing that can alleviate the pain.

Nothing can make a personal calamity go away or reduce its impact on your emotions, but there is certainly something you can do to endure the pain more courageously, which can also help you confront such troubles boldly in the future. That something is the realization that there are still many other things which you havent lost yet, and that you can start redeeming those blessings and opportunities from today on before they too are gone.

When a devastating trouble strikes a person, that person is never the same again for the rest of his or her life. The afflicted man or woman will either become a more understanding, a more patient, and a more appreciative person inside, or he or she becomes an embittered, disgruntled escapist – always fickle, always trying to elude reality by overindulgence in eating and drinking, promiscuity, excessive socializing, or even total seclusion from society.

How will your present trouble – if you are going through one – affect you in the long run?

Are there activities and pursuits in your life which appear so pressing and important today, but which, when a life-shaking disaster occurs, will expose their worthlessness? Does the loss of a job, or the problems at your workplace with some colleague, or an injury done to you by a relative, or the lack of money to do the things you have always wanted to do, cause you a lot of agitation and sleeplessness today?

In comparison, how about the loss of your spouse’s trust in you, or the loss of your child to drugs or to some lifelong debility? How about the death of a childhood friend, or the deprivation of one of your senses – perhaps your sight, or hearing, or mobility?

This may seem like a familiar anecdote, but I have actually whined in the past because I didn’t have an extra pair of shoes, until I actually met and befriended a happy man who couldn’t use his feet. I moaned because I couldn’t live where I wanted to live, until I met a man who hadn’t a place to lay his head down in peace until he was taken to a Cheshire home, where he lived contentedly till he died a few years ago. I fretted because I couldn’t get a better job in my younger days…so I left my kids mostly to themselves as I roamed around for a better opportunity in life…till my children grew up to adulthood without having their dad always near them because dad had crossed the ocean to look for a better job so he could come back home a rich man one day and finally spend some quality time with his kids and buy some quality stuff for them.

Oh, how inconsolable my remorse is, that I had sacrificed several years of my time with my family so I could climb several rungs higher in my profession. It was after my children had grown up and gone away from my nest that I realized my sacrifice was not worth it at all. The rungs on my ladder of success had only led me to a high chamber of heartbreak and regrets.

When all your accomplishments are done, all your dreams fulfilled, and all your energies finally spent, would you look back and remorse in great anguish that all those things which had seemed so important then for a happy life were but ephemeral desires which added nothing to the quality of your life or to your relationship with loved ones.

Or would you look back and rejoice that you had the prescience to know what was really important at all times…your time around your loved ones, your patience with those who exasperated you, your forgiveness for those who offended you, your unswerving commitment to every relationship that came your way – these are absolutely the only things that will stand you in good stead at the final count.

So when pain and sorrow come your way, there’s nothing really you can do to escape the suffering, but you can put them to great use as forceful reminders of your urgent need to focus your life on the remaining blessings in your life before they too pass from you.




The Two Categories of Achievers – You’re In One of Them

Heart to Heart
Personal from Pappa Joseph

Have you observed that all the people on earth who are qualified and skilled workers, and who have achieved a measure of success in their professions, can be placed in two categories?

The first category of people succeed in whatever is given to them to achieve. As long as they have someone to direct them and set work goals for them, and are given the opportunity to achieve them, they will keep on achieving, oftentimes to great levels of excellence. In this category you will find all types of people – professionals, executives, housewives, students.

The Two Kinds of Achievers_1

The second category of achievers comprise those professionals who are always coming up with new ways to perform a task, or with offbeat concepts that result in innovative products or services. They dare to think beyond the parameters set by their revered teachers, mentors, and managers. They are never bound by traditional systems, rules, or boundaries. Their eyes are constantly looking around for new shapes and fresh avenues, their minds are continually pondering an unusual phenomenon or a novel concept. Their ears are ever sensitive to catch a new sound. Their fingers never desist from handling a never-before handled objects. These are the kind of people who daily live by the motto stated by that great advertisement copy I once saw on tv: ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time in your life?’.

Such are the people who found new enterprises and keep them going from strength to strength through decade to decade with ever innovative products and fresher services. Among them you will find Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Herbert Kelleher, Lee Iacocca, Ralph Welsh, and even my fellow villager, Appu, who came up, in my young days, with a revolutionary way for yoked oxen to pull with less struggle a cartful of burdens.

Appu just placed a lining of rubber on the round surface of the wooden wheels of the ox carts. But what a awesome difference it made to the oxen in my land, and what a difference it made to the ox drivers who now could have a far less bumpy ride to the market and back; there’s now no need for them to use their whip as frequently as before on the poor creatures’ already-split hides – split by the merciless lashes they received when they just couldn’t climb the steep country roads steadily with a ton of race sacks bearing down on their napes!

For thousands of years, ox carts ricketied over earth’s rough terrains on wooden wheels. And even after rubber was discovered, wooden wheels continued to be standard equipment for hundreds of years. Nobody had stretched their imaginations far enough to device a way to make cargo transport in my land more convenient, until Appu.

I suppose most human workers fall under the first category. They are good achievers on someone else’s ideas and opportunities. But when it comes to their discovering something on their own, or creating their own ideas, or creating new opportunities where none existed before, they are stumped.

There are two achievers of the first type in my hometown in India. One of them is an excellent dressmaker with his own boutique. The other is a seller of excellent coffee powder.

Both of them were once excellent achievers in their fields, and they were aware of this fact. So the dressmaker gave his shop the name Expert Dressmakers. The coffeeseller went one step further. He named his four by four meter cubicle of a shop ‘All India Coffee Industries’. Not ‘Industry’, but ‘Industries’. And why not, his coffee was so good he saw no reason why he could not have a conglomeration of industries arising from his shack.

A month ago, when I went to my hometown, these two achievers who set up their businesses 40 years ago, were still doing their trade as diligently as ever. The dressmaker is aged, but he still has the same shop churning out expertly tailored dresses as he has been doing since my father’s days. He used to make the best suits in the town in those years. I just couldn’t forget the first suit that I wore proudly to the Gulf, a product of the expert craftsmanship of this mastertailor.

So, on this latest visit to my hometown, I bought expensive material for a couple of suits and gave it to this noted dressmaker. And he made them with the same excellent expertise and in the same style that he made one for me 25 years earlier.

Of course, I had to throw the suits in the garbage bin soon after trying them on once. The style was fashionable a generation ago, but today if I walk around in them, people would think that I had inherited the suits from my father.

Courtesy: Mohamed

Courtesy: Mohamed

As for the coffeeseller, his hair is grey now but he still sits in his four by four meter shack, selling coffee powder whose aroma is still as tantalizing as it was to my nostrils eons ago. And he still has the same signboard ‘All India Coffee Industries’ outside his shop.

You see, these two professionals in my hometown are simply victims of the loss of their most creative opportunities with their parents. They might have been good students at school, getting good grades in everything they learned from their teachers. They became skilled workers and experts with all the knowledge they were taught by someone else.

But once people stopped teaching and monitoring them, they stopped learning, and they stopped accomplishing anything new. They remained all their lives under the ceiling and within the parameters of what they were initially trained for. They did not know how to educate themselves beyond their taught ceilings. They couldn’t demolish the opportunity barriers erected around their imbibed knowledge boundaries and soar to new unexplored frontiers. They could think in new dimensions only if someone else’s thoughts blazed through old frontiers and took them there.

These excellent but constrained achievers are simply victims of the loss of their most creative opportunities with their teachers. They might have been excellent students at school, getting exemplary grades in everything they learned in the classrooms. They became skilled professionals and experts with all the knowledge they were taught by someone else. But when the times changed and with it the methods, these achievers continued to further hone their old skills.

Thomas J. Watson is the most famous name in IBM’s history. He was the chairman of IBM in the 1920s to the 50s, and the main architect of making IBM an international company.

The first thing anyone saw on entering his office was a plaque on the wall above the head of the IBM chief. It had just one word written on it: THINK.

The IBM chief explained that the greatest fault he found in talented executives was that they did not think for themselves. Said Thomas J. Watson:  ‘ “I didn’t think” has cost the world millions of dollars.’

Many companies started following the IBM chief’s example and put up THINK signboards for their employees to ponder over. Then in the 1970s, long after Thomas J. Watson was gone, THINK signboards were pulled down from IBM walls.

Thinking, you see, began to lose its appeal since the 70s decade. In fact, today the chic thing to do is not think too deeply. You cannot buy a THINK wall slab anymore, but you can purchase another one over the internet. Here is the image of that bestselling sign:

The Two Categories_3

The company that makes that signboard and sells it in millions has given a rationale for their signboard. This is what their advertisement says:

‘This magnetic board can remind you of all sorts of things, from the dull meaningless existence that is your work life to a large number of tasks you have to do. As the sign reminds you, you are not paid to THINK…anything that eases the burden on your brainpower is surely a welcome addition to any home or office.’

Though obviously intended to be facetious, what the sign says is nevertheless symptomatic of our present age.

There is a worldwide conspiracy to thwart men and women of exceptional caliber from exerting brainpower beyond the sheepfold. Don’t be swayed by any awesome phenomenon or product that could distract your mind from generating its own innovative thoughts – whether it is a latest gadget that could make obsolete or redundant your mental skills, or a sweeping corporate fad that belittles a timeless virtue, or an alluring doctrine from spiritual gurus that rationalizes an aberrant lifestyle.

Beware of teachers, preachers and researchers who ease your need to think your own ideas and generate your own original ways to make your life and other’s lives more productive, enjoyable and meaningful. When you are an original thinker, constantly applying newer and more effective methods to make work more rewarding for yourself and others, you are automatically ensuring the perpetual usefulness of your achievements.

So, if you want be an achiever whose work is always in demand, be constantly fresh and daring in your thoughts, and keep moving from one innovative level to a higher level. Think for yourself and you have already placed yourself on a future pinnacle of achievements where the usefulness of your work will last even beyond your generation.




Why Are We Pushing Our Children Away From Our Lives?


From almost the day of their birth until they are finally freed from their physical shackles sometime in their late teens, children’s bodies are confined by their parents within products or environments that do much harm to their overall development. This has such serious impact on our children’s future lives that I wonder why medical and educational authorities are not shouting this fact aloud from the hospital and school rooftops to every parent.

When the child is a just-born infant, what do the hospitals do? They immediately swathe the child in a pink or blue sheet of flannel that leave only her face exposed to the world. And the smothered infant fares no better when she is taken home.

Research shows that infants are put in movement restricting things – chairs, carriers, car seats, and the like – for over 60 waking hours a week…with serious consequence for their motor and cognitive development! As to how serious these consequences are, I urge you to read the eye-opening article ‘Containerized Infants: How Products are Affecting Our Babies’ Brains‘ by Rae Pica, reprinted in this section.

A related issue is co-sleeping with our children. Again, from their infancy, modern mothers are unintentionally pushing away their kids from their lives, when, on the other hand, Nature endowed them with the basic need to cling to their parents.

Modern culture encourages us to ‘sleep teach’ our children by placing them in a separate bed and even a separate room, so that they’ll learn to sleep on their own. But as a wise doctor wrote, ‘This generation of mothers labors under the dubious pronouncement that babies sleep best in isolation. Every infant knows better. His protest at nocturnal solitude contains the wisdom of millennia.’ (Thomas Lewis, MD, ‘A General Theory of Love’).

Sleep teaching our children in their tender age is one root cause for the growing phenomenon of the breakup of extended families (especially grandparents) and the advent of single-family dwellings.

I close by repeating the words of Verna Mae Sloan, a mother and grandmother:

‘How can you expect to hold onto them in life if you begin by pushing them away?’


Pappa Joseph