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Global Hunger Has Increased: Shifting the Context

Global hunger has gone up. What now?

A perspective by Nick Collins, FeelGood Staff

According to a report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), for the first time in over a decade, global hunger has increased. It’s important to take a moment and experience the weight of this—the gravity of what this means. Our work, focused on the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030, has fallen short for the first time in over a decade and is actually going backwards. But see, it’s not about us or our work. It’s about what it means for the human beings—yes, actual, living human beings—who continue to suffer needlessly as a result of a global system utterly unable to create a world that works for all life.

It’s about the 815 million of our human family members, malnourished and starving. 815 sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons. Imagine your extended family, and then picture more than 1 in 10 of them malnourished and starving. It’s important to recognize the impact. When faced with statistics as sobering as these, it’s easy enough to look away and not think about it. It’s an act of privilege and it’s an easy action to take.

It is also important to remember that we are living into a context. Our current global context is also one where seasonal rains in South Asia have devastated vast areas of land and taken many lives. It is the same context in which Hurricane Maria and Jose have left islands in the Caribbean Sea reeling and uninhabitable. The same context in which kneeling has become a cultural flashpoint, in which there are marches rooted in hatred, and in which the atrocities of the Syrian War occur.

But it’s never been about hunger, or about infrastructure, or about kneeling. Just like it was never about water fountains or seats on a bus. It’s always been about who we were being. Global hunger, systemic racism, environmental destruction, profiteering at the cost of human lives, rampant income inequality, and many other issues are all examples of what we see on the surface. The invitation is to look below these for the common thread.

At times, for instance, I engage in the drama of Facebook. In those moments of engaging friends and family, especially around issues I care about, I often find myself relating to them as part of the problem. Something that needs to be “fixed” in order for us to move forward. But this very approach—the idea of seeing those other humans as somehow flawed—is exactly the same as their views of their other. It is also an ordinary, repeated way of existing. This is what we’ve been doing for centuries and it’s not working.

I’m a white cisgender male born in the US to parents who could pay for my college degree. I have privilege to be able to say what I’m saying, that I get. It’s also worth considering that we’ve been going about it righteously for a while now, and it hasn’t resulted in changing people’s minds. What has worked for me? Putting relationship over issue, and getting curious about another human’s experiences and how they’ve landed where they have.  

The real invitation in the wake of recent events, including the news that global hunger has increased, is to look more deeply at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). What are they really asking us to do? Is it about the measures, or something deeper? The SDGs imply a level of interconnectedness within and among all of the world’s problems. We can view the goals as a measure–where we see how effective we were at enacting change–or we can view the goals as an invitation to investigate a different kind of question: who will we need to be to make this happen? In The Hunger Project’s Source Document, Werner Erhard writes:

Let’s not be stupid. Obviously, something has to be done. Anybody can see that. When people say, “But don’t you see that you can’t end starvation with words?” that’s like saying, “Don’t you see the floor down there?” Of course, but that isn’t the point of The Hunger Project. Everybody sees that something has to be done. The point is to create a climate, an environment (specifically to create a context, a commitment to the end of starvation) in which what is done is effective.”

The invitation for us, in this exact moment in human history, is to ask ourselves if we are contributing to a new context in which the end of all of these things—systemic racism, extreme poverty, war, environmental destruction—is not just possible, but inevitable. What is the new context we are out to create? Are the actions we are taking consistent with the new context we are out to create? I see that context as one where each human life is valued, and the preventable loss of any one life is considered unacceptable. Yes, each human life. That includes everyone from David Duke to Colin Kaepernick, from Hillary Clinton to Donald Drumpf. If it doesn’t include them then it’s no different than our current context, wherein some humans are excluded from living valued lives.

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