National Geographic : 1917 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE spread and most severe famine that has befallen a European nation in modern times. Both North and South America have been happily ignorant of extensive fam ines since the days of Columbus. There is a more or less apocryphal account of a great drought in Mexico in the year 1051, which caused the Toltecs to migrate, and in 1877 a scarcity of rain exposed 200,000 people in the northern provinces of Brazil to suffering; but with these exceptions the pinch of hunger in the Western Hemisphere has been felt from time to time in restricted areas only. From this kaleidoscopic picture of suf fering undergone during some of the most direful periods of world history it is apparent that there is nothing grandi ose or heroic about death from starva tion; neither is there glory to be gained, nor medals of honor or military crosses to be won in the battle for food. The casualties in the struggle are enormous, the compensation nil. No monuments are raised to the victims, no pensions pro vided for decrepit survivors. The suffer ing of those who succumb is pitiful be yond description, and the individual's anguish inevitably is intensified by the necessity of witnessing the agony of his loved ones who perish with him. AMERICA'S TASK To allay the pangs of world hunger and to banish famine from the earth is Amer ica's task and her determination. Early last spring, when it became evi dent that all Europe would be largely de pendent upon the United States for its food during the coming autumn and win ter, an appeal was issued to the American people to utilize every available acre of ground in the production of foodstuffs. Farmers were urged to increase the yield of their fields by employing every agency of science and industry; dwellers in towns and cities were asked to plant vege tables in their garden plots; those who had no ground on which to produce food stuffs were enlisted in the cause when they agreed to limit to their necessity the consumption of food. But the object is only half achieved. Having grown the foodstuffs, it is im perative that all practical means be em- ployed to gather and preserve the fruits of the soil and of man's labor. These "bumper" crops of vegetables, raised in places which formerly were unproduc tive, can play no part in feeding stricken Europe unless they supply our own needs, thus releasing non-perishable grains for exportation. THE ALLIES' NEEDS AND AMERICA'S RESOURCES It is estimated that the Entente Allies will require 550,000,000 bushels of wheat from America this year, if the efficiency of their armies on the battle fronts is to remain unimpaired and if the civilian populations of France, England, and Italy are to be maintained in full bodily vigor, in order that they may produce the munitions and supplies essential to the successful prosecution of the war against Germany. If the United States should consume its normal amount of grain, the quantity available for export from the 1917 har vest would fall short of the requirements abroad by 250,000,000 bushels. But this deficit can be made good, without serious privation to Americans, by the exercise of economy, thrift, and ingenuity-econ omy, in avoiding all waste; thrift, in gathering the vegetables which have been produced in such abundance this sum mer, and ingenuity in preserving, curing, canning, and drying for winter use all the perishable foodstuffs and fruits not re quired for immediate consumption. The goal in this great campaign against waste in America is the safeguarding of all humanity against the suffering and the social and moral degradation which a world-wide famine would entail. The American Government is earnestly enlisted in this supreme effort, its food administration bureau having taken over the large problems of price control and regulation of the exportation of food stuffs; but the essential, the vital prob lem of food conservation remains the re sponsibility of each household. Only by the sacrifice which the individ ual American makes will the welfare of another individual across the Atlantic be assured. Never before in so literal a sense is each man in this country the surety and the keeper of his brother abroad.