National Geographic : 1975 Jul
« - ANY MEN are inclined... to predict that the day has at last come when the human race must cease to expand its numbers, or else face inevitable hunger." Familiar words? They were published 59 years ago, when NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC devoted the entire January 1916 magazine to one subject: "How the World Is Fed." Now, six decades later, we revisit the question. If there are amazing similarities in the two eras, there are also profound differences. In the midst of epidemics and battlefield casualties in the year 1916, NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC reported the earth's population as about 1.7 bil lion. "If they were all set down at a banquet," we reported, "it would require sixteen tables reaching around the globe to seat them." Today-largely as the result of Western medicine's staggering impact upon the death rate-the planet has 3.9 billion people, and demographers expect that figure to double in just 36 years. No one would dream of a world banquet today, even as a figure of speech. Were it not for an equally impressive advance in agricul tural technology, hunger would be stalking far more of the world. Even so, as many as 1.5 billion people may suffer some degree of malnutrition. Most of the world's poorer peoples live in the equatorial "hunger belt"; they constitute two-thirds of the planet's population but produce only a fifth of its food. In contrast, a United Nations report notes that "The ... grain used annually for livestock feed in [high-income] countries... is greater than the total human consumption of cereals in China and India together." Small wonder that, in times of drought and famine, food becomes one of the world's most emotional issues. So too with population. Recent international confer ences on both population and food have reminded the world that the people of poorer nations may view with suspicion programs to limit human numbers. Children there are often regarded as the only economic security for a parent's old age, and population programs unaccom panied by offers of massive wealth-sharing may seem simply a means for the "haves" to keep their unequal share of things. Also, in many places religious proscrip tions limit modern methods of population control. And we must consider the weather. Some climatologists fear the world's monsoon belt may be shifting-with the result that there may be catastrophic new droughts in heavily populated areas. Readers of the GEOGRAPHIC have long followed this planetary suspense story. Major articles on the weather, on famines, and on the technological revolution in agri culture have kept members abreast of the changes. Our present report may be considered the latest "update" on the endless race between human fertility and that of the soil that sustains us-and on the hope offered by such things as high-protein corn, the humble sweet potato, the riches of Antarctic seas, and the drought warnings that satellites can give. "Truly," noted our 1916 article, "the man who dines well ought to be a deep student of geography...." Today that man's grandchildren must delve deeper still, having in mind those millions who hardly dine at all. THE NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINEVOL. 148, NO. I COPYRIGHT© 1975 BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY WASHINGTON,D. C. INTERNATIONALCOPYRIGHTSECURED July 1975 Can the World Feed Its People? 2 After a globe-girdling survey, Thomas Y. Canby and Steve Raymer report on the problems and prospects-butfind no easy answers. The Nightmare of Famine 33 Bangladesh searches desperatelyfor a way to save her hungry millions. Photographs by Steve Raymer. Cape Cod's Circle of Seasons 40 Tom Melham concludes that the only people who enjoy everything the Cape has to offer are the lucky few who live there year round. Photographsby James P. Blair. SUPPLEMENT: "Close-Up: U.S.A ." Western New England. The Last Andaman Islanders 66 Most of the aborigines of these remote islands are gentle folk, but Raghubir Singh meets a few who still keep the modern world at bay. Benjamin Franklin, Philosopher of Dissent 93 Alice J. Hall and Linda Bartlett portray the versatile elder statesman of the American Revolution. An Ozark Family Carves a Way of Life 124 Art has become more than a means of livelihoodfor the Dentons of northwest Arkansas. By Bruce Dale. Tireless Voyager, The Whistling Swan 134 Biologist William J. L . Sladen follows migrating flocks from Maryland to Alaska. Photographs by Bianca Lavies. "National Geographic World" 148 A brand-new magazine, designed to enrich the lives of 8- to 12-year-olds. COVER: "Figure ... an old Man, with grey Hair Appearing under a Martin Fur Cap, among the Powder'd Heads of Paris." Thus Benjamin Franklin described himself in 1777 (pages 93-123). Painting by John Trumbull, Yale University Art Gallery, John Hill Morgan Fund.