In the book, Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman attempt to give a historic narrative and well-researched opinion on why there are still people starving while we have the technology to feed everyone. Roger Thurow has worked for the Wall Street Journal as a foreign correspondent for twenty years. Scott Kilman also worked for the Wall Street Journal for twenty years covering agriculture. While their pieces on three 2003 famines became finalists for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting, Enough should be read from a journalistic standpoint.
The book begins by discussing the ways which Norman Borlaug saved Mexico from starvation by developing hybrid wheat that could be planted almost anywhere. This wheat also paid off during India's food crisis, as they also used Borlaug's wheat to vastly increase their food production. In times of need, his wheat spread to Turkey, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Iraq, China, and other countries in Asia (14). While Borlaug accepted his Nobel Peace Prize and the Green Revolution kicked off, Russia cleverly purchased 1/3 of the entire US wheat surplus. This caused the price of wheat in the United States to triple and cascade price hikes through corn, soybeans, and livestock. On the up side, the once again rationing American consumer was more prone to donate what money they had to starving people overseas. Once the surplus came back, however, people suddenly forgot about the poor and were less prone to donate. Amartya Sen described this problem as "Malthusian optimism" (23).
I found the beginning of the book to be quite fascinating. Up until this point, I had not known that Norman Borlaug existed, let alone he was the main contributor to saving almost half the world from starvation. The connection between Americans donating to the poor when they themselves are going through difficult times, but not donating much when they are secure, was also interesting. I would have thought it would be the opposite.
Enough then dives into what at first appears to be their main point: bad policies and the occasional well-intended strategy conspire to keep the world's poor hungry. They begin the issue by discussing the Great Irish Famine, which dealt with "potato blight and British indifference and scorn (129)". They bring to light that the wealthy landowners turned away the work-seeking Irish while the British government turned their backs. When the deaths were tallied up, 2 million Irishmen are said to have died (130). However, the story takes a sudden turn and dives into fifty-pages of world celebrities and billionaires (like Bill Gates, U2, and David Beckham) who begin campaigns to end world's hunger by getting governments to cancel the debt of African nations. The section ends with images of Bono playing his guitar and Africans working their crops.
While I certainly appreciate the efforts of Bono and the Gates Foundation, I felt that this section was a step in the opposite direction of the author's intended main point. Instead of putting emphasis on why the poor in Africa were starving, they were highlighting the efforts that were happening to keep them from starving. The next large section had to do with the billionaire Buffet family and their honorable attempts at ending starvation in Africa, as well as tangents about their sick mother and childhood. I felt that this section should either have been placed at the end of the book in its own feel-good section, or eliminated entirely. It detracts from the author's main point, and throws the reader off. I know people in Africa are starving, but I want to know why rather than what people are doing to stop it.
Just when I thought all hope was lost, the last 40 pages of Enough had some of the content I was looking for. With the global meltdown of 2008, people were starting to ask why countries had the capital to bail themselves out of debt, but not the capital to help starving countries? The authors report that before 2008, the leading countries - United States, United Kingdom, Canda, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Russia - had fallen back on their promise of $25 billion of aid by 2010. In fact in 2008, only $3 billion had been delivered (265). The Gates Foundation estimated that $9 billion annually would be necessary to start an African agricultural revolution - which is apparently less than it cost for the United States government to bail out Citigroup, Inc (266). By 2008, the number of undernourished people in the world had swelled to nearly 1 billion, the largest number since the early 1970s, when the full impact of the Green Revolution was just kicking in (287).
I find it somewhat appalling that the most powerful nations in the world had pledged to donate $25 billion in aid to Africa, and didn't even reach near that goal by 2008. Even more appalling is how much money the government spent to allow our nation's wealthy fat cat CEOs in places like Citigroup to have a second chance while people are dying by the millions in other countries. While I was somewhat confused on how they came about their notion of "undernourishment" while reading the chapter, the notes section clarified it for me. In the notes at the end of the book, Thurow and Kilman state that it is difficult for experts to agree on how to define undernourishment. They took the measure by counting people who consumed less than 2,100 calories per day. They agree that this calculation does vary by age and how much physical labor they must do in a day. Their data came from the FAO, which we are very familiar with from reading in class. I feel that their calculation is probably the best for the general reader, and is a fair assessment.
Overall, I found Enough: Why the World's Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty to be lacking its main point. While the stories and data throughout the book were interesting, they neglected to focus on the topic. I have a newfound appreciation for Norman Borlaug, but I think the efforts of Bill Gates, Bono, and the Buffetts could have been left out or moved to the end, as it seriously detracted from the point. The last section got me fired up and wanting to rally on the steps of Congress due to the bailouts, but even that somewhat data-rich chapter did not answer the question myself, and everybody else who read this book, wanted to know: why do the world's poorest starve in an age of plenty?