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Millennium Development Goals: The new United Nations report bodes well for the fight against world hunger

Economy / -

Obiettivi di Sviluppo del Millennio: il nuovo rapporto Onu fa ben sperare per la lotta alla fame nel mondo
© Ton Koene/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis.

Before you reflect on the achievement of social and cultural goals, you have to think about filling stomachs. It is not by chance that the first goal of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations is to eliminate hunger in the world.

With the arrival of the new millennium, developing and industrialized Countries decided to take stock of the main problems and challenges being faced by people, governments and organizations around the world. From the discussion came a covenant, a shared document: the Millennium Declaration of the United Nations, unanimously approved by the 191 Delegates of the General Assembly on September 20, 2000. Inside there are also eight points, eight promises: the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to be achieved within 15 years, by 2015.
 
Among these is the desire to ensure environmental sustainability, achieving universal primary education and, perhaps the most important goal for the theme chosen by the Expo Milano 2015 "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life", the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger.
The first objective is divided into three parts, namely: to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day; to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people; and, between 1990 and 2015, to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
 
The first was successfully achieved according to the 2014 report on the progress of the MDGs. If in 1990 people living on less than $ 1.25 a day was equivalent to 50 percent of the population in developing countries, in 2010 this proportion has dropped to 22 percent, and in these five years, the situation could be further improved. At the same time, the number of people living in extreme poverty fell from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 1.2 billion in 2010. Only the target for sub-Saharan Africa may not be achieved on time, according to forecasts from the World Bank.
 
Poverty reduction has also been positively impacted by the decline in people suffering from hunger. It has been calculated that between 2011 and 2013 people suffering from chronic hunger were one in eight, for a total of 842 million. Almost all of them (827 million) living in developing countries. Among the main problems caused by the shortage of food there is malnutrition, i.e. those people who are unable to take regular meals necessary to lead a healthy life, and underdevelopment among children, i.e. those that do not grow as they should because they do not eat meals that are sufficiently rich in nutrients. In 2012, one in four children were suffering from underdevelopment; in 1990 they were 40 per cent. The only region in contrast is again sub-Saharan Africa where malnourished children increased from 44 million in 1990 to 58 million in 2012.
 
At this rate, it is possible to achieve even more satisfying results. Although the report is 2014, many upgrades refer to data collected by governments and institutions in previous years due to their complexity of processing. The positive results on the fight against hunger in the world bode well because only with a full stomach can you think of anything else. It is not a coincidence that eliminating hunger was put at the top of the list.

A Millenniunm Development Goals - the official website
 
 

What happens when a city changes its diet

Lifestyle / -

ida r2 quando citta cambia dieta
© B.S.P.I./Corbis

Cities are expanding through population growth, a growth that is sustainable only if it is limited by its carrying capacity. Food actions are a solution. Scientific research shows that a vegetarian diet is healthier for humans and the environment surrounding them.

Urban expansion is a result of population growth. The reality shows a steady erosion of agricultural land for the purposes of construction, which is often speculative. In the future it will no longer be necessary to drastically interrupt urbanization works if these are planned in relation to carrying capacity thresholds.
 
The city and the urban society derive nourishment and resources from the relationship with the countryside. Protecting the soil is essential for the survival of our society in many ways, of which environmental protection and food security come first. The fundamental right to food and healthy products is supported by the British project "Sustainable Food Cities Network," led by the Soil Association, Sustain and Food Matters, and other public and private organizations. "Sustainable Food Cities - said Tom Andrews, Project Director - is responsible for the dissemination of a healthy food system, with less environmental impact and more affordable prices." Choosing a local food production and a diet devoid of meat increases the quality of life, protects the environment and limits urban sprawl. Follow a vegetarian diet is the first step towards environmental sustainability.
 
The studies carried out by the University of New York and the University of Roma Tre show that with a vegetarian diet (in the Italian case, caloric intake of animal fat replaced with that of vegetable origin) each individual requires 0.14 hectares (1400 square feet) of agricultural land for their own food. Add to this type of diet other foods of animal origin, such as dairy products, white meat to red meat, the land necessary for the survival of an individual increases, reaching 0.82 hectares per person with a diet consisting of 381 grams of meat and 117 grams of animal fat per day. Cities like Milan and Rome are not able to feed their people. To ensure independence and food security of our cities we must adopt strategies that raise awareness and urban plans for conversion to agriculture in the so-called waiting areas and uncultivated fabric of the urban grid.
 
Soil is a precious and limited resource. Irrational, widespread urbanization, 'urban sprawl, and the areas reserved for farms take up agricultural land, or deprive man of land capable of producing food for the needs of this generation and those to come. Following the example of cities such as Cremona, whose urban sprawl is contained below the threshold of carrying capacity, allows parks and peri-urban agricultural belts to produce food for their own needs and that of neighboring and less virtuous municipalities. At the same time, maintaining a diet meat-free diet increases quality of life in nutritional, environmental terms and restarts the economy through local products.
 

Exponential technologies: from information technology to food

Innovation / -

In a fast changing world, technology plays a major role today and will do so in the future, to assure our progress and the development of mankind.

We adopted one of the first technologies that made humans what they are today about a hundred thousand years ago: we learned how to manage fire, and to use it to cook food. The reason why this has proven to be so important, is because it allowed us to delegate part of the digestion process to the chemical energy of the fire, rather than using our own body. This in turn made our digestive tract shorter, we could dedicate less time gathering and assimilating food, and employ the time that we gained more usefully for other activities.
 
Agriculture and energy
An other fundamental step in our civilizational and technological evolution was the invention of agriculture that increased food production per surface area controlled as compared with the availability for hunters-gatherers. Until then, the number of humans on the planet could not very much increase, because the availability of food was not under our control, and as we moved around in nomadic tribes. We had to adapt to new environments, discover and understand the right food sources in each of them. We’ve seen since than an exponential increase in the global human population, and this increase has always been due to our capacity to better understand and exploit energy sources, moving from muscle energy of animals and slaves, to the energy of water and wind, to that of carbon, oil, and gas, and today, unstoppably, to that of the Sun. The application of this understanding of nature, and the increasing levels of energy per capita available even with the increases of total population meant that our knowledge was also collected faster.
 
Communication
Humans are talkers, and listeners. Storytellers, singers, writers and readers. Curiosity always drove us, as well as our capacity to transfer what we learned both vertically across generations, as well as horizontally to each other, in distances that would always increase, and allow us to see if what we learned applied elsewhere too, and how. Today we are at the extreme of this process, with instantaneous communication across the planet. The methods of information and knowledge gathering evolved too, with openness winning over the secrecy of alchemists who were bound to repeat each other’s often mortal mistakes.
 
The role of technology
We are now able to feed a planet of over 7 billion people, thanks to technology. The scarcity that some areas of the world suffer is due to mismanagement in logistics and resource allocation, not to the lack of total output. It is fundamentally important for all of us to realize that technology is not a zero sum game, it is a positive sum game as this exponential increase shows. There is also no turning back: nobody can decide who should be the billions to die if we were to relinquish technology and go back to a planet of a few million humans.
 
At Singularity University our mission is to educate, inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges. Let’s use technology at its best, in a continued open exchange of ideas and applications, to deliver more food, more opportunity and well-being to all the humans present and future.
 
 
 

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