Published 15 January 2002
IN 1825 the Reverend Robert Thomas Malthus predicted that within a century, the world's population would outstrip its food supply. Fortunately, history has proved Malthus wrong.
Similar doomsday theories have arisen, even as recently as 1950, but each has been wrong, although famines, natural and artificial, continue to ravage us (e.g., in Ireland, Russia, India, and Ethiopia) as they have since time immemorial, along with plagues and droughts. While some might attribute famine to karma or nature's own inequity, one can't help notice how the US, for example, with five per cent of earth?s population, consumes 24 per cent of its energy (from the Economist Book of Vital World Statistics: 1990).
Unequal distribution appears to be the result of unregulated acquisitiveness, capitalism's "invisible hand" gone berserk. So what is the spiritual dimension to all this?
The good news is that there is plenty for everyone. In its invocation, Shri Ishopanishad says that this world and everything in it are perfectly equipped as complete wholes and that whatever is produced of the whole is also complete in itself, even though many complete units emanate from it.
Research shows that the world's six billion people could fit into a land surface the size of France, with each person having a hundred square metres to live in, so there's no real shortage of space!
The same Upanishad asserts that 'everything animate or inanimate within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord.'
One should, therefore, it says, accept only those things, 'set aside as one's quota, and not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.'
Major famines occur from time to time, due ostensibly to lack of rain, political unrest and economic exploitation. But it can be inferred that when we accept a godless existence as reality, food will be restricted. Such are the inexplicable effects of karma and our eternal freedom to turn away from God. These two causes are intertwined.
Bhagavad Gita and Shrimad Bhagwatam inform us that yagya or sacrifice is necessary to maintain a healthy supply of food. The 18th chapter, fourth canto, of Shrimad Bhagavatam explains how the earth restricts her agricultural supplies when a yagya ceases and we become hedonistic.
So history has proven the philosophical Cassandras of Judgment Day wrong. The earth has enough not only to feed us all but enough to feed ten times its present population - even on a meat-centered diet, according to a recent study by the University of California's Division of Agricultural Science.
If the leaders of our world can recognise the source of our sustenance - then the earth, responding like a mother of many children will feed us all, lovingly and fully.