Debate The Claim That Famines Are Caused More By Human Actions (or Inactions) Than By Environmental Forces. What Scientific Evidence Would You Need To Have To Settle This Question? What Hypotheses Could You Test To Help Resolve The Debate?


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Sarah Marsh answered
Although famines can be caused by environmental forces like natural disasters, absolute starvation and subsequent deaths can be avoided if human actions were different, and more resolved to work for the common good.

One such instance is war. This can often mean that huge areas are cut off from supplies, or that the economy falls into such a state that even the most basic of foodstuffs becomes much too expensive so people starve. An instance of this is the current situation in Zambia.

Often, natural occurrences like drought can be exacerbated by human responses to the situation, which in turn causes a famine. Africa has always been subject to droughts, but the famines and deaths were the result of warring factors withholding supplies to those who needed them for their own mercurial benefit.

The famine in Ireland that killed millions of people began with the potato blight but it was the human actions of the British landowners that caused the starvation.

The terrible famine that occurred in China between 1958 and 1961 may have begun with terrible harvests, and therefore can be attributed to nature, but the estimated 30 million people who died needn’t have done if there hadn’t been such a deliberate (and human) suppression of information that meant that, not only the rest of the world, but China itself did not know the scale of the tragedy.

Rather than needing scientific evidence or a hypothesis to resolve this debate, there is simply a need to examine particular famines and look at the surrounding evidence that will clearly indicate how these famines could have been avoided - if human action had been different.

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