Words on Hunger From Fidel

More than three billion people condemned prematurely to death by hunger and thirst
By Fidel Castro Ruz.
Translated from Spanish by Ron Ridenour (Tlaxcala) and revised by Les Blough
Mar 31, 2007, 08:47

This is not an exaggerated figure; more cautious than not. I have thought about this quite a lot since President Bush’s meeting with U.S. automobile manufactures.

This sinister idea of converting foodstuff into combustibles was definitively established as the United States economic line within its foreign policy this past March 26.

(Editor’s Summary) Washington AP – North America’s AP news agency, which reaches every corner of the world, reported that President Bush praised the benefits of using ethanol and biodiesel fuel in automobiles during a meeting with General Motors, Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Motors. Bush’s administration plans to cut gas consumption by 20% in 10 years. (Axis of Logic)

I think that reducing and, moreover, recycling engines, which consume electricity and combustibles, is an elemental and urgent necessity for humanity. The tragedy does not consist in reducing these wastes of energy but in the notion of converting foodstuff into combustibles.

We know today with total precision that a ton of corn can only produce an average of 413 liters of ethanol, according to density, which is the equivalent of 109 gallons.

The average price of corn in the harbors of the United States is $167 per ton. It requires as much as 320 million tons of corn to produce 35 billion gallons of ethanol.

US corn harvests, in 2005, rose to 280.2 million tons, according to FAO data.

Nevertheless, the president speaks of producing combustibles from grass and wood, which anyone can understand are phrases absolutely lacking realism. Understand well: 35 billion gallons means 35 followed by nine zeros.

Experienced and well organized U.S. farmers will come up with beautiful examples of production for humans and per hectare: corn converted into ethanol; residues of this converted into animal feed with 26% protein; cattle excrement utilized as primary material for production of gas. Of course, this is after great investments, which can only be expended by powerful firms, those operating on the basis of electric and combustible consumption.

Apply this recipe to Third World countries and we will see how many people among the hungry masses will cease consuming corn. Or even worse: financed loaned to the poorest countries to produce ethanol from corn or any other type of foodstuff and not one tree will remain to defend humanity against climatic change.

Other wealthy countries have programmed to use not only corn but wheat, sunflower and rapeseed oil, and other foodstuff for the production of combustibles. For Europeans, for example, there could be business in importing all the soy beans in the world with the aim of reducing automobile combustible wastes and feed their animals with the residue of this vegetable, especially rich in all types of essential amino acids.

In Cuba, alcohol is produced as a sub-product of the sugar industry after making three extractions of sugar from cane juice. The change of climate is already affecting our sugar production. Great draughts come alternating with record rains, which hardly permits us to produce sugar over a hundred day period with adequate yields during our most moderate winter. Due to the prolonged draughts at sowing and cultivating periods, there is less sugar per ton of cane and less cane per hectare.

In Venezuela, I understand that they don’t use alcohol for export but to improve the quality of environment for their own combustibles. And then, independent of the excellent Brazilian technology for producing alcohol, to employ such technology for the direct production of alcohol based on sugar cane juice in Cuba constitutes nothing more than a dream or nonsense for those who play with this idea.

In our country, the soil dedicated to direct production of alcohol can be much better utilized for the production of food for the people and for protecting the environment.

All the world’s countries, rich and poor, without exception could save millions and millions of dollars in investment and combustibles simply by changing all the incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent lights, something which Cuba has achieved in all the nation’s homes. This signifies a relief to resist climatic change without starving to death the world’s masses of poverty stricken people.

As one can observe, I do not use adjectives to qualify the system and the owners of the world. This task is excellently done by experts of information and of socio-economic sciences, and by honest politicians, who abound in the world and who constantly stir up the present and future of our species. A computer and the growing number of Internet networks suffice.

Today, for the first time, there is truly a global economy and a dominant power in the economic, political and military terrain, something quite distinct from the Rome of emperors.

Some will ask, why do I speak of hunger and thirst. I reply: it is not about the other side of the coin, rather of various faces of other pieces, which could be a die with six faces, or a “polyhedron” with many faces.

In this case, look at an official news agency founded in 1945 and generally well informed about economic and social problems of the world: la TELAM. It wrote:

“About two billion people will inhabit countries and regions of the earth in just 18 years in which water will be a vague memory. Two-thirds of the world’s population could live in places where that scarcity produces social and economic tensions of such magnitude that could bring people to war for the precious `blue gold´.

“During the last century, the use of water has augmented at a rate of more than twice the rate of population growth.

“The WWC (World Water Council) estimates that for the year 2015 the number of inhabitants affected by this grave situation will rise to 3.5 billion.

“The United Nations celebrated World Water Day on March 23, in which it announced a confrontation with this scarcity of water in coordination with FAO. Its objective is to emphasize the growing importance of the lack of water worldwide, and the necessity of a greater integration and cooperation, which must permit sustained and efficient use of water resources.

“Many regions of the planet suffer a severe water scarcity, where people live with less than 500 cubic meters per person annually. The chronic lack of this vital element is increasing in more regions.

“Principle consequences of the lack of water are the insufficient quantity of this precious liquid for food production, the impossibility of industrial development, and urban, tourist, and health problems.”

So far goes the TELAM cable.

It must be mentioned that in this case there are other important facts, such as the melting ice in Greenland and the Antarctic, the damages to the ozone, and the growing quantity of mercury in many fish species and routine consumption.

There are even more themes which could be approached, but I simply attempt within these lines to comment on the meeting with Bush and the principle guests of the North American automobile companies.

March 28, 2007
Fidel Castro

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