I am a book lover. I am always reading, and usually that means I’m working my way through five or six books at the same time. My dad laughed at me the other day as I explained to him which category each of the eight books sitting on my bedside table falls into: currently reading, haven’t started but up next on the list, or must reread. I have an ever-growing list of books I want to read, and my work at ELCA World Hunger so far has inspired the addition of many new titles.
While my list is long, there’s one book I’m happy I gave priority to and proud to say I recently finished: Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty, by Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman.
Thurow and Kilman are Wall Street Journal reporters who’ve been writing on Africa, development, and agriculture for decades. Enough is a result of their extensive reporting about global hunger and the forces behind famine. Each chapter is a compelling story and an illuminating piece of the history or current reality of hunger. The book’s coverage is expansive; rather than try to sum it up I’ll include this passage from the preface:
This book tells the story of the squandered promise of the Green Revolution and the neglect that brought hunger and famine into the twenty-first century. It is the story of Africa and the missed opportunities, the wars and megalomania, the folly and the good intentions gone bad that have left its agricultural potential largely unrealized, its people hungrier that ever before, and the entire world aching for more and cheaper food. It is a tale of self-interest and hypocrisy in the United States and Europe, how subsidies and food aid have gone awry, how geopolitics influenced by remnants of colonial-era policies and practices of the old European powers determine that some countries should bloom and others should starve, how markets failed, how warnings went unheeded, how the present crisis is engulfing us.
This is also, in Part II, the story of the new movement to reclaim the revolution’s lost promise and restore its momentum. It follows the trail from Borlaug to Bono, the Irish rock musician haunted by the chorus of the hungry he first heard in Ethiopia in 1984. From Bill Gates and his foundation colleagues, who realized that the medicine they were bringing to Africa was useless in a malnourished body, to Joe Mamlin, an Indiana doctor who became a farmer in Kenya so his AIDS patients would have something to eat. From Eleni Gabre-Madhim, who kept tilting at windmills until she brought a commodities exchange to her native Ethiopia, to Francis Pelekamoyo, whose Bible led his conversion from Malawi’s central banker to humble microlender. From a small town in Ohio to a tiny village in Kenya. From European CEOs to a couple of American sitcom-watching moms to a son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett. From British church activists to former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to statesmen in Ireland working to ensure that their country’s dark history of famine isn’t repeated elsewhere in the future.
The authors’ hope is to “outrage and inspire.” With this reader they certainly achieved both. I would add that they also inform. The writing is extremely accessible and engaging, and the treatment of the issues is both broad and in-depth. The authors don’t prescribe one political view over another, but do take a critical stance on some powerful groups. I gained a helpful current and historical understanding of complicated issues that was not impossible to digest and not overly simplified. Enough was a hard book to read in the sense that I felt sorrow and anger at many points, but it’s also a hopeful book. I absolutely recommend it to anyone troubled by the 1 billion undernourished people in the world.
Check out this video about one of the stories in the book, and Roger Thurow’s blog.
“At the end of the day, when in doubt, I’ll feed the hungry.” — Dr. Mamlin, page 163