Fat and thin
The latest Scientific American is all about food and includes the striking fact that there are now more people who are overweight or obese (1.3 billion) than people who are chronically malnourished (800 million). This makes it obvious that the world could feed all its people if we had the right social organisation. It’s closely related to the fact that there are now more rich people (by any historical standard, most people in developed countries are rich) than very poor people (income of less than $1US a day). The overlap here isn’t perfect – most of the malnourished are very poor, but obesity is mostly a problem of relatively poor people in rich countries, and it’s now common in poor and middle-income countries as well.
The main point though is that we have the resources to end poverty. Doubling the income of the very poor would cost about $300 billion a year, which is pretty close to the 0.7 per cent of total rich country income that was promised as a target for foreign aid years ago. We’ve got nowhere near that, and much of what is given doesn’t go to the very poor. Admittedly, there will always be leakage, but if the rich countries were prepared to allocate as little as 2 per cent of their income to a well-planned and well-funded effort, we could surely pull most people out of extreme poverty. The task would be made even easier if the benefits growth in China and India, both of which still have many very poor people) were spread a bit more evenly.