Famine, epidemics and pesticides: Five new books for ecosocialists

Paul Richards says the West panicked during the Ebola epidemic in Africa in 2014, in "Ebola: How a People's Science Helped End an Epidemic'.

Climate and Capitalism editor Ian Angus looks at five important new books on famines, deadly epidemics and the pesticide poisons in our food.


Mass Starvation: The History & Future of Famine
By Alex de Waal
Polity Books, 2017

An authoritative history of modern famines: their causes, dimensions and why they ended. Alex de Waal analyses starvation as a crime, and breaks new ground in examining forced starvation as an instrument of genocide and war. Refuting the enduring but erroneous view that attributes famine to overpopulation and natural disaster, he shows how political decisions are essential elements in every famine.

Beginning To End Hunger: Food & the Environment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil & Beyond
By M Jahi Chappell
University of California Press, 2018

Belo Horizonte is home to 2.5 million people and the site of one of the world’s most successful food security programs. Since 1993, it has sharply reduced malnutrition, leading it to serve as an inspiration for Brazil’s Zero Hunger programs. Its work with local family farmers shows how food security, rural livelihoods, and healthy ecosystems can be supported together.

Spillover: Animal Infections & the Next Human Pandemic
By David Quammen
WW Norton, 2012

Ebola, SARS, Hendra, AIDS and countless other deadly viruses all have one thing in common: the bugs that transmit these diseases all originate in wild animals and pass to humans by a process called spill-over. David Quammen takes the reader along on a quest to learn how, from where, and why these diseases emerge. He asks the terrifying question: What might be the next big one?

Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic
By Paul Richards
Zed Books, 2016

Paul Richards says the international community’s panicky response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa failed to take account of local expertise and common sense. He says the humanitarian response to the disease was most effective in those areas where it supported these initiatives. However, it hampered recovery when it ignored or disregarded local knowledge.

Poisoning Our Children: The Parent’s Guide to the Myths of Safe Pesticides
By Andre Leu
Acres USA, 2018

Pesticide residues are found in 77% of all foods in the United States, so it’s important to know what science says about their safety. Organic agriculturist Andre Leu has weeded through a wealth of respected scientific journals to present peer-reviewed evidence proving that the claims of chemical companies and pesticide regulators are not all they seem.

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