Home' Greymouth Star : February 25th 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Saturday, February 25, 2017
or the first time in six
years, there is famine
in the world: a real,
declared famine, with
more than 30% of the affected
population suffering acute
malnutrition and more than 1000
people dying of hunger each day.
There are three more countries
where famine may be declared any
As you would expect, all four
current and impending famines
are in war zones. As you might
not expect, one of the afflicted
countries is not in Africa. It is
war-torn Yemen, the poorest Arab
country, whose 22 million people
depended on imports for 90% of
their food. With most of Yemen in
rebel hands and daily air raids, the
food is no longer making it in.
The other three places are indeed
African: South Sudan, Somalia and
north-eastern Nigeria. The official
famine is in South Sudan, where,
after three years of brutal civil
war, 40% of the population, some
five million people, are starting to
As usual, there are other
contributing factors. There has
been a months-long drought in
much of east Africa, and the worst-
hit provinces of South Sudan
tend to support the rebels and
may therefore be suffering from
an undeclared government food
blockade. But it is almost always
There are poor people elsewhere,
but apart from North Korea in
1996, every famine of the past
40 years has been in Africa. It is
usually linked to armed conflict,
of course, and most of the world’s
wars are in Africa, but that just
pushes the argument back one step.
Why is Africa, a continent with
only one-seventh of the world’s
home to the
of its wars?
Only the Arab
world, a much
even begins to
compete, and its
wars, bad as they
are, almost never cause famines.
Africa is a global outlier, and there
must be some common factor
beyond mere politics that makes
it the global capital for wars and
The big thing that distinguishes
Africa from the rest of the planet
(except, once again, the Arab
world) is a rapidly growing
population: The average fertility
rate across the African continent is
4.6 children per woman.
That was about the average
fertility rate of the whole human
race in 1960, when the entire
world’s population was exploding.
But the global fertility rate has
halved since then, while Africa’s
has stayed much the same. If it
remained at this level for the rest
of the century, today’s one billion
Africans would become seven
billion, and half the human race
would be African in 2100.
In fact the fertility rate is forecast
to fall gradually in most African
countries, although some countries
— Niger, Mali and Uganda,
for example — will continue to
have higher birth rates. But the
fertility rate is falling very slowly;
the forecast is that by 2045 the
average African woman will be
having only three children — but
anything above 2.2 children per
woman means the population is
The forecast of the United
Nations Population Division
is that Africa’s population will
almost quadruple by the end of
the century, while most other
countries stand still or even fall in
population. That means there will
be 3.6 billion Africans by 2100 —
a third of the human race. It also
means that war and famine may be
their constant companions.
It is not that Africa has already
outgrown its food supply. There
is probably enough good land in
Africa to feed twice the present
population (though not four times
as many people). Global warming
is likely to damage the productivity
of African agriculture quite badly
in the long run, but that ’s not
happening yet. So why is there a
famine problem now?
It is because for the past half-
century Africa’s population has
been growing as fast or faster than
its economies. Most Africans
therefore stay poor, and poor
people, especially the rural poor,
tend to have higher birth rates.
Since they cannot afford to invest
much in their farms, in their
children’s education, or in anything
else, the problems and the conflicts
deepen and fester.
It is almost forgotten now, but
when most African countries
got their independence from the
European empires in the 1960s
their citizens were significantly
better off than those of most Asian
countries. African countries had
better communications; even their
diets were better.
Asia’s annual population growth
rate was only 2% then and is down
to 1% now, while Africa’s
population growth rate was
2.2% then and is 2.5% now.
So per capita incomes in
Asia are now many times
higher than in Africa.
Africa is having famines
long before there is an
actual shortage of food in
It is having wars that are
essentially over the division
of the spoils (like South
Sudan) in economies where
there is simply not enough
wealth to go around. Unless
it can somehow get its
population growth under
control, it will just go on
Gwynne Dyer is an
whose articles are published
in 45 countries.
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uLetters to the editor
1570 - England ’s Queen Elizabeth I was
excommunicated by Pope Pius V.
1793 - The department heads of the U.S.
government met with U.S. President
Washington for the
first Cabinet meeting on US
1836 - Samuel Colt received US
Patent for a “revolving-cylinder
pistol.” It was his first patent.
1837 - Thomas Davenport
patented the first commercial electrical motor.
1948 - Communists seized power in
1964 Muhammad Ali becomes world
1972 - Germany gave a $5m ransom to Arab
terrorists who had hijacked a jumbo jet.
1986 - Filippino President Ferdinand
Marcos fled the Philippines after 20 years of
rule after a tainted election.
1999 - William King was sentenced to death
for the racial murder of James Byrd Jr in
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Pierre Auguste Renoir 1841 - Impressionist
artist; Enrico Caruso (1873) Opera singer;
Zeppo Mar x (1901) Comedian
(Mar x Brothers); Jim Backus
(1913) Actor (voice of Mr Magoo,
Gilligan’s Island, Rebel Without a
Cause); Anthony Burgess (1917)
Author (A Clockwork Orange);
Bobby Riggs (1918) Tennis player;
George Harrison (1943) Musician
“If the lessons of history teach us anything it
is that nobody learns the lessons that history
“Some take pride in chariots, and some in
horses, but our pride is in the name of the L ord
our God.” — (Psalms 20:7).
uFood for thought
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WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
Last Saturday we had a power cut, how
quickly modern life grinds to a halt,
when all our modern homes have no
Life as we know it now, has shades
of the ‘Sugarbags Years’, things got
so bad then that the government of
the day blocked Uncle Scrim
(C G Scrimgeour) from talking about
what was happening.
Over recent years New Zealand has done
very well, with average incomes rising, but
the gloss has come off.
What can people do to cope with life as
it is now?
I would like to say the Bible provides
some answers, especially a version like
“The Message Bible” written in a modern
Humans are different in that we crave
meaning, purpose, acceptance to name a
few things. We live in a world in trouble,
we have a choice, return to our Creator or
keep on doing what we are doing, you pick
the outcome. “ The writing is on the wall.”
Seventh Day Adventist Church,
Famine is back
PICTURES: Getty Images
A Yemeni inspects the wreckage of a building after the war crafts belonging to the Saudi-led coalition
carried out airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen last year.
Yemenis try to fill their plastic cans with water.
Alister Doyle and Barbara Lewis
buildings, led by “The
Tree”, a 52.8m apartment
block in Nor way, are
claiming a place on city
skylines as the timber
industry challenges the supremacy of
concrete and steel.
New, ultra-strong wood materials are
creating a small but fast-growing market
for timber used to build big, urban blocks,
extending wood ’s uses beyond the houses
typical of Alpine villages or suburban
Backers of timber towers say they are
greener than concrete and steel, whose
production emits large amounts of
greenhouse gases. Those industries say
felling trees harms the environment if it
causes loss of forests.
“Steel was the 1800s materials, concrete
1900s. Now we are in the 2000s and it is
time for timber,” said Susanne Rudemstan,
head of the Swedish Wood Building
Council. She said trees must come
from properly managed forests to avoid
Records are falling fast in the world of
“plyscrapers”, which get their name from
the plywood-like laminates glued together
to form the wooden beams used to build
The Tree (“Treet ” in Norwegian), with
a roof terrace atop 14 storeys on the
waterfront of the port of Bergen, became
the world’s tallest wooden apartment block
on completion in late 2015, surpassing a
building in Melbourne, Australia.
Wood “is definitely part of the solution
when we’re struggling towards a low-
carbon world,” said Ole Kleppe, project
manager at Bergen property developers
In September, the world title will go to
Vancouver, Canada, when students move
into a 53m, 18-storey residence at the
University of British Columbia (UBC).
That building will save an estimated 2432
tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to other
construction materials, the equivalent of
taking 500 cars off the road for a year, UBC
“It was quick, it was quiet, and there
wasn’t a mess,” John Metras, managing
director for infrastructure development at
UBC, said of the construction site.
Elsewhere, construction began last
October on an 84m wooden tower in
Vienna, due for completion next year. And
architects are considering even taller blocks,
such as a 300m “Toothpick” in London.
The cost of building with cross-laminated
timber (CLT), one of the main materials,
is 10-15% more than with masonry or
cement in the main European market, a
United Nations 2015-16 review said. But
prices may fall as the industry matures.
The use of CLT often shortens
construction times, the UN review says,
because many parts can be pre-fabricated.
The frame of the Vancouver high-rise took
less than 10 weeks to build, which Metras
said was much shorter than for a concrete
In Bergen, The Tree — using wood from
sustainable forests — shows that people are
ready to live up high with wood, although
residents told Reuters that family and
friends fretted unduly about fire risks.
“ We think it ’s very fire-safe,” said Soeren
Skaar, 24, a psychology student who owns
a flat. In a blaze, he said thick wood beams
can retain strength better than metal, which
Still, some fire detectors have been over-
sensitive. “ We’ve had a few false fire alarms
. .. the first one was a guy brewing beer in
the basement,” said Rolf Einar Vaagheim,
26, an offshore worker who rents an
Height records are a showcase for what
the timber industry hopes will be wider use
of wood in construction, while producers of
iron ore and steel struggle with low prices.
Mining companies, such as BHP and Rio
Tinto, have teams to assess the impact of
new materials and technology.
Even so, the use of innovative wooden
materials that allow big spans — such as
CLT or glue laminated timber — is still
“This isn’t even making a dent on concrete
and steel production — we are addicted to
the stuff,” said Andrew Waugh, of Waugh
Thistleton Architects in London.
His company is building the world’s
biggest CLT building in L ondon, using
4000cubic metres of timber to build 121
homes of up to 10 storeys.
LafargeHolcim, the world’s biggest
cement maker, says plyscrapers are only a
marginal threat to an industry dating back
to the Romans, who built the vast concrete
roof of the Pantheon almost 2000 years ago.
“Concrete is the most used building
material in the world by far; about 30
billion tonnes (a year) ... It ’s affordable,
resilient in time against weather,
earthquakes and fire,” said Bernard
Mathieu, head of sustainable development
at Lafarge Holcim.
He disputed that timber is better for
the environment than cement production,
which he said accounts for 5% of world
emissions of carbon dioxide, the main
By contrast, he said trees also play a role
in climate change because they absorb
carbon dioxide from the air to grow and
release it when they are burnt or rot. Big
losses of forests, often burnt to make way
for farms, cause up to a fifth of world
emissions, scientists say.
The timber industry says, however, that
wood from properly managed forests can
help to limit greenhouse gas emissions by
locking up ever bigger amounts of carbon
Finnish wood, paper and packaging giant
Stora Enso guarantees its CLT comes
from sustainable forests. It says global CLT
production capacity grew to around one
million cubic metres in 2016 from almost
nothing a decade ago.
“CLT has the ability to compete with
concrete and steel for larger, taller, multi-
storey construction applications,” said
Cathrine Wallenius of Stora Enso.
CLT production began in Germany,
Austria and Switzerland and is now
spreading beyond Europe to North
America, Japan and Australia, said
Matthew Fonseca, a forest expert at the
UN Economic Commission for Europe.
He said a recent forecast of 1.3 million
cubic metres of global CLT production by
2021 seemed conser vative.
Some nations have laws restricting the
height of wooden buildings, meaning most
demand for wood is for smaller structures.
“ We see the immediate opportunity
in mid-sized buildings of 2-8 storeys in
the United States, where less change is
required in building codes,” said Justin
Adams, Global Managing Director for
Lands at The Nature Conser vancy, a U.S.
Even wooden buildings have not
completely eliminated steel and concrete.
The roof terrace of The Tree, for instance,
has a concrete floor.
“It was necessary to add weight,” said
Per Reigstad, of Artec Architects who led
the project. The concrete is to keep the
building stable in high winds or even rare
earthquakes. — Reuters
“The Tree”, the world’s tallest timber apartment building.
While some people
of Blackball on
Wednesday night in pursuit of television
coverage, almost 80 men and women in
Hokitika trouped down to the translator site.
A set was connected to the receiving aerials
and, fortified by heavy coats, rugs and stools,
65 women and 10 men saw out another
instalment of Peyton Place.
Reception was excellent and the opportunity
to beat the tv blackout was enjoyed, even
though the weather was a little cool.
Chubby cheeks will not wither just because
yesterday their owners were drinking the last
bottle of milk supplied by the State — but
some will suffer.
“I am mildly concerned for the small
percentage of children who will in fact suffer
and whose diet will be adversely affected,”
district officer for the Child Welfare
Department Mr D M Gibb commented on
Friday morning. It is too difficult for Mr
Gibb to be precise but there are a “surprising
number” of children in Greymouth who do
not in fact get enough to eat.
School milk has provided a strong
foundation for their day ’s diet.
During the course of a 12-month overseas
tour, a Hokitika couple will attend the
ordination of their son as a minister of the
Church of England. Mr and Mrs C F W
Schroder, proprietors of the Central Hotel
for the past 31 years, will leave this weekend
and be in the United Kingdom in time for the
ordination of Ted Schroder on May 21.
Ted has been studying at Durham
University for the past three years.
Besides England, the Schroders will travel
extensively in Eurpoe.
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