The world’s hungriest are the losers as an old colonialism returns to govern relations between wealthy and poor nations. As investigative journalist George Monbiot says, “The rich world’s governments will protect themselves from the political cost of shortages, even if it means that other people must starve.”

In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis tells the story of the famines that sucked the guts out of India in the 1870s. The hunger began when a drought, caused by El Niño, killed the crops on the Deccan plateau. As starvation bit, the viceroy, Lord Lytton, oversaw the export to England of a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. While Lytton lived in imperial splendour and commissioned, among other extravagances, “the most colossal and expensive meal in world history”, between 12 million and 29 million people died. Only Stalin manufactured a comparable hunger.

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