As long ago as 1893,* Mr. C. E. D. Black, in official reports from India, stated that the famines were merely local phenomena due to lack of means of transporting foods from the areas where a surplus existed, and that this condition of affairs was mainly overcome. Yet, after fifteen years the famines are worse than ever, because increased transportation of foods merely increases the density of population and there is a larger number to die in the lean years. As a matter of fact the population has increased at the rate of eleven per cent, per decade, while the cultivated area increased only eight per cent., so that three per cent, of the people must die of starvation if other factors are ignored. Indeed, the two famines of 1896-7 and 1899-1900 did lessen the population by 21,000,000 souls, although very conservative estimates reduce this number to 15,000,000 for the whole period of 1860 to 1900 - a palpable underestimate.
England is constantly increasing the food supply. The fertility of the Punjab has been restored by great irrigating works; in Southern India the whole course of the river Peryar has been changed to semi-arid districts, and throughout this whole country - nearly half as big as Europe - vast tracts of almost virgin soil are being brought under cultivation. Why has not all this extra food lessened the famines? Simply because it has raised the saturation point, so that in 1901 there were 45,000,000 more people in India than in 1872. In this one generation England caused to exist more Indians than there were people in the British Islands, and simply by producing the food for them. Yet there are more babies born than can be fed, now as always, for nature persists in overcrowding. Population is like a street car - always room for one more. Even should England treble the present food, it will only result in trebling the population. The present population uses only part of the land, and we can expect future food increases. Most of the survivors of this modern civilization thrust upon India are creatures of limited intelligence, who are incapable of adding to the world's stock of goods or knowledge. It is said that at all times about 40,000,000 people cannot get enough food to satisfy hunger. As far back as 1826, Bishop Heber reported the same conditions. A new fad has come up in the way of blaming England for this, and one clergyman states that it is all due to heavy taxes, while at the same moment he shows that it is due to the inability to get the food, for, strange to say, India exports food. It is estimated that 100,000,000 Indians do not earn more than $5.00 a year - though this may be an exaggeration, it is mentioned to show that if this clergyman had food to sell in India, he would always sell it at the market price. As the native has no money to buy it goes out of the country to people with more brains. Overtaxation is nonsense - our own Indians in identical conditions were not taxed at all. The Government - poor thing - is criticized for not bringing more land under cultivation to relieve the famine, but that is what the Government has been doing, and the result is merely increased population. The percentage of starving is the same, but the total is larger. Attempts to relieve the suffering only increase it!
* See Popular Science Monthly, November, 1894.
Years ago, the Rev. Arthur H. Smith* said: "The terrible inroads of the great T'aip'ing rebellion, followed by the only less destructive Mohammedan rebellion, and by the almost unparalleled famine of 1877-78, extending over five provinces, reduced the total population of China, perhaps by many scores of millions." He notes the terrible overpopulation, occasional awful famines, and the wonderful recuperative power, due to a high birth rate. He also notes the large number of old people (who, by the way, are venerated and preserved as nowhere else on earth), and the death rate must be largely due to the death of children, the greater number of whom die of convulsions in the first few months. In 1902, in the province of Kwang Si, fully a million Chinese were officially reported as starving, and indeed, there was fear of depopulation. Missionaries fed a few hundreds for the next famine to destroy.
* "Chinese Characteristics," Revell Co., p. 144.
In 1907, there was an hysterical appeal by The Christian Herald, of New York, for funds for the famine of that year, when 15,000,000 Chinese were reported as starving, but all the money collected was thrown away as far as relieving the basic conditions. Starving Chinese were selling, drowning, and even eating their own children, horrible as this may seem, but we were saving a few and placing a premium on their lust for posterity.