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The world is richer than ever, but it’s not due to communism or capitalism, it’s science

Hank Campbell

June 2024

Science for Sustainable Agriculture

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Award-winning science writer Hank Campbell notes that proponents of competing political ideologies are keen to take the credit for the dramatic reductions in the number of people living in poverty seen over the past 70 years. The world is richer than ever, he says, but this is not because of communism or capitalism, it's advances in agricultural science supporting increased yields, allowing more room for nature and biodiversity, while elevating more people out of poverty and hunger. 

There are lots of stories about the poor in America, and have been for decades. Smart demographers know that, like racism, if everyone is talking about The Poor, it’s almost eliminated.

One of the giant cracks in the communist dictatorship called the USSR last century was when the television program “60 Minutes” had a segment on poverty in America. It was designed to tug at the heartstrings of those with more money. The USSR ran it for their citizens but it actually backfired. Being in ‘poverty’ in America meant having a television and more living space than anyone not an elite in the Soviet Union had.

Today, America and all western nations are so wealthy compared to the past that for the first time in the history of the world, poor people can afford to be fat. Like cotton, that was once a luxury reserved only for the wealthy.

Because poverty has plummeted, everyone not in the business of raising money talking about how poor people are want to take credit for it.

Capitalists note that free markets and globalization led to a quality of life improvement of 300 percent for the poorest during the time Karl Marx was saying that capitalism needed violent overthrow, and hasn’t slowed down.

Communists note that the world average quality of life has improved so much due to better lives – in China. They have so many people they move the world needle by just not having idiots like Mao forcing hundreds of million to starve.

They’re both right. They both also miss the plot. In both cases, the common denominator is science, not which economic model leads to less corruption and grift.
















China stopped having waves of famine when they embraced the same agricultural science that America used. Food production increased so much their communist government went from forced sterilization and abortion of female offspring to paying women to have babies.(1)

This has been a trend worldwide, at least in countries where dictators or external powers like Europe don’t block the use of science under threat of embargo. Even climate change doomsday prophets have begun to back off claims that food production is in decline. It clearly is not.




















This effect has had a tremendous impact on poverty.
















It is well-known that as people need less time and/or money for basic necessities, they devote more to art. Music flourishes, literacy improves, libraries go up.

What also happens as food begins to use more science is a return to nature. Thanks to being the world’s most pro-science country, 51 percent of America is open land, essentially unused.  Only 17 percent of the US is cropland while only 3 percent of our land is urban. Science has made such huge advances in affordable food with greater yields using less land and water and energy that 16,000,000 acres of farmland have gone out of use since 1999. And only 0.4% of the remaining are large, so-called “factory” farms, which means science has made it possible for 2 million family farms to stay competitive.

If the world used science and did what America has done, farmland the size of India could revert to nature and no one would starve.

There are challenges to that. Europe is a natural breadbasket and their environmentalists are too large to be ignored, but they’re also stuck in an economic malaise caused by belief in claims that solar power and organic food just needed “political will” and “leadership”, when the science reality is they are just gimmicks for the wealthy.

Recent election results show a collapse in confidence in the ‘green’ groups - people in Europe want affordable energy, they want food, they want medicine. Those are all things activists claim the private sector can’t be trusted to do.

If trends keep going, Europe will join the rest of the developed world in the 21st century, and that will let Africa be free of EU import restrictions against science and allow the continent to feed itself, and then be an economic engine of its own.


(1) On the other side of the science equation, we just saw what happened in Sri Lanka when they believed anti-science activists and said the organic process could now do what it never could in the past. The resulting food riots in just one season nearly toppled their government.

Hank Campbell is a best-selling author, award-winning science writer, and founder of Science 2.0, a US-based science outreach NGO which has been read by over 300,000,000 people. A version of this article first appeared on Science 2.0 here, and is reproduced with the author's kind permission.   

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