The Fellowship of Life
By Guy Brinkworth, S.J.
Catholic Herald (2/2/73)
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez was a Jesuit lay brother who said his Rosary continuously and well. Perhaps because of this he inspired a young priest to go and spend himself to death comforting materially and spiritually the broken human cargoes of African slaves that were dumped on the stinking wharves of what is now modern Colombia to enrich the nominally Catholic traders. He might thus be described as one of the pioneers of anti-apartheid, and St. Peter Claver. his protege, as its great patron.
We have little slavery now. But we have a Third World which comprises two-thirds of humanity and in which a large proportion still live in con ditions of extreme squalor, of shivery to economics. illiteracy and ignorance. The slave traders or the seventeenth century no doubt sopped their Christian consciences by telling themselves that their victims who died in their tens of thousands were only half human after all. Our abortionists today are still using that argument though the recent findings of legal experts concerning the rights of the unborn child contradict the argument.
And may there not he at the back of our own minds, some vague judgment that so many or the Third World are "ignorant," "lazy," irresponsible and quite undeserving of any help?
These are cruel and most unChristian as well as completely ignorant sentiments. Of course the Third World has its fair share of the lazy: for idleness would seem to be a part of the curse of Adam. But let us remember one thing. A disgraceful proportion of these people is trapped inextricably in a downward vicious spiral of protein deficiency and enervating hopelessness. Hundreds of millions are demoralised by the seeming unendlessness of any form of stable employment as we know it in the affluent club.
No, not "laziness": a more Christian and accurate prognosis would be protein deficiency and its companion despair.* Recently we have heard a great deal about "The Green Revolution" which was initiated by agricultural technologists who produced new hardy strains of carbo-hydrate foods as wheat and rice which gave treble and even greater yields. This breakthrough came just in time to save tens of millions from starvation. But these are not proteins, and not by bread alone can a man work and resist disease and languor. Many, despite a glut of rice. are still enmeshed in that downward protein spiral.
Providence. however, has acted again. Till recently we have had to rely on animals and fish to convert vegetation into edible protein for us. This is done by the mechanism within the animal extracting proteins already in plants or with the help of bacteria and enzymes converting carbohydrates (starch etc.) into the more complex and vital protein molecule. It is a costly, wasteful, dirty and cruel process. For many, modern "factory farming" is a degrading business. And the growing use of drugs to increase yields might even become dangerous.
So the arrival of pilot plants for processing green vegetation direct into "meats" on an industrial scale can be regarded as bringing new hope and life. For instance, a technique has been perfected and, as we shall see, is already commercially in production. which extracts the protein from a podded pea.
Simultaneously, in Sweden Svenska Sockerfabriks have been operating successfully a pilot plan for converting waste potato starches into an edible protein food by the use of yeast enzymes. Thus such natural tropical starch foods as tapioca could be converted into edible protein in situ. The Ranks-Hovis-McDougall combine, already providing Courtaulds with much of its vegetable proteins is experimenting a process of converting starches into protein by means of the action of a microfungus.
And perhaps most astonishing is to find that B.P. is well on its way to mass-production of "microbial protein" suitable for animal feed (so needed in the Third World) from oil and natural gas.
Optimistically we used the word "hope". But it is clear that there is no hope for the hopeless if we regard (and we have already begun to do this) these triumphs of "soft" technology simply as monopolies of the affluent club to make us richer and fatter; and as further devices for intensifying and consolidating the economic slavery and bondage of the poor nations to the rich.
As Christians we needs must organise ourselves immediately to lobby and vote and in the use of all the media to ensure that the Second Green Revolution, which owing to its technical complexity is highly capital-intensive, is used first for the benefit of God's poorer children. We must be willing to do without so that we can share God's gifts.
The factories surely must be built in situ in the needy countries themselves and our administrative, technical and organising know-how deployed to provide the simple raw materials from local acreage and labour.
Here lies the hope of arresting that downward protein spiral with a generous and stewardly use of the Second Green Revolution. Is the fact that over half the population of the new European Community, so intent on raising the standard of living of its own members, is Catholic to count or nothing?
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