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Atkins, Peter (2009) 'Famine.', in International encyclopedia of human geography. Oxford: Elsevier, pp. 14-20.


Famine is a powerful word but it is difficult to define. The article considers its measurement as a means of exploring its variabilities, such as intensity and magnitude. Famine Early Warning Systems are increasingly being used to sound alerts and target aid, and they have been enhanced recently through attention to vulnerable groups and livelihoods. As a concept, famine has made a long journey from crude Malthusian arguments about ‘overpopulation’ to current debates that focus on hazards, entitlements, and the political economy of food systems. The human right to food has become a rallying point for antifamine activists, and there are now many voices calling for accountability among those responsible for famine crimes. The article identifies a number of new variant famines and concludes with a discussion of famine futures.

Item Type:Book chapter
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Date of first online publication:2009
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