The Great World Crisis I

World Bank Annual Report 1974

World Bank, 1818 H Street, NW, Washington, DC 20433, 142 pp., free

International Monetary Fund, Annual Report of the Executive Directors for the Fiscal Year Ended April 30, 1974

International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC 20431, 155 pp., free

A Time to Choose: America's Energy Future

by the Energy Policy Project of the Ford Foundation, with a foreword by McGeorge Bundy
Ballinger, 528 pp., $4.95 (paper)

World Hunger: Causes and Remedies Studies, 1520 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

Transnational Institute (an affiliate of the Institute for Policy, 64, 16 tables pp., free

The Energy Crisis

by Tad Szulc
Franklin Watts, 160 pp., $6.88

By Bread Alone

by Lester R. Brown
Praeger, 272 pp., $3.95 (paper)


When the history of the approaching depression comes to be written—a depression likely, on present showing, to be even more severe and more world-shaking than the depression of 1929-1940—the second half of 1974 will appear as the time when an unwilling world, preoccupied with inflation and mounting unemployment, was suddenly brought face to face with the twin issues of food and energy.

Ever since Watergate passed into history we have heard of little else. On the radio, on television, on the front pages of the daily newspapers and on the covers of weekly magazines, the food and energy crisis has become headline news, the subject of endless conferences, study groups, projects, and reports.

When I began writing this review in mid-November, the World Food Conference, attended by representatives of some 130 nations, was meeting in Rome. My desk is littered with reports, all reciting the same facts and proposing much the same remedies. Predictably enough, the annual reports of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were dominated by oil and food, and almost simultaneously came the elaborate study commissioned by the Ford Foundation, at a cost of $4 million, on “America’s Energy Future.”

In addition, a whole array of private institutes have sprung into action, all protesting their independent status and therefore, presumably, their disinterestedness: the Trilateral Commission (“A Private North American-European-Japanese Initiative on Matters of Common Concern”),1 the Management Institute for National Development,2 the Transnational Institute (“a community of scholars from different countries dedicated to the study of problems that can no longer be studied within the confines of any single country”), the Institute on Man and Science,3 to say nothing of old established organizations such as the Brookings Institution.4

The result is an impressive volume of information, but a multiplicity of voices. The trouble for the ordinary man and woman—for you, in fact, and for me—is that the gathering crisis has so many facets, so many interlocking ramifications, each reacting upon the other, until in the end we seem to be trapped in a deteriorating situation with no obvious solution in sight.

Merely to list the problems is to see their complexity, the crisscrossing web of unresolved issues in which the world has suddenly become entangled. On the one hand, there is the fourfold increase in the price of oil since the Arab-Israeli war of October, 1973; on the other, the inexorable approach of the end of the hydrocarbon age, the drying up—hard even now to visualize, but by all accounts not more than fifty years away—of the main source of energy on which the industrial world has come to depend. Then, the shortterm famine conditions arising from the droughts of 1972 and 1973, the desperate plight of 800 million people in Asia and Africa, as well as the long-term problem of providing adequate feeding for a growing world population.

Add to these the problems of mounting inflation and growing unemployment, the instability of the Middle East and the shaky…

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