I like the BBC’s More or Less, which takes a look at what it calls the numbers in the news. This morning I caught up with the most recent podcast of the World Service edition, which included an item on the exact measurements that determine whether a food shortage is a famine, or merely a humanitarian emergency.

One of the guests expressed the worry that just because the food shortage no longer fits the famine bill, doesn’t mean the problem is over. It occurred to me that maybe it would be possible to build some hysteresis into the measurements. What I mean is, the metrics for coming out of a famine ought to more stringent than the metrics for going into a famine. That way, it would still be a famine in people’s minds, even though it was getting better. And that might help to keep the reconstruction and relief coming.

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