Thursday, April 24, 2008

Energy prices and food riots: pending apocalypse?

A recent scene in Haiti
I wonder, do the people of this country dare to turn away from American Idol and the NBA playoffs and even the ridiculous pageantry of American presidential politics for a moment and take a look at the ominous events that are occurring all over the world? Events that are even now permeating our national borders insidiously? Will they even notice that anything is happening? Or will they sit, insensate as the colloquial frog in the ever-warming pan of water, and flip through their cable television channels until the front door is kicked in and reality barges into their living rooms?

I'm talking about food riots.

Prices for food staples like rice and wheat have risen over the past several months by upwards of 75%, causing outbreaks of violence all over the globe.

Protest in India...
Predictably, the unfolding crisis is erupting first in the poorest countries: Indonesia, the Philippines, Cameroon. In Haiti, the government of Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis was removed from office after a week of rioting by the nation's poor who were unable to afford basic food stuffs. I became aware of the crisis in a very personal manner, when my wife, whose country of birth is Burkina Faso, called her family and learned that there had been rioting and violence in Ouagadougou. Thankfully, my in-laws are safe and unharmed...for the moment.

...and Mexico...
Americans would be foolish to ignore the crisis; to write it off as something far away; something with which they need not be overly concerned. Writing a check to MercyCorps isn't going to make it all go away. Already, America's big box stores, with Walmart leading the way, are rationing rice purchases. Apparently, customers are being limited to no more than four 20-pound bags per visit.

Experts from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) attribute the rise in food prices directly to a rise in the price of oil, but also to global warming and the loss of arable land.

...and Egypt
Food shortages breed desperate, frantic people. Desperate, frantic people commit desperate, frantic acts. Governments fall; chaos and lawlessness prevail; violence and brute strength become the coin in trade for human interactions.

People, we are staring into the face of the beast.

The reasons behind the rise in the price of oil, the lifeblood of today's global economy, are myriad. But certainly, the greed of oil company executives factors into it. I cannot say that I believe that the Bush/Cheney cabal is entirely responsible for the crisis. I believe that they have exacerbated the problem, and hastened its onset, but it has been coming for years, if not decades.

Even as I have faith that all will be according to the plan of the Great Whatever, it seems to me that our immediate future is fraught with peril and anguish. It is long past time for all of us to look honestly at the dangers we face and determine what (if anything) can be done.

For my part, I hope I face whatever may come with courage. I hope I remain true to what I know in my heart to be right.

Keep your eyes on the minute-hand, people. It's nearly midnight.


Dan Binmore said...

Dade, fear not. Although these are very bad things, and very bad things effect people in horrible and tragic ways, even if things get much, much worse than they are now, that means that things will get back to about how they were in the 1950's. Things have got much, much better worldwide over the last fifty years. So, this a terrible, frightening crisis that should be speedily and thoroughly addressed, but the minute hand is further away from midnight than it was twenty years ago, in my opinion.

Ridwan said...

Great post brother. COSATU (trade union) is warning that food riots are not too far from the streets of South Africa.

The signs are there.

Bread is expensive and scarce in places.

Veggies and fruits cost as much as meat.

In fact, I can't tell you that we can find good veggies on the shelves here. We are dumfounded.

You can but the best of German autos in any color and trim. Don't expect though to find apples and spinach plentyful anywhere.

Peace Dade,

Unknown said...

Wait, I can only buy four 40 pound bags of rice from Sam's Club? Man, there is a food shortage in the US - let's riot!

I scoff at the US's faux concern for it's own food supply when clearly there is so much more need elsewhere. We in the US typically overindulge and could probably use a few days without our 3-4 meals per day.

Check out the What the World Eats photo series here:

My Probinsyana Diary said...

Hi my name is Nina Hamili Piao. I am from the Philippines. It is true, food price had really soared high this past few months. Some sa it is due to hoarding. But I dont believe that. Food source had really gone scarce due to changing agricultural lands into industrial ones. It has affected our family so much. I cant imagine those people who eat once a day before this crisis occured. Can they even eat now?
I just hope that things would go better and not worsten..

May GOD bless the Philippines, my beloved country!

_Nina Hamili Piao_

NWJR said...

I hear global warming is responsible for the return of "American Gladiator", too. Jeez, I swear, people blame Global Warming for every social ill the way athletes thank God for every touchdown. Both are ridiculous.