Friday, April 18, 2008

We Live In Frightening Times

(Photo: Hunger in Hyderabad, India, 2008. "Villagers near the city of Hyderabad recently jostled for rice that was being sold by government officials." Kirshnendu Halder/Reuters, (c) The New York Times Company.)

Welcome to the 21st century. Food shortages leads to price increases leads to hunger leads to civil unrest leads to - revolutions - or societal collapse. We've seen societal collapse in the ancient (and not so ancient) past due to droughts, shifting rivers, volcanic eruptions that disrupted the growing seasons for 2-3-4 years due to increased suspended particulate, leading to famine and starvation. What resulted was NOT pretty.

So, what will be the responses of modern-day national governments? Price controls and rationing? Mass starvation? I remember Biafra and the hopeless, overwhelmed feeling you get when confronted with such a castastrophe unfolding before your eyes on television. So, you gave then and give what money you can now and don't see that it's making any difference. Millions died. Millions are still dying every year due to malnutrition.

The "extra" I used to have from which to give to charity has disappeared. My salary increase for 2008 was 3% - and that has to hold me until my next "review" at the beginning of 2009. My utility bills are going up by 20 to 30% even as I type this and my grocery bill has increased by a good 10 to 15% just over the past 6 months. So, there is no "extra" anymore to give to charity.

I do not understand why people keep having children whom they cannot possible feed? I do not understand this kind of mindset, popping out babies like there is no tomorrow - and very likely will not be for many millions of children. Children - always the most helpless are the victims. I suspect we're just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg here...

Here are a few of the recent articles about the "suddenly upon us" food crisis:

(More than 20,000) Mongolians flood capital to protest food prices
Friday April 18, 9:40 am ET
Thousands of Mongolians stage protest in capital over rising food prices

***If they're protesting in Mongolia, there must be food shortages and rising prices next store in China, too, particularly at the rate that illegal developers have been gobbling up farm land with the wink wink collusion of the local Communists who pay no attention to whatever is going on in Bejing. Will we hear about that unrest - probably not, given the Communist government's control of the media. This is really ironic, given the fact that some Chinese are protesting the western media's alleged bias against China in the coverage on Tibet and have gone so far as to put up a website decrying that bias and pointing out alleged instances of bias (no doubt complete with Photoshopped pictures to support their version of the "facts.") Of course those Chinese (whoever they are - supposedly students here in the US) say nothing about their own country's 1984 control of the media and mass brainwashing of the Chinese people. They have no access to free and unfettered media so how could anyone living in China possibly have an informed opinion on anything? So then, will they starve quietly into their graves and solve a large part of the world's problem of "excess population" (a term used in by Scrooge in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol")? Somehow, I don't think so...***

The Food Chain
A Drought in Australia, a Global Shortage of Rice
Published: April 17, 2008
The collapse of Australia’s rice production is one of several factors contributing to a doubling of rice prices in the last three months — increases that have led the world’s largest exporters to restrict exports severely, spurred panicked hoarding in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and set off violent protests in countries including Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, the Philippines, Thailand, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

U.N. Panel Urges Changes to Feed Poor While Saving Environment
Published: April 16, 2008
“Modern agriculture will have to change radically if the international community wants to cope with growing populations and climate change, while avoiding social fragmentation and irreversible deterioration of the environment...”

The prices of basic food like rice, wheat and corn have been rising sharply, setting off violent popular protests in countries including Haiti, Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, Yemen, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Italy. The unrest has resulted in tens of deaths and helped lead to the dismissal on Saturday of the Haitian prime minister, Jacques-Édouard Alexis, and the increasing cost of subsidizing bread prices is a major worry for key American allies like President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger
Published: April 18, 2008
“This is a perfect storm,” President Elías Antonio Saca of El Salvador said Wednesday at the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Cancún, Mexico. “How long can we withstand the situation? We have to feed our people, and commodities are becoming scarce. This scandalous storm might become a hurricane that could upset not only our economies but also the stability of our countries.”

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