[Ok-sus] Oil, grain, and politics

Robert Waldrop bwaldrop1952 at att.net
Sun Mar 3 17:27:54 UTC 2013

What's the hidden issue in much of the turmoil in the Middle East?  Well. . . 
the world's top nine wheat importers are all Middle East nations, and many of 
those nations are suffering drought.  See below for a bit of an essay from 
today's NYT reporting a new study on the Arab Spring and Climate Change.  Note 
that one issue, not mentioned in the Times article, is the embedded energy 
content of wheat production.  While it is not as high as corn, it's not 
insignificant either.
 Bob Waldrop, Oklahoma City
http://www.ipermie.net -- How to permaculture your urban lifestyle

The original study the Times article is based 
on: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/security/report/2013/02/28/54579/the-arab-spring-and-climate-change/


...Only a small fraction — 6 percent to 18 percent — of annual global wheat  
production is traded across borders, explained Sternberg, “so any  decrease in 
world supply contributes to a sharp rise in wheat prices and  has a serious 
economic impact in countries such as Egypt, the largest  wheat importer in the 

The numbers tell the story: “Bread provides one-third of the caloric  intake in 
Egypt, a country where 38 percent of income is spent on food,”  notes Sternberg. 
“The doubling of global wheat prices — from  $157/metric ton in June 2010 to 
$326/metric ton in February 2011 — thus  significantly impacted the country’s 
food supply and availability.”  Global food prices peaked at an all-time high in 
March 2011, shortly  after President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in Egypt. 

Consider this: The world’s top nine wheat-importers are in the Middle  East: 
“Seven had political protests resulting in civilian deaths in  2011,” said 
Sternberg. “Households in the countries that experience  political unrest spend, 
on average, more than 35 percent of their income  on food supplies,” compared 
with less than 10 percent in developed  countries. 

Everything is linked: Chinese drought and Russian bushfires produced  wheat 
shortages leading to higher bread prices fueling protests in  Tahrir Square. 
Sternberg calls it the globalization of “hazard.” 

Ditto in Syria and Libya. In their essay, the study’s co-editors,  Francesco 
Femia and Caitlin Werrell, note that from 2006 to 2011, up to  60 percent of 
Syria’s land experienced the worst drought ever  recorded there — at a time when 
Syria’s population was exploding and its  corrupt and inefficient regime was 
proving incapable of managing the  stress. 

In 2009, they noted, the U.N. and other international agencies reported  that 
more than 800,000 Syrians lost their entire livelihoods as a result  of the 
great drought, which led to “a massive exodus of farmers,  herders, and 
agriculturally dependent rural families from the Syrian  countryside to the 
cities,” fueling unrest. The future does not look  much brighter. “On a scale of 
wetness conditions,” Femia and Werrell  note, “ ‘where a reading of -4 or below 
is considered extreme drought,’ a  2010 report by the National Center for 
Atmospheric Research shows that  Syria and its neighbors face projected readings 
of -8 to -15 as a result  of climatic changes in the next 25 years.” Similar 
trends, they note,  are true for Libya, whose “primary source of water is a 
finite cache of  fossilized groundwater, which already has been severely 
stressed while  coastal aquifers have been progressively invaded by 
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://mailman-mail5.webfaction.com/pipermail/ok-sus/attachments/20130303/fbf03986/attachment.html>

More information about the Ok-sus mailing list