[Ok-sus] Oil, grain, and politics
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
Bob Waldrop, Oklahoma City
http://www.ipermie.net -- How to permaculture your urban lifestyle
The original study the Times article is based
...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
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