Posts Tagged ‘Water supply’
Veteran world watcher Lester Brown sounds dire warning of spreading political unrest, conflicts, and deepening division between rich and poor as food prices soar and supply falls further and further behind rising demand, but does not point to obvious solution Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
June 14, 2011 The Institute of Science in Society
Soaring food prices and political unrest
Soaring food prices were a major trigger for the riots that has destabilized North Africa and the Middle East beginning December 2010 in Tunisia. Political unrest has since engulfed Algeria, Egypt, Jordon, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and spread to Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, and beyond [1-4]. Latin America is said to be at risk , and even Britain, if food prices continue to rise . The UN Food Price Index has been hovering above 231 points since the start of 2011, and hit its all-time high of 238 points in February. The May 2011 average was 232 points, 37 percent higher than a year ago .
Richard Ferguson, global head of agriculture at Renaissance Capital, an investment bank specializing in emerging markets, told The Guardian newspaper in the UK  that the problems were likely to spread. “Food prices are absolutely core to a lot of these disturbances. If you are 25 years old, with no access to education, no income and live in a politically repressed environment, you are going to be pretty angry when the price of food goes up the way it is.” It acted “as a catalyst” for political unrest, when added to other ills such as a lack of democracy.
“Scarcity is the new norm”
Food has quickly become the hidden driver of world politics , says Lester Brown, venerated veteran world-watcher, who also predicts that crises like these are going to become increasingly common. “Scarcity is the new norm.”
Historically, price spikes tended to be almost exclusively due to bad weather such as monsoon failure, drought, heat wave, etc., but today, they are driven by trends of both increasing demand and decreasing ability to supply. With a rapidly expanding global population demanding to be fed, crop-withering temperatures and exhausted aquifers are making it difficult to increase production. Moreover, the world is losing its ability to soften the blow of shortages. USA, the world’s largest grain producer, was able to rescue shortages with its grain surpluses in the past, or bring idle croplands into cultivation. “We can’t do that anymore; the safety cushion is gone.”
That’s why “the food crisis of 2011 is for real”, Brown warns, and why it may bring yet more bread riots and political revolutions. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, may not be the end, but the beginning.
Brown does not mention the huge speculation on agricultural commodities in the world financial markets that not only drives up prices but increases volatility, making it much more difficult for farmers and consumers to cope (see  Financing World Hunger, SiS 46). Olivier de Shutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, has referred to the 2007-2008 crisis as a “price-crisis” not a “food-crisis”, precipitated by speculation and not linked to insufficient food being produced, at least not yet, as Brown elaborates.
Resource collapse is bigger than peak oil, and bigger even than the projected depletion of natural gas, coal and uranium – it encompasses each and every natural resource extracted, exploited or otherwise processed on an industrial scale.
This is not to deny peak oil, or the subsequent decline of all the other hydrocarbons that are essential to our lives and economies; the point is that even if we switched to renewable energy tomorrow, we would still not be out of the mess that we’re in. We’re experiencing problems with our living environment – climate, soil and water – that are more than just energy issues.
Once again, Hubbert’s model can be applied to any finite resource we extract from the Earth. If it’s tragic that we are burning through all available resources with no thought for future consequences, it’s worse still to think that the payback will likely happen all together. We will probably find ourselves dealing with a widespread hydrocarbons collapse right when we have to face a greatly reduced global capacity to grow crops and find people enough water to drink.
The peak debate, although on the surface about energy security, comes back to food supply. So here I’m going to look at peak soil, peak water and peak phosphorous.
One of many destroyed water wells in Gaza’s border regions.
Eva Bartlett, The Electronic Intifada, 15 February 2010
Israel imposed the “buffer zone” along Gaza’s side of the internationally-recognized “Green Line” boundary nearly ten years ago. Israeli bulldozers continue to raze decades-old olive and fruit trees, farmland and irrigation piping, and demolish homes, greenhouses, water wells and cisterns, farm machinery and animal shelters.
Extending from Gaza’s most northwestern to southeastern points, the unclearly-marked buffer zone annexes more land than the 300 meters flanking the border. Israeli authorities say anyone found within risks being shot at by Israeli soldiers. At least 13 Palestinian civilians have been killed and 39 injured in border regions in and outside of the buffer zone since the 18 January end of Israel’s attacks last year, among them children and women.
A sector destroyed
Farmers in southeastern Gaza take shelter from bullets fired by Israeli soldiers at the border nearly one kilometer away.
The United Nations agency OCHA reports that roughly one-third of Gaza’s agricultural land lies within the buffer zone, its width varying from half a kilometer to two kilometers.
Ahmed Sourani, of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC), told the Guardian newspaper: “It is indirect confiscation by fear. My fear is that, if it remains, it will become de facto.”
According to PARC, the fertile farmland in and next to the buffer zone was not long ago Gaza’s food basket and half of Gaza’s food needs were produced within the territory.
In 2008, the agricultural sector employed approximately 70,000 farmers, says PARC, including 30,000 farm laborers earning approximately five dollars per day.
One of the most productive industries some years ago, farming now yields the least and has become one of the most dangerous sectors in Gaza, due to Israeli firing, shelling and aggression against people in the border regions.
Of the 175,000 dunams of cultivable land, PARC reports 60 to 75,000 dunams have been destroyed during Israeli invasions and operations. The level of destruction from the last Israeli war on Gaza alone is vast, with 35 to 60 percent of the agricultural industry destroyed, according to the UN and World Health Organization. Gaza’s sole agricultural college, in Beit Hanoun, was also destroyed.
Oxfam notes that the combination of the Israeli war on Gaza and the buffer zone renders around 46 percent of agricultural land useless or unreachable.
More than 35,000 cattle, sheep and goats were killed during the last Israeli attacks, as well as 1 million birds and chickens, according to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) September 2009 report.
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U.S. congressman: U.S. should break Israel`s blockade of Gaza:
“We ought to bring roll-on, roll-off ships and roll them right to the beach and bring the relief supplies in, in our version of the Berlin airlift,” Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington state said.