Saturday, 27 August 2011

It's all kicking off - but why now?

Tunis, 18 January 2011
Damian Carrington shares some revealing new research findings:

'Seeking simple explanations for the Arab spring uprisings that have swept through Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya, is clearly foolish amidst entangled issues of social injustice, poverty, unemployment and water stress. But asking "why precisely now?" is less daft, and a provocative new study proposes an answer: soaring food prices.

Furthermore, it suggests there is a specific food price level above which riots and unrest become far more likely. That figure is 210 on the UN FAO's price index: the index is currently at 234, due to the most recent spike in prices which started in the middle of 2010.

Lastly, the researchers argue that current underlying food price trends - excluding the spikes - mean the index will be permanently over the 210 threshold within a year or two. The paper concludes: "The current [food price] problem transcends the specific national political crises to represent a global concern about vulnerable populations and social order." Big trouble, in other words.'

I recommend reading the article in full. While the research is focused on current developments, there is an interesting historical perspective on this too. I was reminded of this insightful post from Paul Mason in April: Revolutions and the price of bread: 1848 and now


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