In college I took a great class with a professor who actually loves to teach (Professor Tong). The class was Political Violence. In that class, we examined factors that lend themselves towards civil unrest. Is it the type of government? Is it cultural? Is it colonialism? Is it having a large population of young, unemployed men?
A couple years later, Egypt happened, and I remember reading something that struck me as what is likely to be the best answer to the question of civil unrest – food prices. (I’m not sure that thisis the same article, but it’s along the same lines.)
People aren’t that complicated. Most people just want to spend time with their families, do a job that at least sustains them if not fulfills them, and enjoy their lives along the way. But people can’t do that if they’re hungry.
There’s a reason why the Roman idea of Panem Et Circenses (bread and spectacles, which is more accurate than the literal translation to circuses) is at the core of the Hunger Games premise. Keep people fed just enough, give them something shiny and sparkly to distract them, and they’ll probably be fine for a good, long time.
But if people go hungry, things change quickly- which brings us to climate change. Extreme weather events like drought will cause shortages in crop staples like soybeans and maize, which lend themselves to spikes.
“Climate change could lead to a permanent increase in yield variability and excessive food price volatility, however, which could leave many poor countries with potentially insuperable food security challenges.”
This isn’t too complicated to understand. Farmers already live and die by the weather. They’re in it for the long haul. And there are good years and bad years, but what we are looking at is having year after year after year of completely freakish years- not just bad. Yields are affected and all of a sudden prices are spiking all over the place.
Inevitably, millions are going to starve, and there are plenty of predictions about where the problem will be the most severe. But this simply brings home the fact that climate change is not so simple that it can be classified simply as an environmental issue. It is about civil unrest, people being forced from their homes, and countries in chaos because people won’t be able to afford to buy food. Ideally they’d be able to grow it, but thanks to hundreds of years of colonialism and corporate empires abroad, most traditional forms of agriculture in which people could grow their own food have been interrupted for the sake of cash crops and commodities extraction.
It’s all piling up. We have a problem.