But Seriously, it’s the Hunger Games

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?

English: A photograph of demonstrators chantin...

English: A photograph of demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans in Giza, Egypt, during the 2011 Egyptian protests. العربية: صورة للمتظاهرين في الجيزة, مصر, ليلة يناير 25, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - AUGUST 18:  A famine refu...

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA – AUGUST 18: A famine refugee plays next to a camp for Somalis displaced by drought and famine on August 18, 2011 in Mogadishu, Somalia. The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have fled their villages to Mogadishu in the last two months due to the crisis. Some 1.5 million Somalis are estimated displaced nationwide due to drought, famine and war. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

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.

From Oxfam:

“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.

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2 thoughts on “But Seriously, it’s the Hunger Games

  1. And in our first world markets in North America, we are eating petroleum every time we buy apples from Chile (all year long,) pistachios from China, pineapples from the Philippines, and so on. It’s colonialism elsewhere, and corporate food supplies for us. Grow your own and seek out local, in-season foods.

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