Blowback

April 10, 2008 § 3 Comments

In addition to being broke and on the cusp of a serious relationship, most of my writing energy has lately been diverted to Chapter Two, which is stubbornly refusing to write itself.  As a result, I have accrued a worrying number of half-written posts on a variety of subjects, the vast majority of which fall into the category of seething rants.

Luckily, Paul Krugman has recently tackled one of them: namely, the global food crisis that has been quietly escalating and which last week burst onto the front pages of several newspapers.  I’d feel badly about letting him beat me to it, but then he gets paid considerably more than I do to rant about such things.    

In a nutshell, the price of wheat, corn, and, most crucially, rice has skyrocketed in recent months, and the consequences are being felt in virtually all parts of the non-Western world.  Full-fledged food riots have already occurred in Mexico, Haiti, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Morocco, Egypt, and the Philippines, and even the loathsome World Bank is warning that social unrest could spread to as many as thirty countries in the very near future.

Krugman does a decent job of summarizing the causes of the problem, and he pays special attention to the West’s blinkered demand for biofuels, which proves beyond doubt that the road to hell is not only paved but fuelled by good intentions.  In so doing, he reminds us that environmental policies must always take social and economic considerations into account, and that poverty is itself an environmental issue.

I leave you with three articles to peruse: Krugman’s general comments, this excellent piece about the food shortage in Egypt, and a report on the negative consequences of biofuels for food and energy security.  And just in case anyone needs a refresher, here’s a little something on the law of unintended consequences.  Eggheads take note.

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