Saturday, March 24, 2012

How much do food issues contribute to violence?

I began reading The Big Thirst a couple of days ago, and was startled by a statistic about how many Syrian grain farmers walked away from their land and losses in 2010 after several years of extreme drought.

Now I must confess that I get tired of listening to news from the Middle East.  It seems that whenever I set my clock radio for, when it comes on NPR is reporting on the Middle East.   So sometimes I don't really listen...

I did a little searching and learned that after those years of drought, unusually heavy rains wiped out a chunk of the 2011 crop.  Meanwhile, many who left the land have fled to the urban areas around Damascus, while hungry refugees from Iraq also streamed into the country.

It seems to me that hunger and despair are surely helping to fuel the strife in Syria.   I'm not saying that their political leaders aren't despots, only that a hungry, displaced population must be contributing to the situation.

Now reactions to the civil war (are we calling it that yet?  sure sounds like we should) have caused the EU to stop importing Syrian oil.   So, less money to buy grain from other countries.   And even if they could buy enough, would it get to the hungry?

What a tangled mess.   And nevermind the feedback loop - that anthropogenic climate change from burning all that oil may have contributed to the climate extremes causing the staple food shortages.

I'm just thinking that sometimes we may need to look to the basics of human life - like our food system - to understand the factors contributing to political strife.   And I wonder why such things don't make the news a little more often.   I might wake up and listen.

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