Sunday, March 02, 2014

"Global riot epidemic due to demise of cheap fossil fuels"

First a synopsis of the Ukrainian riots from the KyivPost:
A new wave of protests and clashes between protesters and police in Kyiv started after the Verkhovna Rada failed to register a resolution on reinstating the 2004 version of the Ukrainian constitution on Feb. 18, upon which the opposition had insisted. Over 80 people died in the clashes. This ultimately led to the change of government in the country: President Viktor Yanukovych has gone into hiding, and the Ukrainian parliament elected Oleksandr Turchynov as the new speaker and interim president on Feb. 22. The Verkhovna Rada also reinstated the 2004 constitution and scheduled early presidential elections for May 25. Yanukovych was declared internationally wanted on Feb. 24 on suspicion of responsibility for mass killings of peaceful protesters. 
....Most Russians are following the events in Ukraine, and nearly half of them are sure that the recent protests in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities have been influenced by the West, as is seen from a public opinion poll of 1,603 people the Levada Center sociological service conducted in 130 populated areas of 45 regions of Russia on Feb. 21-25. 
In the view of 45 percent of those polled, the Ukrainians are protesting under the influence of the West seeking to draw Ukraine into the orbit of its political interests, 32 percent explain the riots by nationalistic sentiments in society, and 17 percent are sure that the protests were fueled chiefly by hatred toward Yanukovych's corrupt regime.

That riots would break out as shortages increased was to be expected to happen sometime. This author says it is now. From the Guardian.UK by Nafeez Ahmed:
If anyone had hoped that the Arab Spring and Occupy protests a few years back were one-off episodes that would soon give way to more stability, they have another thing coming. The hope was that ongoing economic recovery would return to pre-crash levels of growth, alleviating the grievances fueling the fires of civil unrest, stoked by years of recession. 
But this hasn't happened. And it won't
Instead the post-2008 crash era, including 2013 and early 2014, has seen a persistence and proliferation of civil unrest on a scale that has never been seen before in human history. This month alone has seen riots kick-off in VenezuelaBosniaUkraineIceland, and Thailand
This is not a coincidence. The riots are of course rooted in common, regressive economic forces playing out across every continent of the planet - but those forces themselves are symptomatic of a deeper, protracted process of global system failure as we transition from the old industrial era of dirty fossil fuels, towards something else. 
Even before the Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia in December 2010, analysts at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned of thedanger of civil unrest due to escalating food prices. If the Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) food price index rises above 210, they warned, it could trigger riots across large areas of the world.
The pattern is clear. Food price spikes in 2008 coincided with the eruption of social unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Cameroon, Mozambique, Sudan, Haiti, and India, among others. 
In 2011, the price spikes preceded social unrest across the Middle East and North Africa - Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Libya, Uganda, Mauritania, Algeria, and so on. 
Last year saw food prices reach their third highest year on record, corresponding to the latest outbreaks of street violence and protests in Argentina, Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and elsewhere. 
Since about a decade ago, the FAO food price index has more than doubled from 91.1 in 2000 to an average of 209.8 in 2013. As Prof Yaneer Bar-Yam, founding president of the Complex Systems Institute, told Vice magazine last week: 
"Our analysis says that 210 on the FAO index is the boiling point and we have been hovering there for the past 18 months... In some of the cases the link is more explicit, in others, given that we are at the boiling point, anything will trigger unrest." 
But Bar-Yam's analysis of the causes of the global food crisis don't go deep enough - he focuses on the impact of farmland being used for biofuels, and excessive financial speculation on food commodities. But these factors barely scratch the surface. 
The recent cases illustrate not just an explicit link between civil unrest and an increasingly volatile global food system, but also the root of this problem in the increasing unsustainability of our chronic civilisational addiction to fossil fuels. 
...Ukraine is a net energy importer, having peaked in oil and gas production way back in 1976. Despite excitement about domestic shale potential, Ukraine's oil production has declined by over 60% over the last twenty years driven by both geological challenges and dearth of investment. 
...Currently, about 80% of Ukraine's oil, and 80% of its gas, is imported from Russia.   
...Of course, the elephant in the room is climate change. According to Japanese media, a leaked draft of the UN Intergovernmental Panel onClimate Change's (IPCC) second major report warned that while demand for food will rise by 14%, global crop production will drop by 2% per decade due to current levels of global warming, and wreak $1.45 trillion of economic damage by the end of the century. The scenario is based on a projected rise of 2.5 degrees Celsius. 
This is likely to be a very conservative estimate
 ....Unfortunately, simply taking to the streets isn't the answer. What is needed is a meaningful vision for civilisational transition - backed up with people power and ethical consistence....

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