Wednesday, April 02, 2008


An ongoing series, or why reading my blog is worthwhile:

Me, June 2006:
Global grain reserves are at their lowest point since Richard Nixon was president. According to Worldwatch: "This year’s world grain harvest is projected to fall short of consumption by 61 million tons, marking the sixth time in the last seven years that production has failed to satisfy demand. As a result of these shortfalls, world carryover stocks at the end of this crop year are projected to drop to 57 days of consumption, the shortest buffer since the 56-day-low in 1972 that triggered a doubling of grain prices."
I provide today's headlines 21 months in advance. Take that, Nostradamus! The Financial Times, yesterday:
Governments across the developing world are scrambling to boost farm imports and restrict exports in an attempt to forestall rising food prices and social unrest.
The LA Times, yesterday:
KHARTOUM, SUDAN — For 15 years, he's been a "grocer" for Africa's destitute. But he's never seen anything like this.

Pascal Joannes' job is to find grains, beans and oils to fill a food basket for Sudan's neediest people, from Darfur refugees to schoolchildren in the barren south.

Lately Joannes has spent less time shopping and more time poring over commodity price lists, usually in disbelief.

"White beans at $1,160," the white-haired Belgian, 52, cries in despair over the price of a metric ton. "Complete madness! I bought them two years ago in Ethiopia for $235."
The two most-commonly cited reasons for the rapid increase in food prices? Poor harvests in Australia, and the western demand for biofuels. Climate change and liquid fuels are both directly attributable to our consumption in North America. To put it another way, people are at an increase risk of starvation because of what we drive and the way we warm our homes.

Once again, it seems that the western reaction to climate change is going to be simple: at least one person is going to have to die, hungry and scared, for every westerner that changes their lifestyle. I wonder if anyone's put together a corpse-to-Prius index?

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