The Long Emergency from a 2nd – 3rd World Perspective

Posted: April 11th, 2008 by: h2

Today there are food riots in many countries in the world, for example. Oil is now around US $112 bbl, US dollar is weak and about to go weaker if current tendencies continue. The only reason it’s not hitting like a revolt or bang is that the systems involved are so massive and intertwined that inertia keeps things going, the question is what happens, what is the cost of that inertia, long term.

Things are incredibly challenging at this moment, stuff is hitting so fast it’s stunning, same is happening in climate change and related research, at every level the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth is hitting real time, and nothing is coming to change that so far, although it could have had we started seriously when the first real warnings came in around 1970.

Some days I am kind of stunned at the rates of change happening, and how little time it’s taking for feedback loops to start kicking back in.. given that this has never happened before, who knows how it will evolve… current good guess, with many Henry Miller-esque flaws, is James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency.

But news from the last few weeks, covering global 2nd/3rd world fuel problems, and now food problems, makes me realize that Kunstler, in his focus on the United States, almost completely failed to realize that the weakest will fall first, and those are the countries that cannot borrow more to buy more oil / natural gas / coal, and now, food. These countries are already on the edge of survival, and have no margin or room to maneuver.

Last year, the food import bill of developing countries rose by 25 percent as food prices rose to levels not seen in a generation. Corn doubled in price over the last two years. Wheat reached its highest price in 28 years. The increases are already sparking unrest from Haiti to Egypt. Many countries have imposed price controls on food or taxes on agricultural exports.
New York Times

It’s still quite unclear to me how this is going to play out in the first world, the industrialized parts, but one thing is getting kind of obvious: food and water are first, and when you produce food in a cash economy, and you need oil, lots of oil, to produce that food, you are looking at a very serious problem.

Kunstler’s idea of local food production isn’t going to play out in our country first, it’s going to play out in the weakest links in the chain, the ones who cannot currently feed themselves, and don’t have enough capital or resources to sell to buy food, especially not on credit.

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