EPA to World’s Hungry: “Let Them Eat Cake”

Ethanol corn mandates are not just useless.  When people are starving, these policies make the problem worse.  Much worse.

What’s the number one reason we riot?  The plausible, justifiable motivations of trampled-upon humanfolk to fight back are many—poverty, oppression, disenfranchisement, etc—but the big one is more primal than any of the above.  It’s hunger, plain and simple.  If there’s a single factor that reliably sparks social unrest, it’s food becoming too scarce or too expensive.  So argues a group of complex systems theorists in Cambridge, and it makes sense.

But how accurate is the model?  An anecdote the researchers outline in the report offers us an idea.  They write that “on December 13, 2010, we submitted a government report analyzing the repercussions of the global financial crises, and directly identifying the risk of social unrest and political instability due to food prices.”  Four days later, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire as an act of protest in Tunisia.  And we all know what happened after that.

“Recent droughts in the mid-western United States threaten to cause global catastrophe,” Yaneer Bar-Yam, one of the authors of the report, recently told Al Jazeera.  “When people are unable to feed themselves and their families, widespread social disruption occurs.  We are on the verge of another crisis, the third in five years, and likely to be the worst yet, capable of causing new food riots and turmoil on a par with the Arab Spring.”

Did you catch that?  “Recent droughts in the mid-western United States threaten to cause global catastrophy,” Why are recent droughts such a threat?  Because,

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