Saturday, February 22, 2014

Brian Merchant — The Math That Predicted The Revolutions Sweeping The Globe Right Now

Why climate change will lead to massive social unrest and conflict.
It's happening in Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand, Bosnia, Syria, and beyond. Revolutions, unrest, and riots are sweeping the globe. The near-simultaneous eruption of violent protest can seem random and chaotic; inevitable symptoms of an unstable world. But there's at least one common thread between the disparate nations, cultures, and people in conflict, one element that has demonstrably proven to make these uprisings more likely: high global food prices.

Just over a year ago, complex systems theorists at the New England Complex Systems Institute warned us that if food prices continued to climb, so too would the likelihood that there would be riots across the globe. Sure enough, we're seeing them now. The paper's author, Yaneer Bar-Yam, charted the rise in the FAO food price index—a measure the UN uses to map the cost of food over time—and found that whenever it rose above 210, riots broke out worldwide. It happened in 2008 after the economic collapse, and again in 2011, when a Tunisian street vendor who could no longer feed his family set himself on fire in protest.

Bar-Yam built a model with the data, which then predicted that something like the Arab Spring would ensue just weeks before it did. Four days before Mohammed Bouazizi's self-immolation helped ignite the revolution that would spread across the region, NECSI submitted a government report that highlighted the risk that rising food prices posed to global stability. Now, the model has once again proven prescient—2013 saw the third-highest food prices on record, and that's when the seeds for the conflicts across the world were sewn....
The Math That Predicted The Revolutions Sweeping The Globe Right Now
Brian Merchant


mike norman said...

You didn't need a mathematical model to predict this.

Tom Hickey said...

Most people can figure this out. But a lot of economists and policy makers apparently need a model.

BTW, the Pentagon and other militaries have been warning about this wrt to climate change for some time.

mike norman said...

Let me see this guy predict the market now.

Ryan Harris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Is the price high because of a shortage of food?

Rationing and subsidies have worked in the past to keep the peace.

miller B said...

increases in food production has out paced population growth. A 30% gain in per capita production from 1980 to 2010.

Of course mmters now that rising prices is not always a function of supply shortage.

Not saying GW isn't real, but fanatics who blame everything on GW discredit it more than they help.Looks like poor research or propaganda.

I would look into monopoly pricing power of cargil,Monsanto, etc. also the price of oil. which is the biggest expense of agriculture.

Also consider the amount of output going to ethanol, biodiesel etc. Per capita output has never been higher. It's just more profitable not to feed people with no money.

Tom Hickey said...

Agree that GW is not yet the major factor. I live in Iowa, which is an agricultural state, and there is great concern here about it though. It's a growing factor.

I see GW as a vise that is closing. It is turning out that it is closing more quickly than previously anticipated. How soon the vise will affect the global economy and geopolitics as a major factor is uncertain, but the militaries of the world are already adapting and drawing up contingency plans.

Theoretical physicists Michio Kaku said some time ago that the question is really the gap between the growing challenge and a successful adaptive response to it. If the gap is sufficiently large, which he estimated at the time to be a couple of decades, humanity would take a severe hit.

Ryan Harris said...

"increases in food production has out paced population growth"

"Is the price high because of a shortage of food?"

I have two answers for that:

Answer: More People in the labor market pushed down labors share of production. Found the chart on google. Have no idea who the author is.

and second, by price, energy content of food surpassed energy content of fossil fuels so food gets converted to fuel.

Anonymous said...

Almost half of the world's food production thrown away report finds

The Rombach Report said...

Connect the dots between the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, the current civil war in Syria and Federal Reserve policy. This is not to say that Fed ZIRP/QE policy is inflationary, but where the rubber meets the road, perception becomes reality.

August 26, 2010 -- Jackson Hole Wyoming Fed confab, Bernanke hints that QE2 was in the pipeline.

Nov 11, 2010 Fed begins QE2

Late December 2010 - early January 2011. Food riots break out in Algeria and Tunisia over the soaring cost of food as flour, cooking oil and sugar double in price, resulting in the Jasmine Revolution overthrowing government of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia.

Turmoil spreads to Libya and Egypt disrupting oil production sending oil prices 20% higher.

March 2011 - Civil war in Libya results in downfall of Muammar Muhammad with military assistance from US.

February 2011 - Bernanke testified before Congress that Fed QE policy did not unleash the inflation that was running rampant at the time and instead blamed rising prices on disruption in the oil market due to fighting in Libya.

Egyptian Lotus Revolution topples Mubarak government resulting in subsequent election of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi later tossed out of power by military coup in July 2013.

The unrest spread to Syria which has been at civil war for almost 3 years.

Maybe the Federal Reserve should be moved over to the Department of Defense considering how many governments have been destabilized or toppled with only minimal involvement of the US military.