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[Feature] [20 Must-know GEI] 5. Was the Middle East revolution caused by a lack of rain?

by Eco Generation | 07-07-2016 10:00 Comments 3 recommendations 0

20 Must Know Series-Title

5. Was the Middle East revolution caused
    by a lack of rain?

20 Must Know Series-Image 5-1
1. Climate change and food crisis.

     In 2010, extreme drought and mountain fires in Ukraine and Russia, two of the world's major wheat producers, caused a sharp drop in crop production. Russia banned crop exports in order to prevent a domestic food price rise, which led to a rapid increase of international crop prices. At that time, countries in the Middle East and North Africa, where farmland was insufficient, imported most of their wheat. As wheat stocks decreased, the prices of bread started skyrocketing and crowds held protests, shouting to the governments, 'Give us bread!' Due to these series of large-scale demonstrations in the Middle East and North Africa, the so-called 'Arab Spring' occurred in which the political powers in Egypt and Libya were changed. Likewise, the Syrian Civil War was due to pent-up social unrest because of a long-time drought that began in 2007, Syrian farmers had to move to cities, as they could no longer farm.

"Food shortages, food security and overall hunger problems will be a huge threat to us."
- Chairman of IPCC, Rajendra Pachauri 

     As climate change becomes severe, so do agricultural disasters such as storms, rainfall, frosts and droughts. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecast in its fifth report that a global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius above 20th-century levels would aggravate a worldwide food shortage starting in 2030. Market unrest has continued due to climate change with seesawing crop production.

2. Various causes of food crisis.

     Food crises are caused by various factors, including climate change as well as increased energy consumption, changes in dietary life and the commercialization of food. Here are some examples: First, desertification and lack of water have reduced farmland worldwide. Second, the rise in oil prices has increased the costs of crop production and logistics and biofuel production using corn, beans and other edible plants. Third, dietary changes in emerging countries such as China and India caused meat consumption to increase, which led to growing demand for crops. Fourth, a huge amount of food is controlled by a relatively small number of corporations. Fifth, food has become a target of financial investments. These factors caused a rapid increase of food prices worldwide for two years, from late 2006 to early 2008, from which more than 1 billion people in the world suffered from hunger.
20 Must Know Series-Image 5-2

3. The current status of Korea.

     Korea imports over 15 million tons out of the 20 million tons of grain it consumes every year. Overall, food self-sufficiency is at about 23%, including wheat (1.1%), corn (0.8%), beans (6.4%) and rice (83%). Current rice consumption, however, is half the level of the 1970s and continuously decreasing. Therefore, it is too early to be relieved about producing a lot of rice. Actually, the consumer price index in Korea during the international food crisis from 2007 to 2008 showed that the prices of processed food made from imported wheat skyrocketed: noodles 64.3%, ramen 23.8% and bread 17.5%. Tofu made from imported beans also showed a price increase by 22.4%. That is, we are not free from the food crisis either.

4. Things we can do to prevent food crisis.

1) Eating locally produced seasonal produce.
Your local farmers can continuously produce healthy agricultural plants. As you don't eat produce imported from distant regions, energy spent on transportation and carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced. If it is seasonal produce, energy consumption required for unseasonal vegetables can also be saved usually, unseasonal produce requires a lot of energy on heating systems for vinyl-covered greenhouses, and even seasonal produce needs to be stored in cold storage facilities to be marketed in different seasons. Therefore, unseasonal food depends upon lots of energy.

2) Growing your own vegetables.
 You can grow crops even in cities with insufficient farmland: use verandas and rooftops as well as small vacant lots. In this way, urban people can at least increase their food self-sufficiency, and during the farming process they can enhance their understanding of the food production process and sensitivity on agriculture.

3) Cutting down on meat consumption.
 If you cut down on eating meat, a smaller amount of crops will be used for stock feed. Additionally, fewer tropical forests or farmlands will be burned or cultivated to provide space for growing crops or animals. Water or soil pollution due to the livestock industry growing cows or pigs as well as an enormous amount of methane emissions will decrease as well. Methane is 21 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 especially ruminants such as cows emit a large amount of methane chewing the cud.

4) Using consumer cooperatives.
 Consumer cooperatives mainly provide local food and eco-friendly food. By using consumer cooperatives, you can help eco-friendly farmers and the local economy and prevent monopolies by agricultural and food corporations. 

[Reference documentaries]

Food, Inc. (2008)
The documentary shows the actual production and distribution processes of food that we eat. It suggests that we choose local food and organic produce as alternatives to harmful monoculture, the factory farming system, monopolies by a few seed companies, genetically modified food and a huge amount of energy consumed by the food industry.

Years of Living Dangerously, 2014 Episode 1, "Dry Season"
This documentary was directed by the famous film director James Cameron who made Titanic and Avatar and stars Hollywood stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matt Damon and Jessica Alba. It vividly shows ever-worsening climate change problems in every corner of the world In episode 1, it describes how climate change has aggravated the circumstances in Syria. 

[Reference Books]

Betting on Famine: Why the World Still Goes Hungry (2007) Jean Ziegler, Galapagos
Once a member of the Advisory Committee of the UN Human Rights Council, the author explains easily how many and why people are dying of starvation despite the current situation where there are lots of leftover food in the world. For more in-depth content, refer to "Destruction Massive" by the same author (2012) and "World Hunger: Twelve Myths" by food expert Francis Moore (2003) that was initially printed in 1986.

Conversion of food (2013) The Energy and Climate Policy Institute for Just Transition (ECPI) & Mosim and Salim Institute, Hantijae.
The book describes how cooperative associations realistically overcome agriculture, food and energy problems caused by climate change.

Food (2013) by Clapp Jennifer, Isang Books.
The book explains the food system beyond our food in terms of international political and economic aspects. It also suggests how to practice fair trade, food justice and food sovereignty as alternatives.

Script by : Prof. Yoon, Sun-jin's Environment & Energy Lab
                Seoul National University
Illustration by : Kim, Jeong-kyeom


  • says :
    This one is directly related to the previous one.
    I do like his serie , i am also learning great things on this platform!!!

    Keep it up tunza!!!
    Posted 17-07-2016 01:22

  • Anishka Jha says :
    I can relate to this very well as I have lived my whole life in the middle east... thanks for this article Eco-gen:)
    Posted 12-07-2016 23:58

  • Anthony Emecheta says :
    I have always believed the Middle East revolution was totally a political affair. How would I have ever guessed that food shortage had a part to play in all that happened there. Thank you Eco-generation for educating me.
    Posted 07-07-2016 14:41

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