Monday, February 28, 2011

Spiking food prices:part of a perfect storm without adequate global responses?

From GPS on CNN with Fareed Zakaria, February 27, 2011
From the What in the World segment of this "appointment television" program, Zakaria pointed out several pieces of information that, collectively, have and will continue to impact global politics for the foreseeable future.
The subject is the rising cost of food:
  • coffee beans up 100% in the last twelve months
  • the cost of wheat up 60% in the last twelve months
  • the cost of corn up 80% in the last twelve months
  • the UN says is now costs one-third more to stay well fed than it did one year ago
  • the IMF says there are now 1 billion people in the world who are hungry
Government responses vary from food subsidies, to prevent unrest, even violence from breaking out in the streets (China) to blocking exports of select foods considered essential to the diet of their people (India with onions) to raising the amount of money available for the citizens to purchase enough food to stay alive....
Yet none of the measures so far adopted seems conducive to growth; according to Zakaria, most governmental steps to address this issue have been restrictive and inward looking.
Once again, the world has the statistical information needed to generate some global initiatives on this issue but lacks the political organizational structure to make decisions that would generate both more production and better distribution. The world also has the analogic data that pours out of every television screen on a 24-7 basis, screaming about the unrest that the collisions of poverty and unemployment with giant spikes in the price of food. However, it lacks the political organization and the political will to make decisions on a global basis that would see the abundance of some shared with the scarcity of others, at prices that those facing scarcity could afford.
Watching the extremely lame political responses to the violence in Libya, and the tepid offers of help for the other North African countries whose citizens, like the crysalis emerging into the butterfly, are finding their wings and attempting to move out of the cocoons that have so impaled their people for decades. The world has so many layers of government, and yet lacks any form of global governance that has the necessary mandate and the accompanying sustainability in government commitments and funding and staffing to make the kinds of decisions that are needed, while avoiding the significant danger of imposing the will of one country or block of countries on a single fledgling country...
Are we witnessing the decline of the nation state, as we knew it?
Are we witnessing the pace of change on the street outstripping the capacity to adapt to that change and its pace by the several governments of the several countries to whom the world looks for leadership, for guidance and for support of these uprisings, based as they are partly on the spectre of starvation, as a consequence of the vortex of  what some consider a perfect storm, including the rising price of food?
Are we coming to the end of the usefulness of the United Nations, as currently structured?
Are we in need of a new vision of global interdependence that takes on global initiatives like climate change, food production and distribution, financial regulation, the provision of health care, crisis intervention, international peace-keeping and global communications and research?
Are the problems we face simply so complex and so large that they have far outstripped the capacity of our political organzations to deal with them effectively in an integrated approach of multiple overlapping equations, since to deal with any problem in isolation is to neglect many of its implications that reach into so many other "files"...that word that protects politicians while avoiding the complexities of reality?
Are our current realities now beyond the capacity of the totality of the NGO's to meet the needs of the people who are starving, dying, protesting, unemployed and in combat...when all they want is to be fed, working and earning a decent income to sustain their family?

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