Forecasting isn’t an exact science, but
researches at the New England
Complex Systems Institute may have come up with a formulaic approach that can help them to
identify risk factors that contribute to political instability which may lead
to riots and civil unrest similar to what we saw in the Middle East this
Their model is so accurate that they reportedly
wrote a letter to the United States warning of imminent danger just days
before the mid east and north African riots broke
On 13 December last year, the group wrote to the US
government pointing out that global food prices were about to cross the
threshold they had identified. Four days later, Mohamed Bouazizi
set himself on fire in Tunisia in protest at government policies, an event
that triggered a wave of social unrest that continues to spread throughout
the middle east today. (source)
Using advanced complexity theory the researchers
have come up with a number of indicators that can predict when a population
reaches its breaking point. Specific details and assessments are provided in The
Food Crises and Political Instability in North Africa and the Middle East
When the ability of the political system to provide
security for the population breaks down, popular support disappears. Conditions
of widespread threat to security are particularly present when food is
inaccessible to the population at large. In this case, the underlying reason
for support of the system is eliminated, and at the same time there is
“nothing tolose,” i.e. even the threat
of death does not deter actions that are taken in opposition to the political
order. Any incident then triggers death-defying protests and other actions
that disrupt the existing order.
Widespread and extreme actions that jeopardize the
leadership of the political system, or the political system itself, take
place. All support for the system and allowance for its failings are lost.
The loss of support occurs even if the political system is not directly
responsible for the food security failure, as is the case if the primary responsibilitylies in the global food supply system.
The following chart provides a visual guide:
(View Larger Image)
Chart Explained: Time dependence of FAO Food Price Index
from January 2004 to May 2011. Red dashed vertical lines correspond to
beginning dates of “food riots” and protests associated with the
major recent unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. The overall death
toll is reported in parentheses. Blue vertical line indicates the date,
December 13, 2010, on which we submitted a report tothe
U.S. government, warning of the link between food prices, social unrest and
political instability. Inset shows FAO Food Price Index from 1990 to 2011.
The group, led by researcher Marco Lagi,
is now warning that their thresholds are about to be broken again. And, this
time the implications may be much more serious than before:
The underlying trend of increasing prices will reach
the threshold of instability in July 2012, if we consider current prices, and
April 2013 if we correct prices for reported ination.
Either way, the amount of time until the often warned global food crises
appears to be very short. Indeed, consistent with our analysis, the current
food price bubble is already subjecting large populations to reported
distress, as described in a recent UN report warning of the growing crisis.
We identify a speci
c food price threshold above which protests become likely. These observations
suggest that protests may reect not only
long-standing political failings of governments, but also the sudden
desperate straits of vulnerable populations. If food prices remain high,
there is likely to be persistent and increasing global social disruption.
Underlying the food price peaks we also fi
nd an ongoing trend of increasing prices. We
extrapolate these trends and identify a crossing point to the domain of high
impacts, even without price peaks, in 2012-2013. This implies that avoiding global food crises and associated social
unrest requires rapid and concerted action.
It’s clear that Lagi and
his colleagues have done the work, and their data make sense, especially
given what we’ve seen geo-politically over the last year. Given the way
government has thus far attempted to mitigate this economic crisis –
which is to make it worse – we are pessimistic about their ability to
stop the rising food price trend, and the loss of confidence that will be
sure to follow.
As such, the analysis provided suggests that instability
due, in large part, to rising food prices is imminent and we have, at best,
twenty months before riots and civil unrest come to the streets of America.
Now would be a good time to speed up your SHTF Plans.