During the last few months, the news media has reported on food shortages in several countries. These shortages are now creating riots as people begin to fight for food. Earlier this week, the people of Haiti began to protest against the higher cost of food in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and within a few days, the protest turned to violence as the looting began. One of the casualties was an UN solider who was shot and killed as he delivered food to his division. Within four days, the hospital of Port-au-Prince filled with 160 injured civilians, caught up in the rioting.
Rioting has occurred in several other countries over food and prices. Kamla Devi of New Delhi India told the Mail & Guardian, that, because of her husband’s low wages and the high cost of food, she and her husband were only eating once a day, and that their children had been sent to live with wealthy relatives. In Vietnam all harvesting machines are banned from the roads after sunset, and farmers carry shotguns to protect the rice fields from being stripped by people at night.
Al Jazeera has reported that millions of people are now facing starvation as the World’s food stockpiles have fallen to their lowest levels, and that rioting has occurred at Egypt’s bakeries, with many of the Egyptian citizens finding it hard to believe that people are now dying over loaves of bread. One woman mentioned that she had stood in line at the bakery from 7 am to 2 pm, only to find out that the loaves of bread were gone. Egypt is considered to be one of the largest countries to import wheat and with the soaring prices of wheat and other needed commodities such as sugar, rice, and oil, people can no longer afford to buy them, and may well be facing starvation.
Other countries that are feeling the effects of higher prices , shortage’s of food and an increased chance of rioting are Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mexico, Mozambique, and Senegal. In fact, a shortage of food at the food banks in the United States has been reported in various states and many citizens are now relying on state welfare programs to feed their families.
The United Nation Food and Agricultural Organization has stated that the food shortage crisis is the result of several factors, such as increase in price of oil and fuels, greater demand for food, global warming and climate change, and biofuel. Furthermore, the United Nation’s Food Program has quoted that its facing substantial funding shortage needed to feed a needy 89 million people. According to the Mail & Guardian, the president of the International Monetary Fund & World Bank, Robert Zoellick, without actually pointing a finger, blames the United States in part for the higher cost and the food shortages. Zoellick stated that we need to look at the effects that biofuel is creating. More land is being used to grow crops for the biofuel industry than for people.
Oil Industries Greed: During the last four years, the oil industry has made record profits; yet state that they are not price gouging. This year, the industry made a $123 billion dollar profit, and demands that they receive an $18 billion dollar rebate from the government. They have also asked the House to influence Congress in allowing them to explore 85% of the Continental Shelf, and state that the oil found will bring the prices at the pump down. As of now, they have stated that they will cut back on production. The prediction for a gallon of gas by the end of spring is near or at $4.00 a gallon.
In 1990, the cost of diesel averaged $.73 a gallon, compared to gasoline which sold at an average of $1.16 per gallon. Diesel was considered as a cheap fuel, the end product, or a fuel that was not highly refined. By 2008, the cost of diesel rose to $4.00-$4.19 a gallon. The increase in price has been explained by damages through the Gulf hurricanes, and to the increase of the manufacturing of vehicles, such as those found in Europe, that rely upon diesel fuel. The increase in the diesel fuel was passed on to the consumer through higher costs for shipping, foods and commodities.
Global Warming and Climate Change: Environmentalist have been stating for years that we were causing harm to our planet through the releases of various gases such as carbon dioxide,(power plants), carbon dioxide,(cars, trucks, planes) methane, (oil, gas, fossil fuel production) various other chemicals, (industrial) and the removal of nature’s air purifiers, trees. This warming is slowly leading to climatic changes such as droughts, and floods leading to the destruction of crops grown for human consumption.
Greater Demand for Food: Many of the once “third world” countries, such as India and China, have become wealthier through a growing economy and now are spending at least 10 percent of wages earned on food staples. With more money to spend, the demand for various food staples has grown.
Biofuel and the United States: Several years ago, the government started to pay farmers subsidies for growing corn for the manufacturing of ethanol or biofuel. Because of previous losses from various crops, farmers began to use more and more land for the growing of corn, and less for other crops for human consumption and livestock.
In 2007, President Bush made a trip to South America and made a pact with Brazil regarding the production of ethanol. Today, the United States and Brazil furnishes approximately 70 percent of the world’s ethanol. Both the United States and Brazil, starting with Central America and the Caribbean’s, are encouraging other nations to follow pursuit and start to use and produce ethanol or biofuels. Many nations have followed suit, and planted corn or other crops that can be used for the production of biofuel, instead of planting food crops, thus increasing the shortage of the world’s food supply.
What Can Be Done: First of all, we must all accept that we must also share in the blame of the food crisis. We can no longer be apathetic, sitting back and laminating that “we can’t do a thing about it” when in fact, we can. I’m not referring to rioting, or protesting, but the usage of our rights under the Constitution.
1 Vote: If you’re not registered to vote do so. Vote for the person whom is best for the country and not your party’s choice. Voice your opinion, if the person elected is failing to live up to his or her word.
2. Conserve gasoline. If the store is within walking distance, walk instead of driving. Not only is walking good for your health, you’ll conserve gas as well. If possible, conserve by taking a bus or car pooling. Buy gasoline only at the gas station and convenient stores, they count on other purchases more so than the gasoline. Buy your gum, chips, drinks, or items elsewhere.
3. Instead of fighting and arguing over differences, accept these differences and start to get along with each other. “United we stand, divided we fall.”
4. Use our right of petitioning the government when laws and regulations are unjust.
5. Before voting on issues weigh the consequences. Growing corn and other crops to manufacture ethanol as a fuel alternative is a good idea. However, growing more corn and other crops for the manufacture of ethanol, than for people is a very bad idea, especially if it leads to food shortage and starvation for many. How many lives will take to make a gallon on cheaper fuel?
6. Invest and ask the government to invest in other sources of energy, such as solar panels, and windmills.
7. Demand that we stop sending work overseas, and invest in work at home. Create more jobs, and better education for our future generations.