News Release

The Coming Food Crisis and Global Unrest


MICHAEL KLARE, mklare at hampshire.edu
Klare just wrote The Hunger Wars in Our Future: Heat, Drought, Rising Food Costs, and Global Unrest, which states: “The Great Drought of 2012 has yet to come to an end, but we already know that its consequences will be severe. With more than one-half of America’s counties designated as drought disaster areas, the 2012 harvest of corn, soybeans, and other food staples is guaranteed to fall far short of predictions. This, in turn, will boost food prices domestically and abroad, causing increased misery for farmers and low-income Americans and far greater hardship for poor people in countries that rely on imported U.S. grains.

“This, however, is just the beginning of the likely consequences: if history is any guide, rising food prices of this sort will also lead to widespread social unrest and violent conflict.

“Food — affordable food — is essential to human survival and well-being. Take that away, and people become anxious, desperate, and angry. In the United States, food represents only about 13 percent of the average household budget, a relatively small share, so a boost in food prices in 2013 will probably not prove overly taxing for most middle- and upper-income families. It could, however, produce considerable hardship for poor and unemployed Americans with limited resources. …

“This could add to the discontent already evident in depressed and high-unemployment areas, perhaps prompting an intensified backlash against incumbent politicians and other forms of dissent and unrest. … It is in the international arena, however, that the Great Drought is likely to have its most devastating effects.”

Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.