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UPDATE February 2012 — The Food Crises: Predictive validation of a quantitative model of food prices including speculators and ethanol conversion | NECSI

UPDATE February 2012 — The Food Crises: Predictive validation of a quantitative model of food prices including speculators and ethanol conversion | NECSI.

Cite as: M. Lagi, Yavni Bar-Yam, K.Z. Bertrand, Yaneer Bar-Yam,
arXiv:1203.1313, March 6, 2012.

Abstract

Increases in global food prices have led to widespread hunger and social unrest—and an imperative to understand their causes. In a previous paper published in September 2011, we constructed for the first time a dynamic model that quantitatively agreed with food prices. Specifically, the model fit the FAO Food Price Index time series from January 2004 to March 2011, inclusive. The results showed that the dominant causes of price increases during this period were investor speculation and ethanol conversion. The model included investor trend following as well as shifting between commodities, equities and bonds to take advantage of increased expected returns. Here, we extend the food prices model to January 2012, without modifying the model but simply continuing its dynamics. The agreement is still precise, validating both the descriptive and predictive abilities of the analysis. Policy actions are needed to avoid a third speculative bubble that would cause prices to rise above recent peaks by the end of 2012.

NECSI Food Price Update Warns of Crisis by 2013

CAMBRIDGE (March 6)–According to a new study from the New England Complex Systems Institute the next food price bubble will occur by 2013.

“The food price bubble of 2011 caused widespread hunger and helped trigger the Arab spring. In 2013 we expect prices to be even higher and may lead to major social disruptions.” said Professor Bar-Yam President of NECSI, who has just returned from Davos where he presented his findings on speculation in global commodity markets. His paper “The Food Crises: A Quantitative Model of Food Prices Including Speculators and Ethanol Conversion” was called by Wired magazine one of the top 10 discoveries in science of 2011.

In 2008 and 2011 increases in global food prices triggered hunger, food riots and social unrest in North Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere, at a cost to global stability which policy makers can no longer ignore. Over the past decade, world unrest has sharply increased at time of peak food prices; now the long-term price trend is getting close to what used to be episodic peaks.

According to the new study, the next food price peak will take place in about a year. The results will be dramatically higher prices than we have encountered thus far. The study warns that should ethanol production continue to grow according to multiyear trends, even the underlying trend will reach social-crisis levels in just one year.

NECSI’s latest findings reveal that the model from their 2011 paper still fits food price price trends. Their update reveals one important shift, however, in price trends, which might add to, not lessen, global instability. “The current trend of prices suggests that in the immediate future market prices may become lower than equilibrium,” says the study, “consistent with bubble and crash market oscillations.”

Lower prices at first may seem like good news as a reprieve from the extremely high food prices seen in the past, but the study says that the drops are likely to be short-term.

To examine what is driving the rises in food prices, researchers at the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI) performed a detailed study in 2011. The Institute, which uses mathematical modeling to reveal social and political trends, drew from the FAO Food Price Index from January 2004 to March 2011, and investor movements—shifting among commodities, equities and bonds. The analysis discovered two key drivers behind the rise: investor speculations and the rush toward conversion of corn to ethanol. The study was presented by invitation at the World Economic Forum in Davos and featured as one of the top 10 discoveries in science in 2011 by Wired magazine.

This month, NECSI is publishing the results of its study update, in which the institute extends its food price model to January 2012, entering no modifications to the model and continuing to use its dynamics.

NECSI’s researchers said the model they have used to examine food prices has proven to be robust and consistent with ongoing behavior of food prices.

Bar-Yam, who co-authored last year’s food-price study as well as the latest study update, said that the fit with the FAO Food Price Index is still “strikingly quantitatively accurate, validating both the descriptive and predictive abilities of the model.

“To extend NECSI’s earlier model ten months out and to still witness a fit is important,” he added. “This means we have validated it for data that was not around when we first made the model. It predicted the burst of the 2011 food bubble at the exact time it happened, when many were saying that high food prices were there to stay. Success in predictive validation is remarkable. The conclusions are reinforced greatly that high food prices are due to ethanol and speculators–with all the relevant policy implications.”

“The current equilibrium value is about 50% higher than the prices prior to the impact of the ethanol shock. And the projected time until the next food price bubble is about a year.” The results will be dramatically higher prices than encountered thus far.

Press contacts

Karla Bertrand, Press Relations
karla@necsi.edu, 617-547-4100

Clare Froggatt, Program Coordinator
clare@necsi.edu, 617-547-4100

Tunisia PM resigns as part of transition plan – Africa – Al Jazeera English

Tunisia PM resigns as part of transition plan – Africa – Al Jazeera English.

Larayedh’s exit comes as Tunisia’s national assembly works on approving a new constitution [Reuters]
Tunisia’s prime minister has resigned, in line with an agreement aiming to end months of political deadlock in the country.

Ali Larayedh, of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, announced on Thursday that he had handed his resignation to President Moncef Marzouki.

“As I promised to a short while ago … I have just submitted the government’s resignation,” Larayedh said.

His resignation comes as part of a blueprint to put the democratic transition in Tunisia back on track after the assassination of Mohamed Brahmi, an opposition MP, last year.

Under the plan, Larayedh is set to be replaced within 15 days by Mehdi Jomaa, the prime minister- designate, at the head of a government of technocrats that will lead the country to fresh elections.

“The president will appoint the new Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa shortly, and he will present his new cabinet in the next few days,” Larayedh said.

“I hope the country will be a model for democratic transition.”

Mounting pressure

Ennahda has been under mounting pressure to relinquish power after it was elected in 2011 following a popular uprising that deposed long-time President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Tunisia’s national assembly is in the process of approving a new constitution, and elections for a new government are due to be held later this year.

An independent authority was established on Wednesday to oversee the upcoming elections, a requirement that Ennahda had set as a condition for stepping down.

The approval of a new constitution, which Ennahda had also demanded in exchange for handing over power, is on track to meet an agreed deadline of January 14, the Tunisian uprising’s three-year anniversary.

The new charter had been delayed for months by the withdrawal of opposition assembly members in protest at Brahmi’s killing in July.

Recent steps towards political reconciliation come against a backdrop of increased social unrest across the country, however.

Central Tunisia in particular, where a young street vendor touched off the 2011 uprising by setting himself on fire in protest at his impoverished daily life, has seen a number of protests in recent days.

Kasserine clashes

A new vehicle tax, which came into force this year, has also prompted nationwide protests with demonstrators blocking major highways.

Several hundred protesters attacked a tax office, a police post, a bank and a municipal building on Wednesday in the town of Feriana, in the central Kasserine region, according to AFP news agency.

Al Jazeera’s Youssef Gaigi, reporting on Thursday from the capital Tunis, said: “There were protests in different parts of the country because of new taxes imposed by the government.

“Tunisia is going through difficulties in terms of the economy. And most of [the] rural areas where the revolution has started initially, three years ago, did not see much development. And that’s what they want now. They want jobs.”

Growth was less than three percent last year across Tunisia, and the country’s unemployment rate exceeds 30 percent among people who haven’t finished school.

The Conspiracy is Systemic and Legalized. | Collapse of Industrial Civilization

The Conspiracy is Systemic and Legalized. | Collapse of Industrial Civilization. (FULL ARTICLE)

If you are a person who gets their news solely from mainstream media and forms a worldview from that information, then this website would perhaps strike you as radical, off-base, and conspiratorial. But what if nearly everything you listen to and read has been filtered through the monied interests of the most powerful entities on the planet? And what if those entities quite literally control the government by way of a revolving door, campaign contributions, and lobbyists who unduly influence the crafting of legislation in favor of big business while ignoring the needs of the common citizenry? What if you are merely a pawn in the machinations of such a system — a consumer for the all-important world market and a disposable human resource in its labor pool? What if the wealth created by such an economy is amassing at the very tip of this pyramid scheme while leaving those below to fend for themselves in a world depleted of its resources and poisoned by industrial waste. Would such a grim reality be considered a conspiracy theory? In other words, would the previously described outcome of such a socio-economic system necessarily have to be the plan of a secret cabal of powerful people? If corporations must compete to survive and are legally bound to look after the financial interests of their shareholders, then protecting and growing profits must in the end override all other concerns — environmental and social. The gross wealth disparity, environmental destruction, and political disenfranchisement created by capitalism is not the byproduct of a conspiracy; it’s simply the end-result of a system operating as intended. Concentration of wealth, a characteristic result of capitalism, inevitably leads to a near total corruption of journalism and democracy. Of course the corporate elite may collude to price-fix, bribe regulators or heads of state, and cover up environmental damage and dangers to public health, amongst many other devious activities, but it is invariably done in the interest of gaining dominance in the market place and protecting profits. Capitalism and democracy are not compatible. In fact, life on Earth is ultimately not compatible with capitalism….

Protests held in Bahrain ahead of Formula One – Middle East – Al Jazeera English

Protests held in Bahrain ahead of Formula One – Middle East – Al Jazeera English.

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