Egypt: The Boil from Below

Interesting article by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, environmental writer for the Guardian (UK), which places the current events in Egypt in the much larger, world changing-fast events

 …the fundamental drivers of Egyptian rage remain overlooked.

Morsi’s key problem was that he had spent most of his energies on consolidating the reach of his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than dealing with Egypt’s entrenched social, economic and political problems. Indeed, Egyptian unrest is the consequence of a fatal cocktail of structural failures rooted in an unsustainable global model of industrial civilisation – addicted to fossil fuels, wedded fanatically to casino capitalism, and convinced, ostrich-like, that somehow technology alone will save us.

Egypt’s oil production peaked in 1996, and since then has declined by around 26%. Having moved from complete food self-sufficiency since the 1960s, to excessive dependence on imports subsidised by oil revenues (now importing 75% of its wheat), declining oil revenues have increasingly impacted food and fuel subsidies. As high food prices are generally underpinned by high oil prices – because energy accounts forover a third of the costs of grain production – this has further contributed to surging global food prices.

Food price hikes have coincided with devastating climate change impacts in the form of extreme weather in key food-basket regions.

When Food Shortages Bring War

When Food Shortages Bring War

It’s not just climate change and oil, though.  It’s the human analysis and response to changing conditions that are driving the horses over the cliff instead of trying to keep them on the crumbling road.

With 40% of Egyptians already below the UN poverty line of less than £2 a day, Morsi’s IMF-inspired policies amounted to a form of economic warfare on the Egyptian people. To make matters worse, as Egypt’s economic crisis made it harder to arrange payments, wheat imports dropped sharply – between 1 January and 20 February, the country bought around 259,043 tonnes, roughly a third of what it purchased in the same period a year ago. Coupled with ongoing unemployment and poverty, Morsi’s Egypt was a time-bomb waiting to explode.

Nor are the problems Egypt’s alone:

 Egypt is in some ways a microcosm of our global challenges. With the age of cheap oil well and truly behind us, an age of climate extremes and population growth ahead, we should expect increasing food prices for the foreseeable future. This in turn will have consequences. For the last few years, the food price index has fluctuated above the critical threshold for probability of civil unrest.

Unless Egypt’s leaders and activists begin taking stock of the convergence of crises unraveling the social fabric, their country faces a permanent future of intensifying turmoil.

And that lesson, in a world facing rising food, water and energy challenges, is one no government can afford to ignore.

The Guardian: Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed