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Food and Resource Revolts: The Year of Living Dangerously

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Get ready for a rocky year.  From now on, rising prices, powerful storms, severe droughts and floods, and other unexpected events are likely to play havoc with the fabric of global society, producing chaos and political unrest. Start with a simple fact: the prices of basic food staples are already approaching or exceeding their 2008 peaks, that year when deadly riots erupted in dozens of countries around the world.

It's not surprising then that food and energy experts are beginning to warn that 2011 could be the year of living dangerously -- and so could 2012, 2013, and on into the future.  Add to the soaring cost of the grains that keep so many impoverished people alive a comparable rise in oil prices -- again nearing levels not seen since the peak months of 2008 -- and you can already hear the first rumblings about the tenuous economic recovery being in danger of imminent collapse.  Think of those rising energy prices as adding further fuel to global discontent.

Already, combined with staggering levels of youth unemployment and a deep mistrust of autocratic, repressive governments, food prices have sparked riots in Algeria and mass protests in Tunisia that, to the surprise of the world, ousted long-time dictator President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his corrupt extended family.  And many of the social stresses evident in those two countries are present across the Middle East and elsewhere.  No one can predict where the next explosion will occur, but with food prices still climbing and other economic pressures mounting, more upheavals appear inevitable. These may be the first resource revolts to catch our attention, but they won't be the last.


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