For most of us here in wealthy and relatively insulated Australia, the word "crisis" sounds like an exaggeration. We hear about the global warming crisis, the world financial crisis and now the food crisis but these seem like abstractions to most of us. "Crisis, what crisis?" is a familiar rejoinder.
In Australia, the price of a loaf of bread went up by 70 cents over the last year. Since 1990, it has increased by 123%. But while many working class families are feeling pressure on their budgets, most people in this country are not going hungry.
Food takes up just 17% of average Australian household spending, but in Nigeria, families spend 73% of their budgets on food. In Vietnam, the figure is estimated to be 65% and in Indonesia, 50%. So it is not hard to imagine what happens in those countries when world food prices shoot up like they have in the last year: corn 31%, rice 74% soya 87% and wheat 130%. This is why the food riots are spreading like wild fire.
There was a lot of intense and productive discussion about the global climate change crisis at Green Left Weekly's Climate Change — Social Change Conference on April 11-13. The consensus there was that we are not discussing some future crisis but one that is taking place right now, with devastating effects. It is combined with wars and rising oil prices in an explosive cocktail. The food crisis is just one of them.
In a twisted way, the attempts by the big corporations to respond to these crises have made things worse, as the article on the back cover of this issue explains. The Bush regime's pushing of "agrofuels" to keep cheap fuel pumping to all those Humvees and SUVs is a good example. The International Monetary Fund estimates that corn ethanol production in the United States accounts for at least half the rise in world corn. Prices of other crops, like soybeans, also rose as farmers switched their fields to corn.
Feigning concern for the millions starving, US President George Bush has ordered the release of $200 million in emergency aid, but just a month ago the US government threw $200 billion to bail out failing US banks. Bush's real priorities are very clear.
The system Bush is defending by spending US$3 trillion a year on the US military is one where the world's 200 wealthiest people have as much money as about 40% of the global population, and 850 million people have to go to bed hungry every night.
Be part of the movement to replace this criminal system with a just, cooperative and sustainable future by making a donation to Green Left Weekly's 2008 Fighting Fund. Send a cheque to PO Box 515, Broadway 2007, phone it through on the toll-free line 1800 634 206 (calls from within Australia only) or donate securely (SecurePay) online at: <http://www.greenleft.org.au/fogl.htm>.
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