Wednesday, August 08, 2012

the hunger wars in our future

tomdispatch | Wherever you look, the heat, the drought, and the fires stagger the imagination. Now, it’s Oklahoma at the heart of the American firestorm, with “18 straight days of 100-plus degree temperatures and persistent drought” and so many fires in neighboring states that extra help is unavailable. It’s the summer of heat across the U.S., where the first six months of the year have been the hottest on record (and the bugs are turning out in droves in response). Heat records are continually being broken. More than 52% of the country is now experiencing some level of drought, and drought conditions are actually intensifying in the Midwest; 66% of the Illinois corn crop is in “poor” or “very poor” shape, with similarly devastating percentages across the rest of the Midwest. The average is 48% across the corn belt, and for soybeans 37% -- and it looks as if next year’s corn crop may be endangered as well. More than half of U.S. counties are officially in drought conditions and, according to the Department of Agriculture, “three-quarters of the nation's cattle acreage is now inside a drought-stricken area, as is about two-thirds of the country's hay acreage.” Worse yet, there’s no help in sight -- not from the heavens, not even from Congress, which adjourned for the summer without passing a relief package for farmers suffering through some of the worst months since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

In sum, it’s swelteringly, unnerving bad right now in a way that most of us can’t remember. And that’s the present moment. The question of what lies ahead is the territory occupied by TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author most recently of The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources. From the time he published his book Resource Wars back in 2001, he’s been ahead of the curve on such questions and he suggests that we’re going to have an uncomfortably hot time in all sorts of unexpected ways on this increasingly hot planet of ours.