Tuesday, June 17, 2008

North Korean Blues

TomDispatch has a very interesting article by John Feffer about the current situation the world finds itself in regarding food supplies. As the article explains, that famine that killed about 10% of North Korea's population back in the 90s was not due to the reasons that were promulgated by the press at the time. Then the blame was laid on the primitive state of agriculture there, due to the repressive government. But:
At the time, of course, all the knowing analysts and pundits dismissed what was happening in that country as the inevitable breakdown of an archaic economic system presided over by a crackpot dictator.

They were wrong. The collapse of North Korean agriculture in the 1990s was not the result of backwardness. In fact, North Korea boasted one of the most mechanized agricultures in Asia. Despite claims of self-sufficiency, the North Koreans were actually heavily dependent on cheap fuel imports. (Does that already ring a bell?) In their case, the heavily subsidized energy came from Russia and China, and it helped keep North Korea's battalion of tractors operating. It also meant that North Korea was able to go through fertilizer, a petroleum product, at one of the world's highest rates. When the Soviets and Chinese stopped subsidizing those energy imports in the late 1980s and international energy rates became the norm for them, too, the North Koreans had a rude awakening.

Read the whole thing, if you dare.

Looked at that way, the world is now in the same shape as the North Koreans were back then. Oil is necessary for mechanized agriculture, fertilizer, and the global distribution system. Environmental factors are now coming to the fore as well, shortages of land and water are already occurring, and global warming will only increase the problems.

The chief mechanisms of the world to respond to this situation are very limited, the triumph of global capitalism means that the quest for profits will continue to drive development strategies. The countries with the power to change this path to destruction are those who profit most from it. They use their economic and military supremacy to steer the others towards ruin. Until a political change happens here and in Europe, it will just accelerate. Since political change seems impossible, expect huge upheavals worldwide in the upcoming decades. It is just starting.


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