One things leads to another


I used to watch a television show that would start with one person or object and follow its impact through history.  I don’t remember the name but I absolutely loved it.  I enjoy using intuition to see connections.  It is just as much fun watching someone else do the same thing. 

Sometimes in human history one small spark leads to an inferno of flame and destruction.  The assassination  of an archduke in a country that doesn’t exist anymore started what we know as World War I.  The agreements made at the end of World War II provided the kindling for next the great inferno.  When tensions are high there are few buffers to mitigate the consequences of unfortunate events.

There are food shortages in the world today.  Freak weather across the globe has causes numerous floods and droughts.  2010 is statistically tied for the hottest year on record.  Increasingly global warming is identified as a likely contributing factor with all these extreme shifts in climate.  In 2005 we reached what will likely be the maximum level of conventional crude oil production leaving us to steam tar out of sand or drill thousand of feet deep in the ocean to find more of the precious hydrocarbon energy.  This drives up the price and provides incentives for thousands of farmers to grow crops for energy rather than food.

Combine this dramatic shifts in energy and food production with unsustainable economic policies in the west.  The west uses financial tricks to monetize their debt and manage to do it in such a way that exports the inflation to the developing countries.   Food prices start to skyrocket.  Less food is being produced as more goes in to ethanol, oil prices drive up the cost of growing food and climate change reduces yields across the globe. 

Food and energy supplies are not at crisis levels but there is tension.  Combine this tension repressive governments that really have few levers to pull in the face of basic commodity inflation.  One man decides to protest the repressive policies of a country most people couldn’t find on a map.  He lights himself on fire.  Word of his protest spreads through digital media.  Using the Internet, SMS and mobile phones people organize.  Pressure mounts on the government and aA relatively stable western friendly Arab government falls.  Word spreads to another Arab country with a repressive government.  Thousands of people fill the streets.  The government tries to shut them down going so far as to cut of all digital media.  The Internet, blackberries and SMS is shutdown but the protests continue to overwhelm the police.  Today the only thing that stands between popular revolution and Egypt’s leader is the army.  The police have already surrendered.

The fear now is that the wave will continue to another western backed repressive Arab government.  Instead this one is Saudi Arabia and its oil keeps the world running.  If Saudi Arabia is destabilised the modest tension in the oil markets will become a global crisis almost immediately.  If Saudi Arabia were to go off line we would run in to instant shortages that no group of countries would be able to make up for. 

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