Floods in China and Wild fires in Arizona
In February 2004, The UK Observer reported that a study commissioned by the Pentagon predicted that food riots would result from abrupt climate change. The grim document described how the planet would reach the edge of anarchy and countries would threaten each other with nuclear weapons to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. "Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life," the analysis concluded. "Once again, warfare would define human life."

The Pentagon paper is remarkable for several reasons. Through it we see how the United States establishment understands that the real threat we are facing is climate change, not the manufactured threat of 'terrorism'. But a more frank admission is that 'climate change' is an abrupt phenomenon - not relatively gradual as most proponents of man-made global warming insist when they refer to computer models that chart rises in temperatures over a time-frame of several decades. The report specifically states that Britain will plunge into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020.

The real threat of a sudden transition to an ice age took on new urgency last summer when a study published by the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics suggested that BP's greed in the Gulf of Mexico may have caused the Gulf Loop current's complete separation from the Gulf Stream in mid-June 2010. This critical oceanic artery is a significant factor holding back a thick layer of snow and ice from descending upon the northern hemisphere. Should the Gulf Stream significantly weaken or cease to flow northwards altogether, Britain - along with whole swathes of northern America and Europe - would indeed be plunged into a 'Siberian' winter.

The Pentagon's analysis also stands out because the events of the last three years appear to confirm its prediction regarding food shortages. In April 2008 the World Bank estimated that global food prices had risen 80 percent over the previous three years, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy warned government representatives from the world's largest developed economies and major developing countries that some 37 countries were experiencing "serious food crises". Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF, also expressed his concern that food insecurity risked toppling governments and sparking wars for food. riots, protests and general strikes stemming from food shortages broke out in Haiti, Egypt, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Madagascar, the Philippines and Indonesia that same year.

Compounding the problem of supply and demand for food is the pure greed that has been unleashed upon the global economy. While the World Bank and the IMF warn us of crises, it's easy to lose sight of their role in creating them. These are the very same institutions that coerce the planet's major food-producing countries to abandon their support for farmers and local agriculture in the name of modernization and foreign investment - euphemisms for opening their doors to predatory capitalism.

The specter of food shortages again loomed large in 2010 as raging wildfires in Russia and severe flooding in Pakistan, China and elsewhere wiped out significant crop yields. Although the death toll was relatively low, the United Nations described the flooding in Pakistan as the greatest humanitarian crisis in modern history, with up to 20 million people affected - more than the South-East Asian tsunami and the earthquakes in Kashmir and Haiti combined.

According to the Russian Meteorological Center, Russia suffered its worst heat wave for over a millennium last summer. Peat and forest fires destroyed 40 percent of Russia's 2010 crop harvest, prompting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to declare a ban on the export of all grains. This disaster alone has had significant global impact on food prices as Russia is the world's third largest exporter of wheat. Those hoping for a respite in 2011 have already been disappointed. The massive flooding in China this month is the worst the country has seen in 56 years, and has cut vegetable production by 20% and displaced 5 million people. Corn prices are set to sky-rocket as a result. A year-long (so far) drought in the US South and South West has caused wild fires in seven states (Arizona, Texas, California, New Mexico, Colorado and Georgia) and is threatening the soy and corn crops and millions of acres of cotton. Across the world, the picture today is one of severe drought or severe flooding.

With these natural and man-made catastrophes affecting food production, it seems reasonable to expect that food prices will continue to increase in the near future. And if history repeats itself, we will see many more angry people on the streets, with the CIA and assorted other alphabet soup agencies ready and waiting to stoke the fires of 'revolution' and 'regime change'.

Manifestations of anger and frustration will be more extreme and widespread this time around because our purchasing power needs to deal with a global economic crisis that has shifted from recession into full blown depression. For this we need to thank those in positions of power who place greed and self-interest above ethics and common sense.

The U.S. economy has historically been sustained and inflated out of proportion through different means in order to maintain its status quo at the top of the pile. In recent years, one of these mechanisms was the housing market bubble which burst into the subprime crisis and culminated in September 2008 with the financial meltdown and subsequent obscene government bailout of the guilty parties, i.e. the banks and financial institutions.

Understanding how this happened requires some explanation about the modus operandi of the financial string-pullers. Borrowers with credit histories marked by difficulties in repaying their loans are known as 'subprime borrowers'. Since normal lenders will not lend them money, they are forced to accept the offers of subprime lenders who will give them a 'second chance' - with strings attached. For starters, subprime borrowers are required to pay higher interest rates and often have to make a prepayment of the loans within a certain period of time. Failing to do so puts the borrower at risk of seeing the lender repossess the property (e.g. a house) in a process called foreclosure. Thus, it is easy to see that subprime lending as a business model foresees and even relies on a great number of foreclosures taking place. At the very least, it counts on profiting from unreasonable interest rates at the expense of economically vulnerable people. Obviously, the culture of American consumerism has a role to play here.

Because of the predatory nature of this scheme, it was no surprise that subprime lending rapidly deteriorated into corruption and fraud on a massive scale. Crimes and irregularities were facilitated by a culture that seeks to place the big players of the financial industry above the law in the name of the 'free market' and 'modernization'. Most notably, back in 2000, Republican Senators Phil Gramm and Richard Lugar succeeded in introducing an anti-regulatory measure into a spending bill at a time when few lawmakers would have the opportunity or inclination to read it, given that only two days earlier the Supreme Court had issued a decision on the presidential election dispute between George W. Bush and Al Gore. The measure, called Commodity and Futures Modernization, was written with the help of financial industry lobbyists who had given Gramm millions throughout his congressional career, and it eased the way for every parasite on Wall Street to evade public oversight and all semblance of ethical responsibility.
Predatory banks continue to foreclose on homes, especially in the US
It's only long after the damage has been done that details of wrongdoings emerged. David E. Zimmer, a former executive at People's Choice, a subprime lender in California, explained to the Washington Post how the company could not stop taking risky loans negotiated by independent mortgage brokers in a very competitive environment. The company's own sales force worked largely on commissions from loans they made. As Zimmer analyzed the loans granted in greed, he discovered evidence of fraud, such as doctored bank statements or forged borrowers' signatures. It was obvious to the providers of financial services that it was only a matter of time before the house of cards would collapse - yet they did not stop seeking immediate profit at the expense of the public and investors. In April 2010 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Goldman Sachs with intentionally defrauding investors through a risky hedge-fund that was backed by ill-fated subprime mortgages before the crisis. Similarly, a Senate committee has found evidence that in the case of Washington Mutual Bank, executives knew about out-of-control fraud in subprime loans but failed to take corrective action, as this would allow the bank to report higher profits and its executives to earn higher bonuses.

Predatory banks continue to foreclose on home, especially in the US - Olivierl Dreamstime

But easy kills have a price. More than 100 mortgage lending companies went bankrupt in 2007, setting the scene for September 2008, when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were nationalized by the U.S. government, investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, Washington Mutual and Wachovia were sold, and the world's largest insurer, AIG, was 80% nationalized. Stock markets crashed as panic spread. The cost of the crash was immediately turned into a direct burden for taxpayers as governments bailed out banks and financial groups 'too big to fail', starting with a $700 billion rescue plan - now only a fraction of the total bailout figures under a variety of aid programs and schemes.

As the global economy is systemic, the effects of the dominoes falling have been felt by everyone on this planet. Recall the Icelandic financial crisis that began also in September 2008 and saw the collapse of all three of the country's major banks, or the Greek debt crisis of early 2010 that raised similar fiscal concerns about Portugal, Italy, Spain and Ireland, and put into question the eurozone as a whole. The Greek crisis, by the way, was in part caused by a speculative attack against the euro by Wall Street hedge-fund managers such as SAC Capital Advisors, Soros Fund Management, Greenlight Capital, Brigade Capital, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch and Barclays Bank of London.

The U.S. itself, once regarded among other nations as a model of economic prosperity, is witnessing increasing signs of social turmoil as a result of the bite of the crisis. A few days before writing this article, 30,000 people crowded in Atlanta just to get applications to join a list for public housing. This is a huge demand for non-existent supply, as the housing agency director stressed that none of the agency's 455 housing aid vouchers was available at the moment. The U.S. labor department reported that 500,000 new claims for unemployment benefit were filed in the week ending 14 August - an increase of 12,000 on the previous week and the highest figure for nine months. Local governments cannot be of much help as U.S. municipalities are estimated to face a fiscal hole of between $56 billion and $83 billion over the two years to 2012, according to the National League of Cities. The Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities informs that states are in a worse situation, with a $192 billion shortfall in 2010, equivalent to 29% of their budgets.

Max Keiser, a Wall Street broker turned reporter, explains that the underlying basis for global economic activity has fundamentally shifted in a way that will very soon make clear to everyone that there is a 'them' and an 'us':
"The system is literally broken. The price discovery mechanism, the prices we see [for goods and services], are set by computers. It's not the result of 'supply and demand', as with any underlying normal economic activity; it's a 'command and control' economy [run] by hedge funds who are just stealing billions every day out of the system for themselves. The result is loss of wages, loss of jobs and the widening wealth and income gap - especially in the U.S. - that is just skyrocketing to new all-time highs."
Interestingly, at the beginning of 2009 the director of U.S. national intelligence, retired Adm. Dennis Blair, told a Senate Committee that the economic crisis posed perhaps the gravest threat to stability and national security, adding that the situation could trigger a return to the "violent extremism" of the 1920s and 1930s. Along the same lines were the warnings of the head of the United Kingdom's Metropolitan police's public order branch, superintendent David Hartshorn, who feared a 'summer of rage' that year. Likewise, Harvard author and financial crisis guru Niall Ferguson predicted in an interview to the Canadian media: "There will be blood, in the sense that a crisis of this magnitude is bound to increase political as well as economic [conflict]. It is bound to destabilize some countries. It will cause civil wars to break out, that have been dormant. It will topple governments that were moderate and bring in governments that are extreme. These things are pretty predictable."

The timing for the predictions of Blair, Hartshorn and Ferguson may have been premature. However, it is true that there is a limit to the amount of despair that people can take. The hand of corruption and predatory greed behind our misery is becoming increasingly obvious to the masses. This awareness, together with food shortages courtesy of further corporate corruption as well as climate change, could bring the situation to a breaking point. Stay tuned!