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May 11, 2008 / calebdresser

Things are getting a little too real out there!

Possibilities and predictions are now becoming reality. My personal plans aside, this year is going to be something new. Several key events in the global arena have already occurred – and it is only May.

Oil broke $100 a barrel early in the year, and has now climbed above $120. Although always a volatile commodity, this is a whole new scale of impact, and lends some credence to the idea that Peak Oil is happening now. Needless to say, the repercussions of this situation touch every person in every walk of life; they cross borders and ripple though economies around the world.

While no single event can be unequivocally linked to climate change, it is hard not to observe that the Irrawaddy Delta is one of the low-lying coastal regions that predictions said would be among the first areas hit by the effects of changing climate patterns. With 80,000 dead and counting in the worst disaster that has ever hit the region, some things now seem clear. The climate is changing, and the consequences are so dire that to ignore the problem now seems a most precarious ethical position. In addition, we can no longer envision a future in which we have prevented global warming and its effects. Thus, some portion of the energy that is going into fighting climate change should probably be redirected to or supplemented by efforts to mitigate the impact global warming is having on people and the planet.

People have to eat – and for billions it just became a lot harder. The price increases in basic staples such as corn, rice, and wheat, while partially attributable to ethanol production, speculation, and poor distribution practices, are also indicative of a grim reality that has been ignored for far too long: the margins of life are getting very slim. Roughly four billion people depend on food that is grown using high inputs of oil, in the form of fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and machinery use. With oil prices predicted to rise faster and faster indefinitely along with the number of mouths to feed, it should be easy to see the problem. Add in rapidly declining water resources, and one begins to see that the current food crisis is simply the first manifestation of a much larger – and very permanent – problem.

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