January and February of 2011 have seen the people of Tunisia and Egypt in unprecedented protests. While it seems the overwhelming sentiment of the people in the streets are for less repression and corruption, more freedom and democracy Western commentators have mentioned the danger of radical Muslim influences. Fortunately, this weekend a few voices of reason were allowed some space.
“This isn’t just about the Muslim Brotherhood and it isn’t just about politics. […] This is about hunger, about poverty, about food production about a change of world economy. […] The demographic change is very significant […poor African states already heavily reliant on food imports because of weak farming sectors] cannot afford to live on imports of grains at world prices, and those prices are going to remain high and unstable […] It’s perfectly understandable how this spark went off, although it’s not simple to predict when it’s going to happen […] This is a global ecological phenomenon, of rising world populations, increasing climate unsustainability and pushing up against the barriers of food productivity in many places. […] My rule of thumb is the dry lands are the most combustible part of the world, all of the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, across the Red Sea to Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. This is all one vast ecological zone of extraordinary stress, with a lot of war in it already. […] This is one large swathe of 10,000 miles of potential instability”
– Jeffrey Sachs, Earth Institute
“Many governments are suffering from demographic fatigue, unable to cope with the steady shrinkage in cropland and freshwater supply per person or to build schools fast enough for the swelling ranks of children.”
– Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute
“Countries with very youthful age structures have an elevated likelihood of experiencing a civil conflict.”
– Richard Cincotta, US demographer