2022 | The Year of Soylent Green
“Life Imitating Art”
The disturbingly prescient dystopian movies of the 20th century that indicated a specific year on mankind’s downfall has reinforced the adage, “Life imitating art.” Most notably is the 49th anniversary of the release of the sci-fi, cult classic Soylent Green (1973) whose back-story uncomfortably parallels the present-day dilemmas that could lead us on a downward slide to the film’s dystopian Dante’s inferno. Shockingly the film’s promotional posters prominently indicate the year “2022” in which this dystopian chaos takes place.
The plot focuses on NYC, as a microcosm of the dark futuristic underworld in which the world has descended: a massive Hooverville of 40 million mostly unemployed and homeless citizens, following irreversible manmade global ecological mismanagement and intense food insecurity that has triggered autocratic governments’ endless efforts to contain the daily civil unrest.
Although we haven’t reached such a dire predicament as depicted in the movie, every component is a key ingredient to a potential toxic storm. Although each of these toxic elements by itself cannot trigger a global meltdown, the inter-connectedness to other similar elements can be devastating as visually demonstrated in this video entitled domino chain reaction, geometric growth.
Governmental and transnational, mega-corporation leadership, the global public-private partnership cabal, has unnecessarily brought the world to the edge of the next Great Depression. What was once impossible is now plausible – and perhaps at this point inevitable.
The Slippery Slope to the Road to Perdition
The slippery slope to economic Armageddon has been greased by Covid-19, its subsequent lockdowns, millions of deaths and economic destruction. The recent Russo-Ukraine war has severed the pipeline that furnishes 30% of the world’s grain exports and is an accelerant to extreme food insecurity and perhaps mass famine. Compounding this dilemma is the present-day historic droughts in China, Middle East, Brazil and the US.
From a global perspective the following chart entitled The World Map of Drought Risk provided by the Aqueduct by World Resources Institute, indicates the risk, not actual present-day, of drought. Ukraine, Europe’s breadbasket, which has been a giant with bumper harvests for many years, has suffered severe droughts in the past and may be “due” for one in the future.
This study examined the factors of “drought intensity, water stress, drought vulnerability, population, crop and livestock density.” Furthermore, the study emphasizes that droughts are different from “water-stressed” regions which measures suitable water for the population including drinking water. For this reason Europe has a lower water-stressed risk than Africa, Asia and the Middle East whose problems include poor water quality.
With respect to drought risk in the US, the following chart entitled Persistent Drought Affects More Than Half of US provided by the US Drought Monitor by USDA/NOAA/University of Nebraska indicates a disturbing trend of increasing actual drought conditions.
For the past several years these longer in duration conditions have resulted in increasingly more intense and widespread wildfires and lower reservoir reserves caused by climate change even in areas that historically aren’t often affected by such conditions such as the Pacific Northwest.
The following chart entitled Where Water Stress Will Be Highest by 2040 provided by the World Resources Institute via The Economist Intelligence Unit, is a long-range projection of water-stress risk based on recent trends.
For example in the first drought chart the US is rated a “low to medium” risk for drought specifically for 2019, the progressively degraded situation for the period 2018-2021 and a “high” rating for the long-term projection 2021 to 2040.
Food Insecurity and Global Calamity
The fusion of climate change and war has severe impacts on agriculture that will inevitably lead to considerably less crop yields. For this reason this will result in outright food shortages and subsequently civil unrest and perhaps civil wars.
Food is becoming increasingly unaffordable as indicated by the disturbing trend in the following chart entitled Global Food Prices Surge provided by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Underscoring the urgency of this trend, the FAO reported that February 2022 food prices were at its highest point since they began collecting data three decades ago.
In the developed world 15% of household income is allocated to food while it’s 50% in undeveloped countries. The citizenry in the developed world has the ability to allocate more monies for food while those in undeveloped countries may literally starve. Sadly this is the best case scenario. Should food become scarce and unaffordable, civil unrest and even civil war could break democracies and turn autocracies into failed states.
The following chart entitled The Link Between Soaring Food Prices and Political Instability provided by the UN Food Agriculture Organization strongly underscore this trend.
According to Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, an arm of the UN, in the Wall Street Journal article entitled Ukraine War’s Spillover Swamps Poor Countries Still Reeling From Covid-19, “In 2008 a spike in food prices caused riots in 48 countries.”
Arab Spring II On Steroids
The most recent large-scale protest against higher food prices was the Arab Spring in the early 2010s which roiled the region. Because of the criticality of Russian and Ukrainian grain exports to highly import dependent, poor countries in the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Sahara Africa, the explosive inflation and shortage of fertilizer and pesticides, agrarian manpower shortages for planting & harvesting, adverse meteorological conditions and on-going supply chain challenges can trigger a geopolitical firestorm with civil unrest occurring simultaneously in dozens of countries globally.
The Great Global Migration
The aforementioned conditions could trigger the mass migration of citizens from poor countries to relative richer ones that would dwarf those migrations of the past decades. The destination country citizenry will already be suffering from food insecurity and will hardly be welcoming to the starving newcomers. Competition for scarce essential resources will be violently fierce.
The following chart entitled Climate Change, the Great Displacer provided by the World Bank, indicates internal climate migrants.
During the early months of the global lockdown my article on food security was published two years ago, almost to the day, on April 2, 2020 with Seeking Alpha, a financial crowd-sourcing website, entitled article Global Food Insecurity. Despite the enormous uncertainty as to the duration of the lockdown and how the world would emerge afterwards, my perspectives two years ago were spot-on in identifying the implacable headwinds we face today.
Domestic Dystopian Dangers
The run on the banks will not be financial rather on the food banks as more citizens will be unable or unwilling to pay for exorbitant food prices and the meager existing inventory. Similar to the riots and organized street gang robberies of luxury shops in 2021, the same will occur with bodegas, supermarkets and even cold storage facilities. These gangs will be far more dangerous to confront because food is a survival item and probably more valuable and quicker to sell on the black market than a luxury designer garment.
Already present-day small groups are tailing individuals after food shopping and robbing them of their food and valuables in home invasions.
Expect a boom in hired security for these venues. Food banks will struggle to purchase increasingly costly basic foods for the community, but will not have the resources to hire security to protect their inventory. Furthermore, food banks like many industries are struggling to attract volunteers to manage these facilities resulting in fewer day and hours of operation in the community.
We’re in a present-day precursor to a Soylent Green world in which all the components in the sci-fi, cinematic cult classic are in place.
It will be far more dangerous world than the present-day violent crime spike that’s occurring in high and low income communities throughout the country. For this reason one should become an ardent prepper in acquiring as much culinary provisions as affordable and space allows. Though some might consider this method borderline pathological, when food is scarce and very expensive, having sufficient provisions already in your abode is priceless.
© Copyright 2022 Cerulean Council LLC
The Cerulean Council is a NYC-based think-tank that provides prescient, beyond-the-horizon, contrarian perspectives and risk assessments on geopolitical dynamics and global urban security.