-Timothy A. Wise Coverage of the US drought and the run-up in corn, soybean, and wheat prices has been extensive and welcome. It has also been prone to the repetition of falsehoods and the perpetuation of myths about the causes of the food crisis – and the solutions. A recent Guardian article, “The era of cheap food may be over,” is a case in point. Specifically, it perpetuates the myth that the main driver of food price increases is demand for meat in fast-growing developing countries. This effectively downplays the full impact of biofuels and ignores two problems underlying price volatility: financial speculation and the lack of publicly held food reserves. Give Larry Elliott credit for posing the issue in terms of the difficult policy choices the world faces. He’s certainly right to pose the challenge. “The current assumption seems to be that the world can have a rising population, ever-higher per capita meat consumption, devote less land to food production to help hit climate change targets and eschew the advances in science that might increase yields” he writes. “This is the stuff of fantasy.” It sure is, but so his framing of the problem. First of all, the trend toward meat-based western diets is certainly worth resisting, for health and environmental reasons. But it’s been pretty clearly shown that rising demand for meat-based protein, particularly in India and China, is not the main cause of recent price increases. An FAO study documented conclusively that cereals demand rose more slowly since 2000 than it had in previous decades. So demand in India and China may have grown, but it did not create a “demand shock” that precipitated more recent price surges. What is the demand shock that has occurred since 2000? The dramatic expansion of biofuels production, under a range […]
By Thomas L Friedman $22.99 Harper Collins As the Foreign Affairs columnist for The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman has travelled to the four corners of the globe, interviewing people from all walks of contemporary life – Brazilian peasants in the Amazon rain forest, new entrepreneurs in Indonesia, Islamic students in Teheran, and the financial wizards on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley. Now Friedman has drawn on his years on the road to produce an engrossing and original look at the new international system that, more than anything else, is shaping world affairs today: globalisation. His argument can be summarised quite simply. Globalisation is not just a phenomenon and not just a passing trend. It is the international system that replaced the Cold War system. Globalisation is the integration of capital, technology, and information across national borders, in a way that is creating a single global market and, to some degree, a global village. You cannot understand the morning news or know where to invest your money or think about where the world is going unless you understand this new system, which is influencing the domestic policies and international relations of virtually every country in the world today. And once you do understand the world as Friedman explains it, you’ll never look at it quite the same way again. With vivid stories and a set of original terms and concepts, Friedman shows us how to see this new system. He dramatises the conflict of “the Lexus and the olive tree” – the tension between the globalisation system and ancient forces of culture, geography, tradition, and community. He also details the powerful backlash that globalisation produces among those who feel brutalised by it, and he spells out what we all need to do to keep this system in balance. […]
By Sadanand Dhume Text Publishing RRP $AUS34.95 In October 2002, Sadanand Dhume found himself in a place most foreigners were trying to flee Bali. Powerful explosions the previous night had ripped through two tourist nightclubs, killing more than two hundred people. That evening he visited what remained of the Sari Club. Standing among piles of ash and blackened beer bottles, he wondered about the future of a country long regarded as immune to such carnage. My Friend the Fanatic is a fascinating portrait of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, painted through the travels of a pair of unlikely protagonists. Dhume is a foreign correspondent, an Ivy League-educated Indian with a fondness for John Updike and an interest in economic development. His companion, Herry Nurdi, is a young Islamist who hero-worships Osama bin Laden. Does Herry represent the future for Indonesia? By turns disturbing and funny, My Friend the Fanatic fulfills a deep hunger for knowledge about our largest neighbour in a time of dynamic and unpredictable change. Sadanand Dhume is a Washington-based journalist and writer. As a former Indonesia correspondent of the Far Eastern Economic Review and the Wall Street Journal Asia in Jakarta, Sadanand covered Indonesia’s economics, politics and society.