Yes, say a group of researchers who use mathematical modeling to describe how food prices behave. Earlier this summer, their model had predicted that the U.S. drought would push corn and wheat prices high enough to spark social unrest in other parts of the world.
“Now, of course, we do see this happening,” says Yaneer Bar-Yam of the New England Complex Science Institute in Cambridge, Mass. And unless those food prices come down, the researchers warned last week, more waves of riots are coming.
Obviously, there are complex social reasons why people riot. The current protests in the Mideast were set off by outrage over a crude anti-Islam film. Years of government oppression and economic instability led to the Arab Spring uprising. But it’s high food prices, Bar-Yam and his colleagues argue, that create “the range of conditions in which the tiniest spark can lead to riots.
Blogging this from a hotel in Las Vegas.