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Russia’s Burning Heartland

August 12, 2010

It’s become cliché at this point to note that things like environmental problems are going to translate into serious problems for statesmen. Regardless of where you stand on the science of climate change, it is pretty clear that even if it is less dramatic or “not the end of the world,” it can produce a lot of unexpected and adverse effects. In complex, modern societies, bad governance can function as a force multiplier for the disruptive impact of environmental disasters. The result? Some pretty serious shakeups:

Russian President: One-Quarter Of Grain Crop Destroyed By Drought

Russia earlier announced that it was banning grain exports from August 15 until December 31, though Medvedev today said it could be lifted earlier.

Russia last year was the world’s third-largest grain exporter.

These problems have consequences:

Egypt, which imports around 60,000 tonnes of wheat a month from Russia, must now look elsewhere to satisfy the demand of a hungry population after Russia halted all its wheat export.

Rather than boost its own production and run the risk of political unrest following a price hike, Egypt has traditionally subsidised the import of foreign wheat.

Under good conditions, modern governance and economic interdependence do a pretty good job of efficiently distributing resources for a growing world. Under bad conditions, the negative effects from their temporary breakdowns can spread across the globe.

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