Monday, March 21, 2011

Libya and Us

Here go our soldiers to another dry, dusty, far-off country to battle desperate people whose reasons for fighting aren't really clear to us. Could it be, ten years from now, we'll find ourselves debating whether to extend the deadline for our troops being in Libya?

How is it that this hideous dictator has been in power for longer than I've been alive, and yet only now we're urgently trying to oust him? How was the Locherbie bombing not reason enough to go after Moamar Ghadaffi?

The thing is, the battle for Libya certainly didn't start as a quest for democracy. It's a fight over food.

Wheat prices are at their highest in a generation. Last summer's fires in Russia and floods in western Canada have been good news for Ontario's wheat farmers, who are making huge profits, some of them for the first time in their lives. But the connectedness of the world means when an Ontario farmer wins, a Libyan peasant loses. Ditto in Egypt and Tunisia. The Tunisian riots that ousted that dictator, the Egyptian uprising, the current battles in Yemen and Bahrain and Libya, too, are not because of people clamouring for the right to free assembly. All those rebellions began with people demading enough to eat.

Sudan's succession story is the same. Lake Chad has dried up, starving millions and forcing the survivors to fight over what's left. And get ready to hear more of these stories from around the world. Russia is on the brink, and India's failed onion crop has led to riots in the streets, too.

Of course, the presence of oil has a lot to do with the world's response in Libya.
And in that light, I find it less than stunning that we were so quick to commit to putting our soldiers in harm's way, when we here in the rich rich west won't commit to doing very much at all to protect the planet itself.
Oh sure, some of us will turn off our lights for an hour Saturday night and feel self-righteous about it, but come on, what changes have we really made to reduce our emissions?

Most of us aren't willing even to sacrifice a piece of the view out our backyard window.

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