Deaths linked to violent unrest over food, water and fuel insecurity 'to rise in coming years'

Conflict over resource shortages could be averted by using 'chaos map', say authors 

Sam Russell
Thursday 24 October 2019 06:18
Chaos map shows that 92 deaths in Venezuela in 2017 were linked to resource shortages
Chaos map shows that 92 deaths in Venezuela in 2017 were linked to resource shortages

The authors of a “chaos map” which charts deaths linked to violent unrest arising from food, water or fuel insecurity have suggested that the number of fatalities is likely to increase in the coming years.

Researchers plotted more than 1,300 deaths between 2005 and 2017 on an interactive map of the world.

It displays what “unrest” was present within a territory in a given year across six categories: conflict, demonstrations, looting, protest, riot and suicide.

Academics used a colour code to show the number of deaths in each category.

They also displayed the number of deaths by the resource insecurity to which they were directly attributable - food, water or fuel.

Dr Davide Natalini and Professor Aled Jones, of Anglia Ruskin University, scanned reports covering food, water, and fuel insecurity shocks published since 2005 to plot the data.

They say their map can help people to understand the escalating instability and chaos that can occur when pressures caused by limited resources are compounded by factors such as climate change and rising populations.

The chaos map can help to predict and inform early responses to resource insecurity and social unrest by examining trends around past events, its authors say.

They say this could prove useful for governments and non-governmental organisations.

Professor Jones, director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin, said: “As climate change increases the severity of extreme weather over the coming years and we see continuing political instability in key oil-producing regions, there is likely to be an increased frequency and severity of physical shocks to our food, fuel and water supplies.

“Without proper strategies to combat these shocks, it is likely that reactive policies from governments will only make the impacts of these shocks worse, leading to bigger chaos events and more deaths.

“In Europe, while we have already seen a limited number of deaths, without a full and transparent conversation between governments and its citizens around the need to move away from fossil fuels and more investment into resilient food and water systems, it is likely that we will not be immune to these events. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what causes protests about rising fuel or food costs to turn violent, and this is where the risks lie.

“We hope the chaos map can build our understanding of these tipping points in society so we can hopefully avoid the worst impacts in the future.”

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The chaos map can be viewed here.

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