What collapse looks like…

29 01 2013

Two years ago when Egypt’s so called “Arab Spring” event occurred, articles sprang up all over the place talking about Egyptians rights to freedom and democracy.  I wasted no time in telling all and sundry over at the Drum that this was all bullshit, what Egyptians really wanted was affordable food…  which was of course met with derision.

Egypt had its revolution, got rid of Mubarak, had an election…….. and nothing changed?  Why? Because Egypt is screwed.  It’s well on its way to collapse, even MSM is now saying so…

Egypt’s military chief warns of collapse of state

Protesters in Tahrir Square

Egypt’s military chief has warned the political crisis sweeping the country could lead to the collapse of the state.

Tuesday’s warning from defence minister and military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi came as thousands of people defied curfews and the death toll from days of rioting rose to 52.

“The continuing conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state and threaten future generations,” the general said on his Facebook page.

So then, what is causing all these problems?  A classic case of Limits to Growth…..

I actually visited Egypt way back in 1963 on my way to Australia.  Our ship berthed in Port Saïd before going down the Suez Canal.  I was only 11, but the memory is seared into my tintinegyptold brain forever, because at the time I had never been outside Europe, and even though we lived in poverty there, nothing prepared me for what I saw, not even Tintin books!  There were virtually no cars for starters, but what really sticks in my mind were the poor horses (or were they donkeys?) that dragged their loads everywhere, skinny as hell with their skin sticking to their skeletons, looking half dead already.  And the kids swimming around the ship waiting for its occupants to throw coins at them.  I even threw a few worthless aluminium Lira coins into the Mediterranean for them (the Flavia was an Italian ship)…  but Egypt didn’t look crowded, really

So when at the onset of the revolution articles revealed that Egypt’s population was 80 million, I nearly fell off my chair!  In 1963, it was only 23 million….  so it had more than tripled.  You have to understand Egypt’s geography to understand where I’m coming from.  Outside of the banks of the Nile and its delta which flows into the Mediterranean, the whole country is a desert.  So where on Earth do you fit 80+ million people?  All over farmland is the answer…

The rot really set in when the Aswan Dam was built.  Wikipedia says:

The Aswan Dam is an embankment dam situated across the Nile River in AswanEgypt. Since the 1950s, the name commonly refers to the High Dam. Construction of the High Dam became a key objective of the Egyptian Government following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, as the ability to control floods, provide water for irrigation, and generate hydroelectricity were seen as pivotal to Egypt’s industrialisation. The High Dam was constructed between 1960 and 1970, and had a significant impact on the economy and culture of Egypt.

Before the dams were built, the Nile River flooded every year during late summer, when water flowed down the valley from its East African drainage basin. These floods brought high water and natural nutrients and minerals that annually enriched the fertile soil along the floodplain and delta; this had made the Nile valley ideal for farming since ancient times. Because floods vary, in high-water years the whole crop might be wiped out, while in low-water years widespread drought and famine occasionally occurred. As Egypt’s population grew and conditions changed, both a desire and ability developed to control the floods, and thus both protect and support farmland and the economically important cotton crop. With the reservoir storage provided by the Aswan dams, the floods could be lessened and the water stored for later release.

That’s all very well, except that Egypt’s breadbasket relied on more than the water, it needed the silt to replenish its fertility.  And now all that silt is filling the dam up.  Which means its days are numbered.  Worse, the decrease in fertility of the southeastern Mediterranean waters caused by the High Dam has had a catastrophic effect on marine fisheries. The average fish catch declined from nearly 35,000 tons in 1962 and 1963 to less than one-fourth of this catch in 1969.

Of course, way back then, Egypt was still an oil rich country.  Oil was found there way back in 1883, and by 1994, Egypt was producing an average of 866,000 B/D of crude oil, equal to Australia’s consumption.  Which is of course when Peak Oil occurred there.

As the population grew, and the flooding was controlled, more and more houses were built on the less and less productive farmland now starved of its silt.  The oil and gas was used to make replacement fertiliser, and “progress” was well on its way.  But as less and less oil revenue was available and less and less food was produced, the inevitable happened, Egypt started to import food, and had to borrow more and more to do it.  At first it doesn’t seem like a problem, but growth has a bad habit of catching up with the unwary, and with the price of oil rising after 2004, so did the cost of food, and as Egyptians got poorer and poorer, the cost of food relentlessly rose and rose. And now they’ve hit the wall.

Want to see what collapse looks like?  Turn on your TV and watch what’s happening in the streets of Cairo……


SINCE writing the above, Morsi has been taken out by the army in a more or less bloodless coup.  They’re calling it ‘Revolution number two’.

And finally…….  someone else is calling it as I do in Mainstream Media…

Egypt’s new age of unrest is a taste of things to come

Mass street protests are symptom of unsustainability of IMF model in the face of environmental and energy challenges

Last night’s ousting of President Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian army comes as no surprise. Despite being Egypt‘s first freely elected leader, his attempts to override democratic checks and balances while grabbing unilateral executive power fuelled widespread simmering grievances. Although Adli Mansour, the new interim leader sworn in today by the army, promises to pave the way for new democratic elections, the fundamental drivers of Egyptian rage remain overlooked.

Morsi’s key problem was that he had spent most of his energies on consolidating the reach of his party, the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than dealing with Egypt’s entrenched social, economic and political problems. Indeed, Egyptian unrest is the consequence of a fatal cocktail of structural failures rooted in an unsustainable global model of industrial civilisation – addicted to fossil fuels, wedded fanatically to casino capitalism, and convinced, ostrich-like, that somehow technology alone will save us.

Egypt’s oil production peaked in 1996, and since then has declined by around 26%. Having moved from complete food self-sufficiency since the 1960s, to excessive dependence on imports subsidised by oil revenues (now importing 75% of its wheat), declining oil revenues have increasingly impacted food and fuel subsidies. As high food prices are generally underpinned by high oil prices – because energy accounts for over a third of the costs of grain production – this has further contributed to surging global food prices.