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Sustainability

Food insecurity and social instability are interdependent

How will we feed 9 billion people in 2050? If we are to meet the hungry demands of our future, we need a revolution in the way we produce and deliver food.

Today’s graphic comes from our 9 Billion Bowls multimedia report, which tells the story of a diverse group of scientists, students, analysts and inventors who are using Big Data and leading edge technologies in entirely new ways to make this happen. View the interactive infographic here.

Hunger is both intensely personal and inevitably societal. In fact, there is a direct correlation between food insecurity and social instability. Affordable and available food helps form the bedrock of stable societies. When prices rise too high, or availability becomes too low, people frequently take to the streets out of frustration – and desperation.

Today’s graphic tracks food-related riots globally since 2007 against food and oil prices. The most notable period for unrest is the cluster from 2007-2008, during the Great Recession, when both food and oil prices spiked. Many factors affect food prices, including trade agreements, public investment in agriculture, currency trading and others. Of particular interest is the complex interdependency between food and oil.

In the time period below we see a clear correlation, but at other times a decline in oil prices can actually influence an increase in food prices. Since crops used for biofuels are both food and fuel, changes in oil prices affect edible crop availability. Lower oil prices can also influence a greater global demand for food, sending food prices higher. For a more complete explanation, read this World Bank report.

Infographic from a data visualization maps the correlation between food insecurity and social instability with global data
Data visualization by Brian Romer, Thomson Reuters Data Innovation Lab.

How will we fill 9 billion bowls in 2050?

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