Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer 2013 Prediction: Riots in Los Angeles

I have a disturbing feeling we're going to have riots in Los Angeles in the summer of 2013, and I think it will be due to a few factors:

  • We're experiencing huge corn crop failures due to the drought this year.  This has sent corn futures soaring.  Corn ends up in all the cheap processed foods that feed the poor, and that means the price of that cheap processed food will go up after those prices have had time to bubble up through the food production system.
  • The drought is making clean water more scarce.  Los Angeles already imports most of its water from outside of Los Angeles, but it's not like outlying areas are experiencing any less of a drought.  This is going to escalate the price and availability of clean water.
  • Something tells me gas prices are not likely to go down, and the buses in LA are a pretty miserable experience.  They get held up by the infamous LA traffic just as cars do, and they're not well air conditioned.
  • The wealth gap between the rich and poor certainly won't be any narrower next year.  I think the riots will be partially motivated as an excuse to loot in an effort to catch up.
  • The jobs situation isn't likely to improve.  The education and literacy levels in the rough neighborhoods of LA aren't too hot, and every year we slip behind other nations on public education, it makes it harder for locals to make a living wage.
  • Temperatures are going up.  Particularly in the asphalt jungles relegated to the poor in Los Angeles, next summer is probably going to feel like they're living on a baking sheet left in the oven for too long.

So you've got a bunch of people who have barely enough money for food and water now, and it's going to be even harder for them to survive when the prices on that cheap food and water go up, then we're probably going to have another summer of record high temperatures, and excessive heat has a track record of inciting violent crime in LA.

From there, I think it'll just require a small nudge, some incident to spark riots.  It could be one of a number of issues ranging from police brutality like last time up to slow response on a natural disaster or something as simple as a lag on the issuance of adequate food stamps and welfare to compensate for the increased costs of living.  I'm guessing the media will attribute the riots to just the incident, and the solution will probably be perceived as needing more police instead of trying to understand the problem holistically.  It feels like that high school experiment where you super-saturate hot water with dissolved salt, slowly cool it, and all it takes is one more grain of salt for it to tip the scales and make it all suddenly crystallize and fall out of the solution.

I'm not one for making such specific predictions at specific times, but I feel unpleasantly certain this one will come true.  I'd welcome comments telling me I'm insane and explaining precisely why.  I totally want to be wrong on this one.

If you agree, what would you do knowing we have about a year before the excitement starts?  Is there anything that could be done to mitigate the damage and help cooler heads prevail?  I feel like we're sort of locked into this, that it's too large a problem, and that there aren't enough people who care to make a difference.


  1. I agree with you about all the ingredients of unrest being in LA as they are in most major metropolitan areas in the US. However I would not be certain enough set a date for the revolution.

    Lousy K-12 public education is a national emergency and security threat. The middle class has been shrinking steadily since the height of the US economy (late 1960's). The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Are our millionaire/billionaire politicians going to fix this? Don't hold your breath...

  2. Go where the food is? Of course that is unrealistic, but really. As a well-payed software engineer, I couldn't stomach the cost of living in a place like CA. Too risky financially.

    I think upper-middle income individuals are to blame by complacency. Get what we want where we want, which raises prices there, then hope someone else fixes it.

  3. Unfortunately, it looks like some complex systems theorists agree with me:

  4. Here we are. Summer of 2013. Never been so glad to be wrong. :)

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