Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 08, 2008

Nature and Political Cycles

There is a really interesting story in today's Asia Times Online.

Short version:

  • Melocanna baccifera is a bamboo prevalent in some states in India
  • It mass-blooms every 48 years
  • The seeds feed rats
  • The rat population explodes
  • The rat over-population goes after agricultural products
  • Then follows human famine, civil unrest, revolution

Nature creating political cycles on schedule - fascinating.

Are there more cases like this one?

See also:
The Day After: Flowers of Doom

Posted by b on April 8, 2008 at 12:41 PM | Permalink


Various insects have cycles. For example, the so-called "locust" or cicada in North America -

The cicadas 'sang', mated, layed their eggs, and died, and as the hot summer wore on the fevers came, killing many of the colonists and Indians alike.

Posted by: Owl | Apr 8, 2008 1:43:12 PM | 1

@Owl - yes I know of cicades, but they have no political consequences.

I am looking for nature cycles that have political consequences. This one does.

From the ATOL piece - comparing the 1950s and today:

The impact of the mautam in 1958-59 did not end with famine. It redefined Mizo politics, triggered an insurgency and culminated in a redrawing of boundaries in the region.
Parts of Manipur, Tripura and Assam in India as well as Myanmar's Chin state are reeling from the rodent invasion and famine is taking grip here as well.
Manipur is the second most violence-wracked state in the strife-torn northeast, after Assam. Describing the situation in the state, Bibhu Prasad Routray, research fellow the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi writes:

"Activities of about 10,000 cadres of 15 militant groups of varying sizes and character, compound an endemic collapse of the administrative machinery, taking Manipur to the threshold of a failed "state" within the Indian union."

There were also famines there in 1860 and around 1910 - the Brits took note of it because there was trouble.

Posted by: b | Apr 8, 2008 2:18:05 PM | 2

Sounds like Iran is behind this one, too.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Apr 8, 2008 2:28:33 PM | 3

Sounds like Iran is behind this one, too.

not AQ?

Posted by: annie | Apr 8, 2008 4:33:19 PM | 4

Natural cycles having political consequences? Isn't all of nature cyclical, by definition - El Niño, La Niña, drought, flood, hurricane, etc. - with potential to lead to crop failure and starvation and thus violent political events - just on a more frequent if unpredictable schedule than the relatively longer cyclical and predictable bamboo fruiting. One species has defined itself as above nature - Great Chain of Being et al. - to its detriment. Mother Nature can't be fucked without blowback.

Posted by: Hamburger | Apr 8, 2008 5:21:45 PM | 5

Sounds like Iran is behind this one, too.

not AQ?

according to our would be presnitwit, Macain, they are one in the

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Apr 8, 2008 5:51:06 PM | 6

Humankind itself is the natural force, dubbed the Sixth Extinction.
So extinction, plague, famine, drought, are all natural forces. We
are only the merest whisp of those 99.9%th deciles of all creatures
gone extinct before us. Humankind rose up on the death of all life,
and we will walk to our graves over the bones of all we slaughtered,
unless someone figures out how to distill corn ethanol and plastic
shopping bags into an edible food source and fresh water components.
[That's a test. Actually, you can distill food and water from them.]

Posted by: Terrence Micheals | Apr 8, 2008 10:20:05 PM | 7

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