Nick Wilson, "Political Ecology and the Irish Potato Famine"


Davis' second point of articulation addresses this issue. Because the late nineteenth century was characterized by the integration of huge new supplies of subsistence food into the world economy, the value of the crops raised by any particular farmer-especially those without the price protections of characteristic of farming in the developed world-dropped dramatically in value. Therefore, because their cash crops were dropping in value on the world market, farmers in the third world found themselves no longer in control of their own financial standing and were often forced into debt just to buy enough food to survive.6

Third, the imperial and economic power brought to bear against indigenous governments in the third world prevented them from effectively providing for their populations during famines. Essentially, as western states controlled the debts of third world governments, local powers became increasingly unable to fund critical infrastructure construction and maintenance that would decrease vulnerability to climate shocks, like those produced by ENSO. In India, for example, "public works in post-Mutiny India were driven first by the exigencies of military control and, second, by the demands of export agriculture"7 while long term sustainability, and, more importantly, the food security of local farmers was a distant third, if it was addressed at all.8

Having outlined these three critical ways in which indigenous people were made more vulnerable to ENSO, Davis argues that their food exports cushioned food shocks in the western world, while they themselves acted as captive markets for industrial goods. India, writes Davis, "was forced to absorb Britain's surplus of increasingly obsolescent and noncompetitive industrial exports"9 while at the same time its grain exports allowed "London grain merchants to speculate during shortages on the Continent."10 Britain's continued hold over a share of western industrial dominance was funded by exploitation and pauperization in the emerging third world.

6. Davis, 289-290.
7. Davis, 332.
8. Davis, 334.
9. Davis, 298.
10. Davis, 299.
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