When Im not updating my webpages I try to make a living as a freelance writer. This is a piece aboutone aspect of population issues which the DetroitNews published on November 21, 1997.
Extremist environmentalism kills.That was the message of Norman Borlaug when he testified before Congressthis summer. It remains to be seen if anyone was listening.
Although Borlaug toils away inobscurity, he is one of the few genuine heroes of the 20th century. Oneof only three living Americans to receive the Nobel Peace Prize (HenryKissinger and Elie Wiesel being the others), Borlaug earned the awardfor rescuing literally hundreds of millions of people from starvationin what became known as the Green Revolution.
After World War II, world populationsurged. Many environmentalists predicted the world would soon run outof food leading to mass starvation. Alarmists such as biologist Paul Ehrlichpublished books claiming hundreds of millions of people would starve todeath in the 1970s and 1980s no matter what action the world took.
What Ehrlich didn’t foresee wasBorlaug and the power of the human mind to solve even the most pressingproblems.
Using grants from nonprofits suchas the Rockefeller Foundation, Borlaug set to teaching farmers in developingnations how to increase their crop yields using a combination of modernfarming techniques, sensible use of fertilizers and hybrid crops.
While Ehrlich and other environmentalistspointed to India as a nation that would never become self-sufficient infood production, Borlaug spent the 1960s in India and neighboring Pakistanintroducing a high-yield variety of dwarf wheat to farmers.
India’s production of wheat hassince increased almost six-fold, and it became self-sufficient in cerealproduction in 1974. In fact, for a brief period during the 1980s, Indiaeven began exporting wheat.
These dramatic changes weren’tlimited to India; worldwide, grain output has more than doubled since1950, even though total crop land remained static.
But a funny thing happened in the1970s. Faced with their failed predictions and the success of the GreenRevolution, environmentalists changed tactics. Rather than argue the worldcouldn’t produce more food, environmentalists began contending that theworld shouldn’t produce more food.
According to this new view, humanbeings are not precious individuals, but greedy consumers of importantnatural resources. By preventing mass starvation, the Green Revolutionallowed world population to increase and, in the eyes of environmentalists,further accelerated the horrible damage done to the Earth by human beings.
Environmentalists launched publicrelations campaigns against even limited use of pesticides, inorganicfertilizer, hybrid crops and other farming technology in the parts ofthe world that need it the most, such as Africa. By and large, privateand government organizations bowed to the pressure.
“Afraid of antagonizing powerfullobbying groups,” Borlaug told Congress, “many internationalagencies have turned away from supporting the science-based agriculturalintensification programs so urgently need in sub-Saharan Africa. The resulthas been declining food security and accelerated environmental degradation.”
The World Bank abandoned farmingprojects in Africa, and most European nations stopped selling inorganicfertilizers to developing nations there. As a result, African farmersare among the most inefficient in the world and even those fortunate enoughto be in newly democratic nations find themselves without access to modernfarm technology. Africa could easily make the transition in food productionthat Asia and India made if only environmentalists would get out of itsway.
As Borlaug notes, it is the heightof hypocrisy for those living among plenty in the West to deny those inAfrica access to fertilizer and pesticide. “(Environmentalists have)never experienced the physical sensation of hunger,” Borlaug said.”They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washingtonor Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developingworld, as I have for 50 years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizerand irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back homewere trying to deny them these things.”
Borlaug, now in his 70s, workswith Jimmy Carter’s Global 2000 project to raise crop yields in Africa.He’s achieved some success in Ethiopia, but widespread success in conqueringhunger will occur only when governments and international agencies standup to extremist environmentalists and reject their elitist and unscientificdogma.