Reading the articles that came out after Norman Borlaug’s death last week taught me a lot about the Green Revolution. It’s amazing to think that as recently as 50 years ago, widespread famine was seen as an inevitable part of life. Populations would grow in good years, then starve to death in bad ones, and that’s just the way it was.
Norman Borlaug’s work revolved around breeding hardier and better producing varieties of key food crops such as wheat and rice. He also promoted the use of fertilizers and pesticides. He was willing to say that these should be used responsibly while still remaining disgusted that rich environmentalists would keep food out of the hands of starving people.
”Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the Earth, but many of them are elitists,” he told the Atlantic Monthly magazine. ”They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertiliser and irrigation canals, and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.” (from The Age)
There are aspects of our current agricultural system that are unsustainable, but we are far from the environmental crisis described by doomsayers. As the years have passed we have managed to become better stewards of the land than ever before in history. By any measure, the world is a better place than it has ever been. We have a long, long way to go but we’ve also come a long way.
Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.
– Reinhold Niebuhr