Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More on Borlaug

After his triumph in India and Pakistan and his Nobel Peace Prize, Borlaug turned to raising crop yields in other poor nations especially in Africa, the one place in the world where population is rising faster than farm production and the last outpost of subsistence agriculture. At that point, Borlaug became the target of critics who denounced him because Green Revolution farming requires some pesticide and lots of fertilizer. Trendy environmentalism was catching on, and affluent environmentalists began to say it was "inappropriate" for Africans to have tractors or use modern farming techniques. Borlaug told me a decade ago that most Western environmentalists "have 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 fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists in wealthy nations were trying to deny them these things."

The author is Gregg Easterbrook, who wrote "A Moment on the Earth."

1 comment:

Mom said...

A few years ago, when we were still getting "National Geographic," they ran an article about a remote mountain community in Peru (I think, or maybe Chile) where the people lived in unimaginable beauty and also in unimaginable suffering because there was no road through the mountains to their town -- all goods had to be packed in and out over huge distances on the backs of humans or animals. The article described what it was like to live there (hungry, cold, sick, utterly deprived) and described the activism of environmentalists who were trying to prevent construction of a road in order to protect the mountains' beauty. The author made his (her?) decision in the last line of the article: "These people need a road."

The next issue was packed full of letters to the editor from absolutely furious people canceling their subscriptions because the magazine had dared to publish such heresy as to acknowledge that human needs -- including, in this case, starvation -- might ever be great enough to outbalance environmental harm. One after another. Unbelievable.