While I have covered Dr. Borlaug in several past blog postings, I thought this passage from a tribute today is especially timely:
No good deed goes unpunished, so we shouldn't be surprised that Borlaug was attacked by proponents of the trendy new faith of radical environmentalism because Green Revolution farming requires some pesticide and lots of fertilizer. Gregg Easterbrook quotes Borlaug saying the following in the 1990s:
"(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."
Borlaug was correct: "Environmentalists" and their allies pressured the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, the World Bank and Western governments todrop funding and support for the great humanitarian as he was trying to expand his efforts into Africa. As a result, it is no surprise that the continent is doing the poorest at feeding its people.
There's an old proverb: "He who has bread has many problems. He who has no bread has only one problem." Today, the talk is all about demands for massively intrusive government interventions requiring trillions of dollars to address deeply speculative problems 100 years hence supported by highly suspicious computer models and data. Much less is said about solving real current problems using proven methods pioneered by Norman Borlaug that require much smaller sums.
More than 40 years ago Borlaug wrote, "One of the greatest threats to mankind today is that the world may be choked by an explosively pervading but well camouflaged bureaucracy."