Monday, September 14, 2009

A true hero for the world passes away

I had heard of Norman Borlaug only a couple of times before, not enough of course, and so his passing should come with the sort of news coverage that now gets given to vapid celebrities and simpleton politicians.

I am guessing if you still don't know who he is, you could boil it down to this:

He used his mind, and his passion for solving problems, to save lives on a grand scale. He did it through science

More than politicians, more than bureaucrats, more than the environmentalists or the so called peace activists, he saved hundreds of millions of lives, mostly in developing countries. More than he did, or he did, or this organisation or that organisation.

As the Daily Telegraph obituary today says:

"Perhaps more than anyone else, he was responsible for the fact that throughout the postwar era, except in sub-Saharan Africa, global food production has expanded faster than the human population, averting the mass starvations that were once widely predicted.

But Borlaug’s “Green Revolution” was not “green” in the modern sense. High yields demanded artificial fertiliser, chemical pesticides and new soil technology. As a result of this he was vilified by many in the environmental movement in the securely affluent West, some of whom argued that higher food production sustains more people and thus poses a threat to the natural environment."

You see he is a hero in India, where he banished mass famine to history, by developing "dwarf wheat" which was hardy and high yield:

"By 1968 Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat production; India followed a few years later. Since the 1960s, food production in both countries has outpaced the rate of population growth and, in the mid 1980s, India even became a net exporter. In 1968, the administrator for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) wrote in his annual report that the phenomenal improvement in food production in the subcontinent looked like "a Green Revolution" – which was how it came to be known. "

He did the same in China, but in Africa he faced opposition. Why?

" Notwithstanding the fact that Borlaug's initial efforts in a few African nations yielded the same rapid increases in food production as did his efforts on the Indian subcontinent, environmental lobbyists persuaded Borlaug's backers in the Ford Foundation and the World Bank to back off from most African agriculture projects."

Yes, you see those people, those very groups who claim to give so much of a damn about the air, the water, the environment, don't give damn all about people. The new religion of our times - environmentalism would be put up against the science, the productivity and how Borlaug could save lives - and the earth worshippers would win.

That is why the Greens or Greenpeace, or other supercilious anti-reason worshippers of the planet over humanity wont cheer him on. No. A man of science, not a man of superstition treated appallingly because he didn't fit into the trend. He damned subsidies for agriculture in developed countries whilst obesity was the growing problem.

However, he did get much recognition. The American Medal of Freedom in 1977 and umpteen honorary doctorates, he was known in his field, and well known in some countries, if not the fickle ephemeral image worshipping developed world. Many more people are alive today because of him. Perhaps, that is why the environmental movement are cold towards him?

Not PC has done a superb post about Borlaug whose death I heard of from the BBC World Service - which gave an extended report on his achievements. Something I gather the NZ media, so dismissive of the blogosphere, couldn't. However, I am sure if virtually all NZ reporters and journalists were asked who he was, they wouldn't know.

So it's worth saying now how I share PC's disgust, that TVNZ does not have anything about him on its "news" website, neither does the NZ Herald or Stuff. TV3 did of course, to its credit.

So just think next time the mainstream media (bar TV3) criticise the blogosphere for not being "real journalism", ask yourself how many of these onanistic "copy a government press release" monkeys can hold down a sustainable debate on anything of substance that doesn't involve celebrity gossip, political scuttlebutt or sport?

UPDATE: WSJ has one of the best statements yet on Borlaug

"Today, famines—whether in Zimbabwe, Darfur or North Korea—are politically induced events, not true natural disasters.

In later life, Borlaug was criticized by self-described "greens" whose hostility to technology put them athwart the revolution he had set in motion. Borlaug fired back, warning in these pages that fear-mongering by environmental extremists against synthetic pesticides, inorganic fertilizers and genetically modified foods would again put millions at risk of starvation while damaging the very biodiversity those extremists claimed to protect. In saving so many, Borlaug showed that a genuine green movement doesn't pit man against the Earth, but rather applies human intelligence to exploit the Earth's resources to improve life for everyone."

Ask yourself whether those that call themselves Green are of the former or latter category in that sentence.


Anonymous said...

Fess up Liberty. You knew little or nothing about this man but quickly saw an opportunity to have a go at environmentalists by way of his death. I'm new to your blog and I may be wrong but I'd hazard a guess and say you don't spend much time worrying about famine and starvation anywhere in the world.

Libertyscott said...

Given I've posted several times about poverty in Africa, he IS of interest. Like I said I had heard of his remarkable achievements before. You are implying I wouldn't care less if India was starving? Actually I get very frustrated that Africa remains the lost continent and so many of those who give a damn are so wrong about why and refuse to admit it.

I icdon't need his death to have a go at environmentalists, they offer so many targets it is hardly difficult. I have targeted many others, from Mother Teresa to George Galloway.

Your post simply adds to the point that acknowledging someone who was truly astonishing in his impact upon humanity is beyond you. What is it that this sort of psyche exists?

Anonymous said...

Oh yes I can well believe you had a go at Mother Teresa. After all she was helping people who should have been helping themselves. Charity is for losers. Winners are out ther making a go of it.
You missed my point completely. I don't doubt this man did good work and helped change many lives. I'm simply saying that I doubt that you really care too much about starvation and famine. I mean you don't see many libertarians at the front line in the war against locust plagues do you? No Liberty I still think your real interest in this man was using him as a weapon in your continuing war with environmentalists. OK so you have posted several times about Africa so perhaps you will direct me to those posts so I can see for myself how deeply concerned you are. Cheers and remember economics is about people

Libertyscott said...

Anonymous: Yes, I thought the way she met the Duvaliers and praised them - that criminal family that ran Haiti with fear and murder was very helpful. I thought the way she took donations for helping the poor and funnelled most of it to the Vatican was helping the poor, I thought the way she said the poor suffering brought them closer to God, was real charity.

How very transparently banal for you to take up the Muggeridge view of Terersa that the media lapped up, rather than the critical views of the likes of Christopher Hitchens who took the time to find out what she was really about. Mother Teresa provided a spartan home for the dying, refused to send people or pay for them to go to hospital, wouldn't "splash out" on mattresses for them.

You've already insulted me you supercilious coward. You're incapable of using the "search" function to read other articles I've written. I've talked about how fairtrade can be damaging to the poor, talked about Zimbabwe, North Korea, questioned how aid can be destructive and how Africa is let down by governments and Western aid policy.

I've praised charity (but that's ok, you've already got a fully fledged opinion about me and my philosophy. A bit like if I simply said you're a communist and Lenin got it right, without knowing anything other than you have a tinge of leftwing politics in what you've said). I have long believed in human benevolence, something that involves people acting voluntarily out of their own generosity, not the pseudo "care" of those who go on about poverty only to lobby the state to pillage money from taxpayers (the most inefficient and least accountable way of helping others). CPAG in NZ is like that, Child Poverty Action Group does NO action except lobby the state. It hasn't helped a single child. I have given to charity, I've contributed to microloan schemes and I have volunteered - so frankly, go fuck yourself you judgmental prick. What have YOU done?

Amazingly people with your philosophy don't have a monopoly on compassion, indeed are often deluded into thinking intervening in markets is good for people. The "food sovereignty" movement for example, is thoroughly destructive of agriculture in developing countries because it shuts out developed country markets from them, the totally mindless "food miles" concept equally so, and it isn't even environmentally friendly.

Of course economics is about people, the sort of banal childlike patronising comment I hear from time to time. Economics is about human behaviour and the discovery, creation and allocation of scarce resources. People also don't like having violence done to them because others haven't convinced them of the merits of what to do with their body or property - you might want to think about how often you've advocated violence against people or their property to make them do what you want, it is de rigueur across most people in the political spectrum.

Anonymous said...

What an outburst. I think we should leave it at that. Pity, I actually quite like your blog as I quite liked Radio Liberty all those years ago. Even used to tune into Jessica Weddell way back when. Didn't agree with much of what she but sort of liked her nonetheless. Oh and the economics thing was a joke.

Libertyscott said...

You came onto my blog to imply that I wasn't genuine, you claimed I held points of view that I don't that implied that you hold moral superiority over myself, you didn't have the courtesy to investigate and search to find out if that was true. I wake up and find this comment implying that attacking Mother Teresa isn't about something substantial, but some cold-hearted hatred of charity.

You could have made the point without being personal. You chose to be personal, so are you hardly surprised that I'm angry when you made little effort to determine what I am really about? After personal slurs from someone do you expect them to make a joke that isn't directed at you? Your valid question got hidden amongst the personalisation of it all, which is a lesson in communication methinks.

Anonymous said...

I have reread my comments and I just don't think they are all that personal and actually it is difficult to avoid a little bit of the personal thing when the views posted are personal (three personals may be too many). I discuss politics most days at work and also occasionally with my ACT card carrying nephew and we get a damn sight more personal than this. If you want personal then visit whaleoil. I was shown posts during the aftermath of the death of the lady on dialysis. The attacks on her family and circumstances were shocking. Utterly venal.