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.