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View Full Version : Belated RIP for the greatest humanitarian of all time


JonIrenicus
11-08-2009, 03:21 PM
Norman Borlaug

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/14/business/energy-environment/14borlaug.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1


Even though he was fearful of the effects of rampant population increases, he was the anti malthus, the anti Ehrlich. Because he worked to prevent the problems with an increasing population. And it worked, and if the numbers are to be believed, could have saved over a billion human beings lives with his work at increasing crop yields and creating resistant strains.


Instead of yielding to the projections of the doom sayers, he charted a course for better solutions.

And so it was with population and famine, and so it will likely be with the doom sayer predictions of global warming and its solutions.

bjkeefe
11-08-2009, 03:37 PM
And so it was with population and famine, and so it will likely be with the doom sayer predictions of global warming and its solutions.

Your blinders are evidently well-fed.

Reality:

As of 2009, FAO estimates that 1.02 billion people are undernourished worldwide. This is the highest number since 1970, the earliest year for which comparable statistics are available.

(source (http://www.fao.org/hunger/hunger_home/hunger_at_glance/en/) | much more here (http://www.fao.org/hunger/en/))

JonIrenicus
11-08-2009, 09:55 PM
Your blinders are evidently well-fed.

Reality:



(source (http://www.fao.org/hunger/hunger_home/hunger_at_glance/en/) | much more here (http://www.fao.org/hunger/en/))

Wrong. People used to think we were incapable of producing enough food to feed so many people. Starvation in the world today is not do to a technical inability to produce enough food, it is do to distribution or in some cases wrecked economies.

With further gmo adoption, the problem will shrink even further with more robust and resistant crop strains. And more nutritious strains as well.

It is the difference from saying there is nothing to do but fall on your sword and die vs here is a way to deal with and feed a larger population.

The doom sayers did nothing to save peoples lives, you know, ACTUAL results about something they claimed they cared about. Norman did.

People starving today is NOT do to an inability to produce enough food. That is his legacy, something a malthusian/Ehrlichian could never see. Their sight extends only as far as what they can imagine. Be thankful not everyone holds such a crippled view.

bjkeefe
11-08-2009, 11:19 PM
Wrong. People used to think we were incapable of producing enough food to feed so many people. Starvation in the world today is not do to a technical inability to produce enough food, it is do to distribution or in some cases wrecked economies.

I grant that is part of the explanation. But it is not the whole story. Or, put another way, it does not suffice to imagine a world without strife where we could, in principle, get adequate amounts of food to everybody, and conclude from that magical pony scenario that therefore, people worried about AGW are nothing but mindless doomsayers.

TwinSwords
11-08-2009, 11:49 PM
Even though he was fearful of the effects of rampant population increases, he was the anti malthus, the anti Ehrlich.
You're so wrong. Borlaug was not the opposite of the "doomsayers," i.e., the people who were concerned about problems related to population growth. He was one of them, as you even noted yourself above.

Borlaug took the warnings about population limits seriously, so much so that he quit his R&D job at Dupont and went to work finding solutions.


Instead of yielding to the projections of the doom sayers, he charted a course for better solutions.
What do you mean "yielding to the projections?" He took the projections deadly seriously, enough so that the redirected his whole life to solve the problem. This isn't the life story of a man to laughs at and mocks "doomsayers," like you, but of a man who took those doomsayers seriously and responded to the problems they had identified. If you had any sense, you would acknowledge that we owe a thanks to the people who IDENTIFY problems, too, so that others might solve them.



and so it will likely be with the doom sayer predictions of global warming and its solutions.
You can't solve a problem that you refuse to admit exists. Your camp won't produce the Borlaug who solves the global warming problem, because as we discussed above, you first have to take the warnings seriously before you can solve them. No one is your camp is even willing to admit a problem exists.

TwinSwords
11-08-2009, 11:53 PM
I grant that is part of the explanation. But it is not the whole story. Or, put another way, it does not suffice to imagine a world without strife where we could, in principle, get adequate amounts of food to everybody, and conclude from that magical pony scenario that therefore, people worried about AGW are nothing but mindless doomsayers.

It's just hilarious how Jon uses a man whose life was characterized by responsivness to problems to defend a political movement that is characterized by the denial of problems. He has no idea how backward he has it.

JonIrenicus
11-09-2009, 02:59 PM
You can't solve a problem that you refuse to admit exists. Your camp won't produce the Borlaug who solves the global warming problem, because as we discussed above, you first have to take the warnings seriously before you can solve them. No one is your camp is even willing to admit a problem exists.

Sure they are, the difference is that their solutions to the potential issues is not along the lines of working towards riding bicycles. The attitude is not one of stop doing things like increasing your energy usage, it is one of finding better and cheaper ways of getting that energy so that people will naturally switch over instead of suffering with the switch.


Norman came under fire from certain environmentalists for promoting gmo crops, and for the ecological consequences, but he was not about to trade the well being and lives of hundreds of millions of human beings so some well fed elitists in their cozy homes could feel better about themselves knowing that the farming practices of the world remained wholly "natural."


He was a concerned man, but a more balanced man, and it drove him to find better solutions. Better than the ones that many western powers try to enforce on people now like stopping or slowing the increase of coal fired plants in the developing world.


Even some people who believe whole heartedly in the negative consequences are actually focusing on making the alternatives superior to the status quo. That is always the better solution. And not the kind of thing an Ehrlich would wade into.


In the end, he is an example that even if problems do arise that cause suffering and untold misery, it is not the fate of humanity to simply fall on their swords and die. Not everyone is that fatalistic.

Baltimoron
11-10-2009, 12:26 AM
I don't recall if Raj Patel talked about Borlaug in this diavlog (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/10819), but his assessment of Borlaug's legacy in "Stuffed and Starved" is mixed. One point I recall is, that Borlaug's wheat requires farmers to buy a kit of fertilizers specially designed to deal with the wheat's vulnerability to pests. Buying that entire kit on credit is onerous and commits farmers to one course, without deviation.

claymisher
11-10-2009, 01:44 AM
I don't recall if Raj Patel talked about Borlaug in this diavlog (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/10819), but his assessment of Borlaug's legacy in "Stuffed and Starved" is mixed. One point I recall is, that Borlaug's wheat requires farmers to buy a kit of fertilizers specially designed to deal with the wheat's vulnerability to pests. Buying that entire kit on credit is onerous and commits farmers to one course, without deviation.

Yeah, the green revolution is the consequence of the Haber–Bosch process (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process), which enabled fossil fuels to be turned into synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. GR breeds are highly responsive to chemical fertilizer. Basically you're eating fossil fuels mediated by plants. GR cultivars typically have more bulk and less minerals and than preindustrial foods. The plants grow faster and bigger but draw fewer minerals out of the soil. It's called the dilution effect.

The green revolution we need is food that's abundant, nutritious, and sustainable.