Monday, September 14

Borlaug's gift, and the world that wasted it.

*WARNING* - this post is a downbeat one. Don't read if you've hope for the future.

Agricultural pioneer and US Nobel Peace laureate Norman Borlaug has died. And on seeing the news, my first thought was how we've utterly wasted his benefits.

Yes, his work, a key pillar in the green revolution, has spared millions this century from famine. But ultimately, it has merely moved the famine on fifty years. The millions that didn't die in the 70s, 80s and 90s will die in future decades. Not because of any underlying flaw in Borlaug's work, but because of the way we squandered his gift.

The increased agricultural yield could have been the opportunity to raise the standards of everyone, to increase education and health, to enable people to raise families in a sustainable, higher quality lifestyle, leading to smaller families where all the children go to school and can expect to lead long, productive lives.

Instead it has merely led to a population boom, which will now struggle to feed itself on depleting resources - drained aquifers, tired soil, eroding hillsides.

And that's before global climate change puts the boot in.

Borlaug gave the world a gift. He gave it fifty years breathing space to solve a coming crisis. The world failed.

If we're really lucky, there will be a dozen more Borlaugs out there to save us again, and give us a chance to do things right this time. But they might not be there, and I seriously doubt the world's ability to learn from its past mistakes.

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