Earth Day: How this U of M grad saved one billion lives and the planet with science
Today is Earth Day, and there is no better way to observe today than to honor a University of Minnesota graduate who has arguably done more to improve the living…
On Earth Day, American Experiment celebrated University of Minnesota graduate Norman Borlaug, who saved one billion people from starvation and millions of acres from the plow. Despite being one of the most important humanitarians in the history of the world, he had critics who preached doom and gloom instead of scientific innovation.
According to Borlaug’s Wikipedia page:
Throughout his years of research, Borlaug’s programs often faced opposition by nonscientists who consider genetic crossbreeding to be unnatural or to have negative effects. Borlaug’s work has been criticized for bringing large-scale monoculture, input-intensive farming techniques to countries that had previously relied on subsistence farming to support smaller populations.
Borlaug refuted or dismissed most claims of his critics, but did take certain concerns seriously. He stated that his work has been “a change in the right direction, but it has not transformed the world into a Utopia”.
Of environmental lobbyists opposing crop yield improvements, he stated, “some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve 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 fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things”.
The parallels between Borlaug’s critics and renewable energy advocates are remarkably similar. The loudest advocates for wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles are comfy urbanites who don’t know what it’s like to struggle financially.
To these demographics, the fact that electricity prices increase is probably a bonus, because the higher prices probably make them feel better about the fact that they, too, emit carbon dioxide every day, but at least they are paying a price for it. The same phenomenon goes for those who think organic food offers measurable environmental benefits.
In the end, humanity is best served by finding the most efficient and cost effective way of producing food and energy. Energy-dense resources that reduce energy costs improve the human quality of life and decrease our environmental footprint.