Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Remembering the Man Who Fed the World; Dr. Norman Borlaug, R.I.P.

By Curtis Porter

(I would like to thank Jeff Steir of ASCH for giving me permission re-print Curtis Porter’s very well done Morning Dispatch regarding the passing of Dr. Norman Borlaug. Dr. Borlaug was a man who did so much for so many people in his long and accomplished life that I thought it would be approptiate to outline of the history of his life. As I read the links in this Morning Dispatch I realized that anything I would say would only diminish who he was and what he accomplished.

I am saddened that so many know and praise Rachel Carson, who must bear the brunt of the blame for the tens of millions who have died as a result of her unscientific work regarding DDT, yet so few know about this true scientist who saved the lives of hundreds of millions of the poor suffering people of this world. The greenies, who discredit him, leave dystopia in their wake. Dr. Norman Borlaug lifted them out of dystopia. Please follow the links in the article. RK)

ACSH staffers are deeply saddened today by the passing of ACSH Founding Director and Trustee Dr. Norman Borlaug. Dr. Borlaug was known as the Father of the Green Revolution for his agricultural innovations, which have saved an estimated one billion lives to date. His contributions to science and humanity earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, a Congressional Gold Medal, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and many other awards, though he lived a life of relative anonymity for a man of his influence.

"A sad day for science and humanity. Just to add a little more from my blog, Droll Bits, that was mentioned in your article (linked below, RK):"Borlaug is one of only five people in history (and the only scientist) to have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. The others were Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela and Elie Wiesel. - David Roll"
ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan writes, "Dr. Norman Borlaug has to be the most significant human being born in the twentieth century -- but so few people have even heard of him. He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 (the Nobel team called about 6am, but Norman was already in the field, his hands in the soil -- his wife had to drive in the dark to find him to tell him the news, which he did not believe)..."Yet he was so humble and down to earth. He would regularly call me at ACSH and tell me what a great job I was doing to defend sound science. Each of these calls inevitably reduced me to tears. Dr. Borlaug was telling me that I was doing a good job?! Almost two years ago -- on the day of his ninety-fourth birthday -- he called to say he was in town and asked if he could come over. We dashed to the bakery across the street to get a cake and candles -- and had a great celebration in our conference room as Norman lectured us on the looming dangers of wheat rust."

The
New York Times obituary tells the story of his dedication to his research: "He spent countless hours hunched over in the blazing Mexican sun as he manipulated tiny wheat blossoms to cross different strains. To speed the work, he set up winter and summer operations in far-flung parts of Mexico, logging thousands of miles over poor roads. He battled illness, forded rivers in flood, dodged mudslides, and sometimes slept in tents."

There are still those, however, who question the value of Dr. Borlaug's achievements. As the
Wall Street Journal notes, "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."

"He was fighting for humanity and for the Earth as opposed to a political or environmentalist agenda," explains ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. "Part of the reason he is so little known is because he was so modest, kind, and humble. He was completely unassuming, not arrogant at all. The only time he ascended the podium was to fight against junk science and those who demonized the life-saving technologies of the modern food industry. Only when he took the mantle of science upon himself was he confrontational."

"I agree," adds long-time ACSH staffer and Associate Director Cheryl Martin. "He exuded compassion and humility, and it was always an honor to be in his presence. Whenever he visited ACSH, I was nourished by his wisdom, passion, and dedication. He always took time to praise and emphasize the importance of the work we do at ACSH. He certainly will be missed, but I know his work and his message lives on."

As he said in his Nobel Lecture, Dr. Borlaug remained optimistic for the future of mankind, who he called a "potentially rational being." He encouraged that rationality in facing the world's problems, and he proved that it could be used to make a dramatic difference. Now, in his absence, ACSH strives to continue his work of promoting the responsible use of science to improve the human condition, just as we have done since he helped found our organization over thirty years ago.

There is sadness here at ACSH for the loss of our friend, but we, too, remain optimistic, and as we carry on Dr. Borlaug's tradition of rationality and concern for our fellow man, we remember the words of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee upon the selection of Dr. Borlaug as a laureate: "[M]ore than any other single person of this age, he has helped to provide bread for a hungry world. We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace."

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