Thursday, March 27, 2014

Borlaug the Great!

By Rich Kozlovich

Norman Borlaug has been a personal hero to me for many years.  When he died a few years ago at 95 one writer observed:

“Just think of the people who have gone down in history as "the Great" - Alexander the Great, Catherine the Great, Charles the Great (Charlemagne), Frederick the Great, Peter the Great — despots and warmongers.

They killed a lot of people, destroyed civilizations and rampaged over the landscape stealing their wealth and making a great many people suffer.  Thought provoking don’t you think?  He went on to say;

Just once it would be nice to see the actual benefactors of humanity designated as “the Great”: Galileo the Great, Gutenberg the Great, Samuel Morse the Great, Alan Turing the Great.”

That writer decided it there was any human being that deserved to be called "The Great", it was Norman Borlaug!

Borlaug was, in my opinion, the greatest human being to have lived in the 20th century, and since he survived into the 21st century, he may be the greatest human being to live in this century.   Borlaug saved untold hundreds of millions of lives (some estimate it may have been as high as a billion) by developing - with his hands in the dirt - what is called in agriculture the “Green Revolution”.  This was done through extensive use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and the development of high yield crops, and his work on overcoming 'rust', an extremely difficult to control disease of wheat and barley. 

At the end of his life he was asked if he supported the use of genetically modified foods.  Borlaug believed that in order to feed humanity we will need to use all the agricultural technology we can muster, including genetically modified foods.  A technology that leaves a much smaller ecological footprint than organic farming, requiring less of everything including land. 

During the 1960’s and 1970’s while he was quietly working in the soil, out of the public’s eye to save the lives of poor starving people the world over, media “science stars” like “Paul Ehrlich and Obama’s Science Czar, John Holdren, made” apocalyptic forecasts global famine”.  Like most of the dire predictions made by the environmental movement they were seriously wrong, which the environmental movement seems to have a monopoly on – being wrong – and deadly. 

But even more importantly this was during the time – 1962- when Rachel Carson’s famous piece of science fiction known as Silent Spring came out.  This fallacious piece of work is credited with starting the modern environmental movement, a movement that became rich and powerful with their successful efforts to ban DDT.  A movement that stands in opposition to everything Norman Borlaug stood for and worked for, supporting policies that have left millions dead and billions in sickness, poverty, misery and suffering.  A movement that quite possibly may be responsible for as many unnecessary deaths as the murderous socialist monsters of the 20th century. 

Ask an audience how many have heard of Rachel Carson, and you find almost everyone has.  Ask that same audience how may have heard of Norman Borlaug and almost no one has, and disturbingly, I find it's true within my own industry.   One killed untold millions, one saved hundreds of millions, and the man who save all those millions is largely unknown. 

In the past he had been honored with three humanitarian awards.  The Noble Peace Price, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  Only Martin Luther King Jr. and Elie Weisel have been so honored.  When his wife told him he won the Nobel Peace Prize he thought someone was pulling her leg.  On Tuesday Congress honored this Iowan by adding his statue to the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.  

Among his last words were, "Never Relax.  Rust never sleeps."

Editor's Note: It has been noted to me that German trains ran on time, and it was Mussolini who made the trains run on time.  I knew the Mussolini account, and I'm sure German trains ran on time, but this wasn't my story, it was his story, and his justification, so I merely repeated it.  Thanks for everyone's interest.

1 comment:

  1. As an agronomist, Borlaug is one of my heroes. I used to see the statue in his honor in his home town of Cresco, Iowa when I worked in Iowa--- it was a statue of the greek god ceres holding the globe.
    Frank Gasperini