September 23, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009 06:25 PM
The death of the greatest human being who ever lived
By: Andrew Steele – Globe and Mail Newspaper, Toronto. Canada.
That probably means nothing to most people.
But Borlaug – along with other researchers who create the Green Revolution in food production – saved between two hundred million people and one billion people, depending on how you do the math.
Norman Borlaug spent decades with the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico cross-breeding grain varieties to produce a new disease-resistant dwarf strain of wheat that transformed agriculture, especially in the third world.
Previously, nations from Turkey to Mexico to India were rocked regularly by crop failures. Too much or too little rain, heat or cold could plunge entire nations into famine, war or revolution.
In the 1960’s, Borlaug introduced new strains that absorbed more nitrogen and thus grew faster. Previously, plants that grew faster just fell over and rotted, but Borlaug cross bred them with shorter “dwarf” plants with hardy thick stalks that could stand up to high nitrogen absorption. The result was fast-growing, disease-resistant plants perfect for unstable climates.
He also introduced backcrossing techniques that increased their disease resistance through selective breeding.
Most importantly, he was focused on using these techniques specifically to alleviate starvation in the developing world. His goal was always to attack famine, not merely to improve margins in agribusiness.
His impact was immediate and dramatic.
When his seeds were used widely in 1963, Mexico instantly went from famine-prone to a wheat-exporter. Their wheat harvest was six times greater after Borlaug was done than before he started his work. Imagine the compromised stability of Canada and the United States if Mexico were still endured regular famines threatening the lives of millions.
Borlaug’s seeds arrived on the sub-continent in 1965 as it was roiling through famine and war. Within five years, the previously starving Pakistan was self-sufficient for grains. India would be self-sufficient within a decade. The two nations were transformed. It is impossible to conceive of the great leaps of Mumbai and Kolkata in an India still experiencing regular famine. Consider the reception of the Taliban in Northern Pakistan if the government could not prevent famine in that region. Food security is a huge contributor to world peace.
He would go on to introduce new rice strains in China and grains in Africa that would continue to save millions.
It was conventional wisdom in the 1960s that hundreds of millions would die of mass starvation and no one could do anything about it. Biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote in 1968, “the battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate…”
His persistence and inventiveness demolished a horseman of the apocalypse. Today, the causes of famine are almost always political rather than weather. The disaster is far less common in the south and virtually forgotten in the developed world.
For his efforts, Borlaug won the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was the subject of an episode of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit where he was lauded as the “Greatest Human Being Who Has Ever Lived.”
Some critics have attempted to argue that Borlaug’s work contributed to the environmental challenges of today, that the population growth of the last forty years contributed to or even caused climate change or resource depletion. Others have decried his invention as “genetically modified food,” which it undeniably is.
Borlaug himself remained concerned about population growth and resource use. But the reality is that Borlaug’s work was instrumental in saving the hundreds of millions of lives and hundreds of millions of trees. The Borlaug Hypothesis in agronomy states “increasing the productivity of agriculture on the best farmland can help control deforestation by reducing the demand for new farmland.” In other words, you do a better job with what you have and you won’t need to use virgin resources.
Of his harshest critics Borlaug stated, “some… 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.”
Borlaug remained grounded despite his elevation to sainthood with the Nobel Prize win. He continued to work in Africa, Asia and Latin America improving crop yields. In 1986, he created the World Food Prize to continue to spark innovation in food production.
Norman Borlaug died on September 12, 2009, at 95 years of age. His family released a simple statement that “We would like his life to be a model for making a difference in the lives of others and to bring about efforts to end human misery for all mankind.”
When Princess Diana died, television networks covered it 24/7. Michael Jackson’s passing created a tsunami of Internet traffic. I learned about Borlaug’s passing on the sidebar of a news website on global development issues in foreign policy.
Norman Borlaug goes to a better place having made the Earth undeniably better, safer and freed from hunger.
And he goes in virtual silence……
– Submitted by Cyril Bryan – Guest Contributor.
November 30, 2008
Saturday 29 November 2008. -By: Steve Weissman
An Indian soldier stands in front of the still smoldering Taj Hotel in Mumbai. (Photo: David Guttenfelder/AP)
Bush and Cheney chose the word “war” with malice aforethought. From the start, they intended a military response, first against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and then against Saddam Hussein in Iraq. And, as Barton Gellman shows so brilliantly in his book “Angler,” Dick Cheney and his team consciously wanted to create a wartime presidency with enormous unchecked power and scant regard for basic American liberties.
By contrast, Obama’s advisors openly acknowledge that military force alone will never bring victory over terrorism. They would, in addition, provide more economic aid, use counter-insurgency tactics to pacify local populations, and work with surrounding regional powers, including Iran.
But Obama and his people still talk far too much about using military force and delude themselves into believing that the physical defeat of Al-Qaeda will significantly weaken the current terrorist threat.
Though it’s still too early to know who staged the attacks in Mumbai, they were most likely militant jihadis, possibly with links to Kashmiri rebels and renegade elements of Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the ISI. Al-Qaeda may or may not have played a role in the planning.
But even if Al-Qaeda did, how would killing Osama bin Laden – if he’s still alive – or hanging all of his top aides, or hammering the Taliban in any way defuse the toxic brew of often justified grievances and outrageous religious fanaticism that we now face? The enemy is not a single man, and not a single group. It is a movement of shared ideas and beliefs, all too often encouraged by Washington’s pursuit of policies that are both unjust and counter-productive.
The terrorist bloodshed started long before bin Laden and will continue long after his dialysis machine packs up. No magic bullet will end it, but military boots on other people’s ground will almost always make matters worse. That’s what they did in Iraq. That’s what they are doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
What bin Laden added to the mix was the well-articulated idea that terrorist attacks could promote a clash of civilizations, or holy war. With his War on Terror, George W. Bush, the Crusader-in-Chief, responded exactly as bin Laden wanted, turning moderate Muslims around the world into terrorist supporters, funders, and enablers. Why would Obama want to continue the madness?
To gain perspective, Obama might ask his advisers to brief him on the very different wave of terrorism that spread from Russia, through Europe, and into the United States between 1881 and 1914. The terrorists were mostly anarchists, and they killed, among others, Czar Alexander II, King Umberto I of Italy, the president of France, the prime minister of Spain, and the president of the United States, William McKinley.
The assassinations shook the established powers throughout the Western world. One terrorist, a Bosnian nationalist, even triggered War I when he assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in historic Sarajevo.
The new media of the time, the daily newspaper, naturally exaggerated the threat, spreading the terrifying specter of the crazed anarchist bomb-thrower. Just as naturally, the papers gave considerably less coverage to another image of the age – that of the government-paid agent provocateur.
In time, the anarchists themselves saw that their violence, their propaganda of the deed, was not sparking the revolutionary movement they wanted, and they turned instead toward organizing workers into unions. But, even at the time of the greatest murder and mayhem, I can think of no government that ever went anywhere near as far as the Bush administration in making the fight against terrorism a question of military force.
Today’s terrorists have far more deadly weapons at their disposal, as Dick Cheney always told us. But today’s police and intelligence services have more than enough technology to meet the threat. What they need is far greater international cooperation, which a reliance on the military makes more difficult.
Similarly, Islamic societies around the world have more than enough creativity to see the dead end into which terrorism leads. What they need is time and space to adapt to a changing world.
Barack Obama is in a unique position to build cooperation and encourage Muslims everywhere to find their own way forward. Happily, he has made a good start by announcing that he will close Guantánamo and end the horrors of torture. He has also raised the hope, however faint, that he will work toward a just settlement between Israelis and Palestinians and between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.
Even more to the point, his pledge to build a green economy will reduce any argument for continuing American support of despotic governments in countries with large reserves of oil and natural gas.
All this is promising. But it remains only a promise, and all of it will come to naught if Obama gives the orders to continue killing people and breaking things wherever and whenever the United States wants.
November 14, 2008
Published on November 13th, 2008 – The Inspired Economist – http://inspiredeconomist.com
As the G20 leaders gather in Washington for what has been dubbed “Bretton Woods II”, here’s a brief list of the economic opportunities they need to discuss:
- of this, 15% live in slums and are permanently hungry
- yet the USA, the EU, the UK, Russia, China, India and Brazil have all reported bumper harvests this year
- of this 85% is consumed by 20% of the population
- while 45% of the population live on around $900 per annum
- and 0.0001% of the population have a combined wealth of over $10tr
In the USA, in the ten years to 2006:
- employment stayed at around 72%
- while average earnings rose 45% from $37,000 to $54,000
- and the average real income of the poorest 20% of households fell
In other words, the global economy is fixed in a spiral where prosperity is hoarded by those who already have and isn’t shared with those who already have not. Social mobility is non-existent.
The G20’s Historic “Bretton Woods” Opportunity
Corporations’ historical reluctance to engage with the vast market of the poor has been driven largely by the fact they cannot make as much profit from it as they can by segmenting the wealthy market.
However, with the advent of CSR many companies are starting to understand that the pursuit of ever greater profit is not, in and by itself, a wholesome goal. Now is the time to put that understanding into action.
So the will is there and the market is there. All the Bretton Woods II governments in Washington need to do is establish the institutions to bring the two together.
The delegates to the World Conference should assemble in sackcloth and ashes, with humble and contrite hearts. … Fear and greed, duplicity and incompetence, but above all conventional thought and feeling, have brought their collective performance far below the level of the participants regarded as human individuals. But here is a last opportunity.
The question is, will that opportunity be taken? Or will it take another ten years for the world to put it’s house in order?
What do you think about the Future Financial Architecture?
Is the G20 meeting a historic opportunity to remould financial architecture in a more socially responsive and responsible framework?
Can previously “irresponsible” corporations be trusted to enact this through the free market, or should we be “once bitten, twice shy” and demand strong regulation?
Note: Click on hyperlinks in this article to get more information, graphs and maps.
April 26, 2008
INDIA’S POSITION IN THE COMMONWEALTH
— Another peep into history (1947)
When Nehru the Prime Minister of the British dominion made history by advancing the country to the status of a Republic within the Commonwealth, political diehards thought that such a situation was, if not undesirable was impracticable. The bond was too frail, they thought, to hold together these two nations who appeared so geographically and ethnically in contrast. Many thought that a final break would have been the normal thing, but Nehuu who towers head and shoulders above most of the best statesmen of our time and is politically far advanced for this age, in a stroke of policy shattered the misconception of friend and foe.
Nehru is no hot-headed political opportunist; he is a cool, able statesman with a remarkable capacity for self-suffering. Lacking a genius for religion, agnostic in outlook, he sees the wisdom of following the advice of that great spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi who did not believe in isolation and race segregation. The fact that he was in and out of prison for fourteen years did not blind him to their intrinsic worth.
The execution of justice by fallible and selfish men which often obscure the brilliance of Democracy is no fault of the system, but of its interpretation and implementation. Again the ties which bound these two peoples and which could not be severed by the stroke of a pen, could not possibly have failed detection by a leader as astute as Nehru.
At present, language has a strong hold on the people. Nehru himself was educated as a lawyer in England. He speaks fluent, polished English, and though the Government is reverting to Hindi as the official language, the fascination with English among the educated cannot be outlived.
Cricket, too, has played and important part in binding these two nations together. India, on account of its huge population has millions of fans, and if the true significance if the game could be grasped, Britain will endeavour to select, not only skilful men, but men of moral worth to play into the hearts of India and Pakistan,
It might have been evident to the Prime minister that breaking away from a nation to whom India has learnt much, notwithstanding the blunders of British statesmen in dealing with the Indian situation, would have been tactless and drastic. So by retaining the Sovereign as the symbol of a free people, he has not only shown vision and superb statesmanship, but has quite appropriately paid tribute to one of the finest evolved democratic institutions in the world.
British statesmen erred in not believing that India was no politically ripe for conducting her own affairs, but Indians proved their ability by running the gauntlet of restriction, imprisonment and lathi charges. They, like the cultured people they are, refused to be bitter or to evince hatred or malice, but have shown a willingness to cooperate in the interest of humanity.
India’s mission is peace and the brotherhood of man. Her independence of Britain gives more status to their relationship. Here is a friendly and spiritual bond which transcends the geographic and ethnic ties of the other members of the Commonwealth.
— Randall Butisingh
April 10, 2008
THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
When men are subdued by force they do not submit in their minds, but only because their strength is inadequate. When men are subdued by power in personality they are pleased to their very heart’s core and do really submit.
Mencius (Meng Tzu}
The power of personality or charisma or ideas can be more powerful than the might of the sword, or the cannon or the bomb. The use of force can capture and suppress but it usually cannot maintain allegiance when the force is removed. True power is invisible and accepted consciously through acceptance of the ruler and his methods of governance – conscious submission.
Great leaders have the ability to enthuse others and to garner support with their words and actions and their leadership qualities. People follow and obey their wishes and such leaders thrive in the power vested and bequeathed to them by their people. They have little fear that the people will rise up against them.
The same concepts ccould be applied to the conquering armies of the old civilizations of the Greeks and the Romans. Later, the great European colonial powers of the Industrial Age showed their longevity in controlling millions of subjects with minimum physical force. In some cases they may have conquered initially by force, but they were only able to retain their power through mutually beneficial policies like trade and power brokering with the local factions in their colonies e.g. The Indian Raj of Britiin’s colonialism of India.
Even in the historical writings of little Demerara, now Guyana, that the Dutch ruled from 1581-1781 it is said that the Dutch settlers did not subjugate the native indigenous Amerindian tribes. The Dutch settler policy was to actively befriend local tribes with gifts and trade so that they became allies and protectors of the Dutch interests there. This policy also ensured that their slaves, imported from Africa, did not successfully escape as they were quickly tracked down and returned by the Amerindians.
It can therefore be said that the likeable personality, like the pen, is mightier than the sword. That endearing personality can be embodied in an individual or in a whole nation or people, as they are perceived by others. Their rule is accepted by their subjects who consciously submit as they are pleased with their method of governance.
— Cyril Bryan – firstname.lastname@example.org