By Jim Whitt
The leader of a revolution passed away recently but there wasn’t much about it in the news.
No country has been immune to this revolution yet it is unique because no shots have been fired by the participants. No buildings have been bombed or burned. Instead, the landscapes of poverty- stricken nations have been transformed to save millions of lives, dramatically improve the standard of living of their populations and improve the habitats for all forms of plants and wildlife.
The revolutionaries have been ordinary people who have been so extraordinarily successful that what they have accomplished has gone largely unnoticed. It’s possible you may have never heard of this revolution even though it continues — and continues to positively impact your life every day.
Norman Borlaug, a plant pathologist, walked away from a comfortable job with DuPont in 1944 to inadvertently become the father of what has since become known as the Green Revolution. He wasn’t an egotist bent on making a name for himself and didn’t really intend to start a revolution. It started because he wanted to feed a hungry world. The first battle in the Green Revolution was waged in Mexico, where he was sent by the Rockefeller Foundation to help destitute Mexican farmers who could barely feed themselves, let alone their countrymen or those beyond their borders.
Dr. Borlaug armed these farmers, and many others around the world, with the weapons necessary to wage war on world hunger when most experts were predicting world famine in the decades to come. He, along with other agricultural scientists, developed new varieties of grains. These new varieties, coupled with scientific farming methods, started filling the grain bins of the world. In 1970, Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with this pronouncement by the Nobel committee, “More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world.”
You may not realize how much impact the Green Revolution has had on you. When I was a youngster we, like most rural families, had a garden, a milk cow, a few chickens and hogs in addition to the beef cattle we raised. We were organic before organic was cool. Cool? It was hard work and you lost the fruits of your labor to disease, drought, insects, and other species that helped themselves to your garden. As I grew older we got rid of the milk cow, chickens and let nature reclaim the garden. Why? Because the constant stream of new, revolutionary, agricultural technologies made milk, meat, eggs and produce so plentiful and inexpensive that we could buy things cheaper at the grocery store than we could raise them. Today we eat in a style that only wealthy people could afford when I was a kid. And you do, too. Look at the number of restaurants that line our streets and consider how many meals we eat out. Our grocery shelves are overflowing with wonderful choices of safe, inexpensive and delicious foods — many of them fully prepared to be microwaved to stove-top freshness in a matter of seconds. Now that’s cool.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. In a sense, Norman Borlaug taught the world how to fish. So when you sit down to your next meal, remember the name of Norman Borlaug. The predicted famines never happened because of the Green Revolution. And they never will if we keep applying the lessons of a revolutionary who taught the world how to feed itself. Viva la revolucion!