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« Politicizing the Economy | Main | Causes of the Crisis »


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If I correctly understand the BBC (
it all started when Borlaug realized that short-stemmed wheat would waste less energy making the stalk, leaving more energy for the part we eat, the grain. Talk about elegant! It's really simple insight, completely obvious once stated. Translating that "obvious" insight into high-yield, disease-resistant dwarf wheat was not easy and not obvious. But it all started with something simple.


Thank you Steve for forcefully and cogently articulating this for many of us.

The reverse division of labor and reversal of technological progress imagined as goodness by many on the left will, if implemented, tragically be marked by the the deaths of millions as the planet population radically shrinks to what it supported in earlier times.

As Roger mentions wheat had much longer stems in the past. As high as a man for some types. A long process of selective breeding made it shorter. The length of the seed head was similarly enhanced. This didn't all happen in the Green revolution, much was done in the decades before and the 19th and 18th centuries.

The makers of the film "Gladiator" didn't understand this. In that film there are many beautiful pictures of grain fields that couldn't exist before the 20th century.

The same sort of breeding occurred in many vegatable species. Potatos are the result of a long process of selective breeding. Potatoes were much smaller in the past.

Plants are technology. As the mistakes of makers of Gladiator show this is often ignored. But, in reality many plants we take for granted now are far from natural.

1% inspiration, 99% pespiration as the old saying goes:)

"no other 20th century event did more for the betterment of humanity on balance"

Excuse me? Who died and made you Arch-Utilitarian Overlord? What value scale are you using to arrive at that one? A subjective or objective one? Clue us all in, commandant!

(That being said, your point is well taken... just be careful with your language that's all.)

Norman was one of kind. “His total devotion to ending famine and hunger revolutionized food security " - just read this from Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the UN World Food Programme. Worth a read:

This reminds me of Mother Teresa's death. I watched the news coverage of her death and was absolutely appaled. Princess Diana had died about a week earlier and the news spent about twenty minutes rehashing the useless events that led to Princess Di's demise. Then after a commercial break they spent about thirty seconds celebrating Mother Teresa's life.
I was only in high school when it happened but I remember waiting for a while to watch the news so I could hear more about Mother Teresa's life and I assumed they would spend enough time on her that I would get a chance to reflect on the better part of human nature. I was so shocked with the snubbing of her life and death in the media that I completely stopped trusting mainstream media.
Sadly, I'd never heard of Norman Borlaug before today, but I've heard plenty of information about Patrick Swayze's "corageous" battle with cancer.

Check this out:

Also, I recommend reading Stephen Lansing's Priest and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali (Princeton, 1991 [2007]).

I read the HNN article, Pete. Cullather (the author) sure seemed to be making rather arbitrary connections. This happened here and then something really bad happened the next year -- hah! I'm completely willing to revise my appraisal of Borlaug. Upon reflection, the standard version of the story does seem to be a great man theory of history. But I don't get the feeling Cullather is right guy for the job. He makes it seem as if the planned economy is something wonderful, for example. (Karol Boudreaux, are you there?)

What impact did the Green Revolution have on political, economic, and/or social development?
The Green Revolution that occurred in India

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