Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Food Dude

On September 12, a man died who whose death should have gotten about 100 times the publicity of Micheal Jackson and Ted Kennedy's deaths combined. Of course, I am speaking of Norman Borlaug.


The Economist, in their obituary, calls Borlaug "feeder of the world", but I think "Food Dude" is a lot cooler. He is the man primarily responsible for developing new strains of wheat in various parts of the world, allowing much of the poor world to be able to feed themselves. His work allowed Mexico to become food self-sufficient for the first time in 1956. He was responsible for the "green revolution" in India that did the same thing, and won a Nobel price in 1970. In short, his work allowed the world to greatly in increase food production, avoiding for who knows how long a Malthusian disaster.

Avoid a what?

Thomas Malthus was an early Economist who predicted that, in a nutshell, populations would grow to a point where it was impossible to feed everyone with the earth's resources. Here's a quote from his theory on population:

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.

While Malthus has yet to be close to correct over 200 years after this dire prediction, he is probably most responsible for Economics being known as "The Dismal Science". So, he's got that going for him, which is nice.

No comments: