Happy 91st to Borlaug

Instapundit notes that today is/yesterday was the 91st birthday of Norman Borlaug, Nobel Prize winner and Aggie. More than any other single person, he made life better in the second half of the twentieth century. Today, when our blog is heavy with disputes over death counts and the death watch in Florida continues, we can celebrate Borlaug and thank him for what he has done, for the billions he has saved. We can be grateful that one pragmatic man set about (and still sets about) making the world a better place.

Already in his seventies twenty years ago, Borlaug turned his attention to Africa. We are sometimes critical of Carter on this blog (and I think reasonably so), but his union with the father of the Green Revolution appears to bring out the best in the peanut farmer from Georgia – and the best in African soil.

And, thinking of Borlaug, I feel a broader gratitude. To the Chicagoboyz, grateful they let me play on their blog, respectful of the Great Books tradition that influenced so much of our plains life and came from Chicago. And I will go pretty far with them in terms of reducing government, but I am also grateful that in 1862 a Vermont congressman, Justin Smith Morrill, envisioned the Land Grant Schools that have not only educated farm kids (like me, my siblings, my husband, my parents) for the last hundred and forty years but also increased life expectancy- a fact that trumps much.

Our life is mundane, but it sparks the imagination: we sit in the middle of the largest campus in the world as experimental fields stretch for miles. And now Aggies are planting crops in Iraq.

The work continues.

The cooperation began when Maj. Mike Fitzgerald, an A&M alum stationed in northern Iraq, contacted one of his former professors about helping Iraq’s wheat farmers. Belonging to one of the country’s most historical military universities – A&M fields the largest ROTC program and commissions hundreds of military officers each year – the Texas A&M professors were anxious to help.

Although not everyone is happy, of course.

And here is a longer description of Borlaug’s work in Africa:

An encouraging example of an African government taking a progressive view of agriculture comes from Ethiopia, where, since the end of its civil war, Borlaug has run his most successful African project. Visiting Ethiopia in 1994, Jimmy Carter took Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on a tour of places where Borlaug’s ideas could be tested, and won Zenawi’s support for an extension-service campaign to aid farmers. During the 1995-1996 season Ethiopia recorded the greatest harvests of major crops in its history, with a 32 percent increase in production and a 15 percent increase in average yield over the previous season. Use of the fertilizer diammonium phosphate was the key reform. The rapid yield growth suggests that other sub-Saharan countries may also have hope for increased food production.

And here is a blog that contrasts what we thought thirty years ago, mesmerized by Ehrlich, and what we know now.

Relatively contemporary Borlaug can be found in a speech here and here, on page 6 in a hard-to-navigate discussion from 2003.