quadibloc on September 06, 2009, 08:30:59 am
I remember, ages ago, reading an article in the Readers' Digest about the Green Revolution, and later, in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, reading criticisms of it for creating too much dependency on fertilizers that need oil to make. And I also read Frances Moore Lappe's polemic "Food First!" which blamed things like coffee plantations for world hunger, although I don't particularly recall them being linked to the Green Revolution, since of course they date back to the Victorian colonial era.

Doubtless, when he won awards for his work, magazines such as Time and Newsweek would have mentioned it; perhaps it happened when I was too young to follow world affairs, or during a busy period in my life. I cannot help but think that there may also be a lack of desire for glory and publicity on his part.

In any event, why wasn't the title of a book entitled "Famine - 1975!" a true prophecy, instead of a failed one, if the Green Revolution brought plenty to so many countries at the price of oil dependency?

Reading the Wikipedia article about Dr. Borlaug (which credits him with saving either 245 million or one billion lives), I find that the Green Revolution has not reached Africa. First, the Europeans, and major American foundations, decided to exclude artificial fertilizers from their aid to Africa... and then, when financing could be secured from Japanese sources, it was found that a lack of infrastructure in Africa meant that the Green Revolution could be started only in the more developed areas.

Bringing the Green Revolution to Africa had been proposed in 1980, which was after 1973. Thus, instead of mass murder by Europeans and Americans who were brainwashed by leftists, this may have had more to do with the Western world's foreign exchange situation.

Most people have heard of "mercantilism" as a discredited economic theory, along the lines of phlogiston or alchemy or astrology, which led to George III cruelly exploiting the American colonies, and which was finally disproved by Adam Smith.

It may be that some of the assumptions of mercantilism were not applicable to a world where the money in circulation consisted of gold and silver coin. In today's world of paper money, though, that a country spends "real money" when it purchases imports, thus giving another country's banking system the opportunity to redeem your paper money for gold (or at least Special Drawing Rights)... but increased activity in the domestic economy can create jobs and produce additional goods and services without requiring increases in export sales to balance it... is self-evident, even though you wouldn't know it to listen to most economists.

Given that the Green Revolution did not have the chance to take root in Africa, it is now clear why massive famines did not take place in the fall of 1974. While I would still be more inclined to blame OPEC than Dr. Borlaug for the post-1973 world economic order... we do not have famines in the Phillipines, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and mainland China because these countries are selling the U.S., Canada, and even Europe a lot of manufactured goods. Through which they earn the money to buy the oil they need to make fertilizers from OPEC.

Incidentally, developing Alaskan oil to sell to Japan saves American jobs, since it means, given that current international trade agreements prevent just raising tariffs, that when a country imports more than it exports, the only response is to contract the economy and throw people out of work to balance it.

So the current world economic situation where:

Americans buy consumer electronics from the Far East.
The Far East buys oil from the Arab world.
The Arab world wants to buy armaments to push Israel into the sea, but we don't want to sell those to them.

was at least partly exacerbated by the Green Revolution. But nobody is demonizing him for that reason, perhaps because those who can see this, like myself, would be more inclined to assign blame to OPEC's role in this.

How India is managing, given that it doesn't seem to be a big source of imports, may have to do with their using power from their nuclear power plants for nitrogen fixation. I suppose that encouraging countries to seek access to the American market promotes democracy and hence world peace, just as ensuring people are fed helps reduce the opportunities for demagogues. (That the Green Revolution never made it to Africa also explains much about that continent's "basket case" status.)