Green revolution needs reevaluation
June 23, 2008 —
Since Norman Borlaug's breakthrough research in agriculture in 1970, India and China have stopped experiencing chronic famines and are now the world's leaders in exporting wheat. Borlaug, "the father of the Green Revolution," was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for dramatically increasing the world's food supply virtually over night. In short, he endowed the planet with a panacea, or cure-all, for the most pressing global concern of that time - starvation.
In 2008 the world is faced with a new concern ironically related to Borlaug's. The rising price of petroleum is tied to the Borlaug's success by the prospect of ethanol as alternative energy. President Bush signing legislation to subsidize corn for ethanol has moved this scientific issue to a political issue that is relevant in the upcoming election. People look for a candidate who will pursue this panacea to their transportation woes. But agriculturalists around the world will tell you, corn is not the answer, no matter how much we would like it to be. Apart from nutrition, agriculture is no practical source for energy, and the consequences to the policies towards forcing this issue are grave.
The agricultural industry is entirely dependent on the oil industry. After the gasoline it takes to run the massive equipment to maintain crops, the petroleum byproducts in fertilizers and pesticides, and the petrol products used in converting the harvest into ethanol, the energy produced by the harvest is barely more than the energy required in the process. In fact, Iowa has now become an importer of corn to feed its many ethanol plants. Consumers are better off eating their vegetables and walking to work than stuffing them into their cars.
If the impracticalities of ethanol aren't enough to crush your hopes, the repercussions ought to be. Many media outlets fail to address the serious problems with their solution. One organization supporting ethanol converters for cars and home-heating systems calls itself "Tree-hugger" and has a mission statement of being "dedicated to driving sustainability mainstream." In respect to its glorification of ethanol, it's appropriate this organization is called "Tree-hugger" and not "Starving people-hugger."
Food prices are on the rise. Though, they are still not as high as in 1970, the prices of wheat and corn seed more than doubled between 2005 and 2007 alone. Market researcher for the FAO Merritt Cluff announced in an interview with BBC that the U.S. incentives for ethanol are forcing the prices of food - and the number of undernourished people in the world - to rise steadily. A return to rising starvation is not the answer to rising gas-prices. The Green Revolution is being undone by Chevrolet's "American Revolution."
There is no panacea that will excuse current levels of consumerism. Science is reaching to the end of its ability to facilitate irresponsibility, and some 3 billion people in the world continue to live on less than two dollars per day while millions die trying. Though the students of SVSU will have little impact on world hunger by reducing consumption, most of us will be eligible to vote this November. Take with you to the ballot box not only your patriotism, but your humanitarianism as well.