BJORN LOMBORG ADOPTS HIGH-YIELD FARMING
By Dennis T. AVERY
Lomborg, famous for his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World (Danish: 1998; English: 2001), summons a quadrennial panel of distinguished economists to examine where the world might invest more effectively to solve solvable problems. In 2004, his panel recommended more investment in fighting HIV/AIDS. In 2008, they suggested more investment in delivering micronutrients to malnourished populations. This year, as Lomborg wrote in the Wall Street Journal on April 24:
I confess to having written a book in 1995 titled Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic: the Environmental Triumph of High-Yield Farming. The book honored Dr. Norman Borlaug, the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who led international efforts in cross-breeding higher-yielding and disease-resistant grain crops. The new seeds, together with fertilizer, irrigation, and pesticides tripled crop yields on the good-quality soils around the world. It was the most amazing humanitarian gain in human history.
The higher yields also saved 6.6 million square miles of wildlife habitat from being plowed for more low-yield crops! Borlaug called it “high-yield conservation.”
Our best “high-yield conservation” converts to date have been Bill and Melinda Gates, who are supporting tens of millions of dollars worth of high-yield farming research at international agricultural research centers. The Gates have also recruited fellow billionaire Warren Buffet, partly because his son Howard was already a “high-yield conservation” advocate. Howard welcomed me when he was vice-president of the big crop processor Archer-Daniels-Midland, and we put together the only TV spots in history that praised high yield conservation. The spots featured David Brinkley, who had just retired from NBC News. Sadly, the spots were shown only a few times, on then-small cable TV nets, before Howard left the company and the effort was dropped.
Howard has published a beautiful book of his own nature photos taken worldwide. It’s titled On the Edge. In it, he says simply, “High-yield farming, through increased efficiency, will continue to help protect additional land from cultivation.”
Jason Clay, of the World Wildlife Fund-U.S., has written a book titled World Agriculture and the Environment that also makes the high-yield conservation argument. The American Farm Bureau Federation is in the Keystone Alliance with such forward-thinking organizations as Clay’s World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy.
Under environmentalist movement pressures, and from a media which loves to pillory pesticides, U.S. agricultural research stations have been shifting their focus from higher yields to “sustainable farming.” Unfortunately, the “sustainable farming” gets substantially lower yields and will thus endanger more wildlife.
They say it takes 25 years to insert a new thought into people’s minds. We’re now at 42 years since Dr. Borlaug’s Noble Peace Prize and 17 since my book — but we can’t quit now.
One highly salient point bears repeating for First World readers: The UN Low Variant population projections to 2300 AD show human numbers peaking soon, about 2045, at 8.1 billion people. Our population will then tend strongly downward, to 6.2 billion in 2100 and 2.3 billion in 2300.
After 2300, we can go back to “natural” farming if we choose, without losing nearly so much wildlife.
Political Environmentalism Versus Human Progress & Prosperity:
Policy Issues Relating to Energy, Environment,
& Natural Resources
Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the U.S.
Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years. Readers may write to him at P.O. Box 202,
Churchville, Virginia, 2442; send email to email@example.com; or visit our website at www. cgfi.org
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