It's a name I'd never heard of. But his is a fascinating story of true heroism:
Called "arguably the greatest American in the 20th century," during his 95 years, Norman Borlaug probably saved more lives than any other person.
He is one of just six people to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And yet Borlaug, who died three years ago today, is scarcely known in his own country.
Born in Iowa in 1914, Borlaug spent most of his life in impoverished nations inventing, improving and teaching the "Green Revolution." His idea was simple: Make developing countries self sufficient in food by teaching them how to use modern agricultural techniques that are easy to implement. Borlaug spent most of his time in Mexico, Pakistan and India, and focused on five areas: crop cultivars (seeds), irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides and mechanization. His successes were remarkable.
In 1950, Mexico imported over half of its food. Thanks to Borlaug's efforts to convince farmers there to try his techniques, Mexican food production increased 10-fold by 1970, and the country had become a net exporter. In India and Pakistan, production doubled. In 1999, the Atlantic Monthly estimated that Borlaug's efforts, combined with those he trained and equipped, saved the lives of 1 billion human beings.
I have occasionally pontificated that liberals need to be asked questions like this:
Don't like DDT? Tell me how many poor people in Asia and Africa you're willing to let die.
Don't like genetically-engineered foods? Again, tell me how many poor people you're willing to let die.
Don't like fertilizers? Tell me how many poor people you're willing to let die.
Don't like these questions? Then stop telling us that we have to stop what we're doing because it might hurt the "planet."