Will the “Green Revolution” Be Enough?
THE problem of hunger is bad enough today. But experts agree that it soon will get much worse.
Why? Because there is something else to consider. And that something is regarded as the greatest problem of all.
Georg Borgstrom, a professor of food science at Michigan State University, points out what it is: “Anyone who thinks that the current world protein crisis is going to blow over and take care of itself should remember: the hungry of the world are multiplying twice as fast as the well fed.”
In fact, a late United Nations report shows that the hungry peoples of the world are actually increasing two and a half times as fast as those who are well fed. Thus, while it is true that more people are eating better because the population in ‘prosperous’ countries increases, it is also true that the number of people in poor countries who are not eating enough grows much faster. That is what concerns authorities most when they talk about a “population explosion.”
So in spite of the “green revolution,” the hunger problem is not being solved. U.S. News & World Report of March 6, 1972, states: “The world’s population boom shows no sign of slowing, and may even speed up in years ahead. . . . Population is now rising by 75 million a year—enough to create the equivalent of a new Bangladesh in 12 months. . . . So explosive is the growth that population authorities fear hunger will be widespread in many countries of the developing world.”
India’s present population of some 570 million increases by about 14 million each year. Concerning this the New York Times says: “Unless the rate is reduced significantly India will have a billion people by the year 2000, far outstripping any increase in food output.”
However, another source warns that even if India gradually achieved the “extraordinary feat of cutting its birth rate in half” in the years ahead, this would still not be enough. Its population would exceed one billion about the year 2000 anyhow!
It is not that the earth cannot support 3 1⁄2 or 4 billion people, or more. It can. But the world’s economic, social and political structure is so arranged that it locks into grinding poverty and hunger more people each year.
No More ‘Miracles’
What also disturbs some authorities is the realization that future large increases in food production will be harder to come by. Much of the best land in poorer countries has already been planted in the new seeds.
That is why an acknowledged authority on the “green revolution,” Lester R. Brown of the Overseas Development Council, says: “Even though we have some short-term breathing space made possible by the ‘green revolution,’ we cannot continue expanding food production forever. There are certain finite limits on how far we can raise yields.” And Professor Fraser says in The People Problem:
“I am afraid that many will consider the temporary amelioration of the food crisis as evidence that science will always rescue us. . . .
“There will be further improvement, but no more quantum [large] jumps of production. The geneticists . . . are firm in their statements that future ‘miracles’ are not to be anticipated, whereas the present ones were thoroughly predictable.”
Even during the recent years of greatest success with the “green revolution,” world population grew so fast that it about canceled out the increase in harvests. And when the time comes in the poorer countries when yields per acre cannot be increased any longer while population continues to “explode,” what then?
Chemical engineer Norbert Olsen said in early 1972: “I could work 24 hours a day creating fertilizers and new ways to help produce food, and it still wouldn’t meet the need.” And Chemical Week of March 15, 1972, reports: “A four-man team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [concluded that] . . . only by stabilizing population and industrial output can man survive beyond that next 100 years.”
In some areas, the increasing population has already resulted in the steady denuding of natural vegetation. It is said that deforestation and overgrazing of grasslands in western India have created dustbowl conditions. And many plots of land have been divided and subdivided over generations within family groups so often that they cannot be divided any further and be farmed economically.
Australia’s Bulletin claims: “In less than a century, the extent of the world’s wastelands has doubled from ‘dustbowl farming’ (and the destruction is continuing), while on every single continent farmers (and industry) are mining the vital capital stores of underground water to feed their crops, sometimes at a dangerous rate.”
Was Malthus Right?
The Bulletin concludes: “That gloomy, old 18th-century pessimist Thomas Malthus is proving right after all. Since he wrote, vast tracts of land have been opened up and science has increased yields spectacularly; yet the net result is more hungry and starving people than ever before.”
The book The Environmental Crisis also states: “There are now more hungry and weakened people on this planet than there were human beings in 1850.” In 1850 there were one billion people on earth!
How many people, right now, are actually dying from the results of hunger? Stanford’s Paul Ehrlich says: “If we take the only intelligent definition of starvation—that a person is starved to death if an adequate diet would have assured survival—then the level of deaths due to starvation in the world today is truly colossal, somewhere between 5 million and 20 million people a year.” That is nearly 55,000 persons a day dying from hunger!
Of course, some officials would object to such an interpretation of the situation. But it must be remembered that few government authorities like to admit that the people in their countries are dying from hunger. Yet, ever so many persons in poor countries who are listed as dying from some disease are actually dying as an indirect result of hunger. If they could have had an adequate diet, they would not be dying prematurely.
But what about the “green revolution”? Are concerned observers such as Ehrlich ignoring the advances made so far? He answers:
“We have produced a generation of agriculturists who can farm Iowa beautifully; they can get out press releases beautifully, but they cannot count and do not realize what the world situation is. . . .
“They stand up in meetings and say, ‘But, you know we can do high-yield this and high-yield that.’ I reply, ‘When you can feed the 3.5 billion people living today, come around again, and we will talk about going on to 7 billion. Until then, sit down and shut up, because you are not doing any good.’”
This calls to mind the prediction made several years ago by two agronomists, William and Paul Paddock. In their book Famine—1975! they declared that world famine was inevitable during the mid-1970’s. But then the “green revolution” began with its initial optimism, and many belittled such famine predictions.
Now, however, authorities are not as prone to ridicule. An official of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization gives this realistic appraisal: “We still don’t know for sure. . . . We may yet discover that the Paddocks weren’t wrong—they were simply premature in their dates.”
Many feel as does Ehrlich who says: “I think the actual date is a quibble. . . . I frankly tend toward tremendous pessimism. People say to me, ‘What do you think our chances are [for avoiding world famine]?’ I answer that our chances for success may be 2 percent now, and that if we work really hard, we might move them up to 3 percent.”
What is significant is the fact that such dire predictions are being voiced now, in the midst of the “green revolution.” Too, the last few years have seen relatively favorable crop conditions, with good rainfall. But the natural pattern does not continue favorable. There are periodic droughts, such as India experienced in 1965 and 1966. With world population, especially the poor, having grown so much since then, similar droughts would bring on immense catastrophes in the future.
What Is the Answer?
No, the “green revolution” is not the answer to this world’s hunger problems. And it is not just agriculture experts who acknowledge this. A far higher source, man’s Creator, Jehovah God, says that it is not the answer.
God’s own Word, the Holy Scriptures, contains many prophecies that tell us what the future holds. Bible prophecy calls our time “the last days.” (2 Tim. 3:1) It gives the many evidences that mark this significant time in human history. One evidence foretold was that “there will be food shortages . . . in one place after another.”—Matt. 24:7.
Hence, whatever success new types of grains may have will be short-lived. The present system of rule among the nations cannot stop food shortages for very long.
But food shortages will be stopped, and soon! Jehovah God guarantees in his Word that he will permanently solve mankind’s problems, including that of hunger.
First of all, what is needed is a new administration for governing this earth and its peoples. Divisive nationalism, selfish commercialism and wasteful wars must be eliminated so that earth’s resources can be properly used.
How will God accomplish that? By taking a direct hand in human affairs. His Word promises that he will forcibly remove all the governmental and economic arrangements of this present system of things. That will pave the way for an entirely new order here on earth. That new order will be ruled by the heavenly government that Jesus Christ taught his followers to pray for, God’s kingdom. In fact, that heavenly kingdom is what God will use to “crush and put an end to all these kingdoms” existing today.—Dan. 2:44; Matt. 6:9, 10.
Under God’s Kingdom rule, the peoples then living on earth are promised “a banquet of well-oiled dishes” in an era when “nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” This heavenly government of God guarantees a proper distribution of the earth’s wealth.—Isa. 25:6; 2:4.
Therefore, do not be fooled by suggestions that humans will solve today’s gigantic food problem. They will not. It is not scientists and their “green revolution,” but “the Maker of heaven and earth” who will be the One to satisfy the needs of all mankind. (Ps. 146:6, 7) When? His Word promises: soon! Indeed, within this very generation God’s kingdom will rule without a rival, to the eternal blessing of all who worship the true God.—Matt. 24:34.