Pastor's Page
By Fr. George Welzbacher
September 27, 2009

What a difference just one man-or one woman- can make! The supreme exemplification of which is presented by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His sinless Mother. Were it not for them none of us would have the slightest inkling of just how high is the destiny to which we have been called. Nor would the fulfillment of that destiny lie within our grasp.

As we lower our gaze to a level of effort and achievement that is merely human, a whole parade of names comes easily to mind. From the ancient world Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar and the first Christian emperor Constantine, all three of whom gave to western civilization a new direction and shape. So, too, in the twentieth century the indomitable Winston Churchill, armed simply with a courage that was fierce and an eloquence beyond compare and rejecting any and all proposals for accommodation with Hitler's Reich, stood alone with his countrymen in their fortress of freedom off the dark shores of Europe for a full year and a half, defended only by the heroic bravery of the youthful pilots of Britain's Royal Air Force,  until Germany's invasion of Russia, followed six months later by Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor, led to the formation of the coalition that would smash the Third Reich.   Had it not been for Churchill's defiance, England itself, the indispensable staging ground for a major invasion of the Continent, might well have capitulated early in the War.

And, on the dark side, the capacity of one single individual to inflict misery and death upon millions of victims is dismally exemplified in Hitler himself, as in his competitors in evil, Lenin and Stalin and Mao Tse-Dung.

For more uplifting examples of the power for good that a single individual can bring to bear we can turn to the world of science and invention and geographic exploration; of mathematics and speculative thought; of music, literature, art and religion. Pages could he filled just with the names of those from whom we have gained new understanding, new inspiration and new horizons. To cite but a few such pioneers in benefaction there are   Einstein and Edison, Pasteur and Salk; Marconi and the Brothers Wright; Socrates, Plato and Aristotle; Augustine. and Aquinas; Homer, Vergil, Dante, and Shakespeare; Michaelangelo and Bemini; Palestrina and Handel, Bach and Mozart, Bethhoven and Brahms; Columbus and Magellan; St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa, and Pope John Paul the Great. Indeed the benefactions of that holy and charismatic pontiff were lavished not just on one but on two worlds: the world of religion and that of politics, joining as he did with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan to bring down the Soviet Empire.

Worthy of inclusion in any roster of humanity's important benefactors is an American who died just a few days ago, on September the twelfth, at the age of ninety-five: Norman Borlaug.  For his immense contribution to expanding the world's food supply, through the devising of new strains of wheat, rice and other cereal grains that combine resistance to disease and adaptability to many climates with amazingly high yields, he is rightly hailed as the Father of the Green Revolution, the biogenetic revolution that allowed the production of food on a scale that could free mankind from the scourge of famine, if only the ambition and cruelty, the stupidity and greed of so many of the Third World's leaders did not obstruct the implementation of what science can provide.

Dr. Borlaug (who received his graduate education at the University of Minnesota) is worthy of the tributes that throughout the world have commemorated his passing. For his epitaph Christ's words at the Judgment would serve very well: "I was hungry and you gave Me food ."

From among those many tributes in my opinion one of the best is the following homage from Gregg Easterbrook, an editor of  The Atlantic magazine-to which may I append a footnote of my own: how many other individuals whom God has endowed with uniquely great gifts for the benefit of man have been lost through the "unspeakable crime" of abortion, with the slaughter thus far, in the U.S.A. alone, of some fifty million children. Fifty million and counting.
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The Man Who Defused the 'Population Bomb'
   By: Gregg Easterbrook
   From: The Wall Street Journal, Wed. 9/16/2009

Norman Borlaug-arguably  the Greatest American of the 20th century--died late Saturday [September 12] after 95 richly accomplished years. The. very personification of human goodness, Bortaug saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived. He was America's Albert Schweitzer: a brilliant man who forsook privilege and riches in order to help the ~ Pastor's Page: September 26   Ih , and 27h the dispossessed of distant lands. That this great man and benefactor to humanity died little known in his own country speaks volumes about the superficiality of modern American culture.

Born in 1914 in rural Cresco, Iowa, where he was educated in a one-room schoolhouse, Borlaug won The Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work ending the India- Pakistan food shortage of the mid-1960s. He spent most of his life in impoverished nations, patiently teaching poor farmers in India, Mexico, South America, Africa and elsewhere the Green Revolution agricultural techniques that have prevented the global famines widely predicted when the world population began to skyrocket following World War II.

In 1999, the Atlantic Monthly estimated that Borlaug's efforts--combined with those of the many developing-world agriculture-extension agents he trained and the crop-research facilities he founded in poor nations-saved the lives of one billion human beings.

As a young agronomist, Bortaug helped develop some of the principles of Green Revolution agriculture on which the world now relies-including hybrid crops (selectively bred for vigor) as well as "shuttle breeding," a technique for accelerating the movement of disease immunity between strains of crops. He also helped develop cereals that were insensitive to the numbers of hours of light in a day, and could therefore be grown in many climates.

Green Revolution techniques caused both RELIABLE harvests and spectacular OUTPUT. From the Civil War through the Dust Bowl, the typical American farm produced about 24 bushels of corn per acre, by 2006, the figure was about 155 bushels per acre.

Hoping to spread high-yield agriculture to the world's poor, in 1943 Borlaug moved to rural Mexico to establish an agricultural research station, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Borlaug's little research station became the International Maize and Wheat Center, known by its Spanish abbreviation CIMMYT, that is now one of the globe's most important agricultural study facilities. At CIMMYT, Borlaug developed the high-yield, low-pestieide "dwarf" wheat upon which a substantial portion of the world's population now depends for sustenance.

In 1950, as Borlaug began his work in earnest, the world produced 692 MILLION tons of grain for 2.2 billion people. By 1992, with Borlaug's concepts common, production was 1. 9 BILLION tons of grain for 5.6 billion men and women: 2.8  times the food for 2.2 times the people. GLOBAL GRAIN YIELDS MORE THAN DOUBLED during the period, from half a ton per acre to 1.1 tons; yields of rice and other foodstuffs improved similarly. Hunger declined in sync: from 1965 to 2005, global per capita food consumption rose to 2,798 calories daily from 2,063, with most of the increase in developing nations. In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization declared that malnutrition stands "at the lowest level in human history," despite the global population having trebled in a single century.

In the mid-1960s, India and Pakistan were exceptions to the trend toward more efficient food production; subsistence cultivation of rice remained the rule, and famine struck. In 1965, Borlaug arranged for a convoy of 35 trucks to carry high-yield seeds from CIMMYT to a Los Angeles dock for shipment to India and Pakistan. He and a coterie of Mexican assistants accompanied the seeds. They arrived to discover that war had broken out between the two nations. Sometimes working within sight of artillery flashes, Borlaug and his assistants sowed the subcontinent's first crop of high-yield grain. Paul Ehrlich gained celebrity for his 1968 book "The Population Bomb," in which he claimed that global starvation was inevitable for the 1970s and it was "a fantasy" that India would "ever" feed itself Instead, WITHIN THREE YEARS of Borlaug's arrival, Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat production; WITHIN SIX YEARS, India was self-sufficient in the production of all cereals.

After his triumph in India and Pakistan and his Nobel Peace Prize, Borlaug turned to raising crops' yields in other poor nations-especially in Africa, the one place in the world where population is rising faster than farm production and the last outpost of subsistence agriculture. At that point BORLAUG BECAME THE TARGET OF CRITICS who denounced him because Green Revolution farming requires some pesticide and lots of fertilizer. Trendy environmentalism was catching on, and affluent environmentalists began to say it was "inappropriate" for AFRICANS to have tractors or to use modern farming techniques. Borlaug told me a decade ago that most Western environmentalists "have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they'd be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that FASHIONABLE ELITISTS in wealthy nations were trying to DENY them these things."

Environmentalist criticism of Borlaug and his work was puzzling on two fronts. First,absent  high-yield agriculture,  the world would by now be deforested. The 1950 global grain output of 692 million tons and the 2006 output of 2.3 billion tons came from about the same number of acres-three times as much food using little additional land.

"Without high-yield agriculture," Borlaug said, "increases in food out-put would have been realized through drastic expansion of acres under cultivation, losses of pristine land a hundred times greater than all losses to urban and suburban expansion." Environmentalist criticism was doubly puzzling because in almost every developing nation where high-yield agriculture has been introduced, population growth has slowed....

In the late 1980s, when even the World Bank cut funding for developing-world agricultural improvement, Borlaug turned for support to Ryoichi Sasakawa, a maverick Japanese industrialist. Sasakawa funded his high-yield programs in a few African nations and, predictably, the programs succeeded. The final triumph of Bortaug's life came three years ago when the Rockefeller Foundation, in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a major expansion of high-yield agriculture throughout Africa. As he approached his 90s, Bortaug "retired" to teaching agronomy at Texas A& M, where he urged students to live in the developing world and serve the poor.

Often it is said America lacks heroes who can provide constructive examples to the young. Here was such a hero. Yet though streets and buildings are named for Norman Borlaug throughout the developing world, most Americans don't even know his name. [Emphasis added throughout].