GRA
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PBS: Man who tried to feed the world

Tue Apr 21, 2020 6:23 pm

Tonight at 8 (PDT; check your local listings), PBS' "American Experience" has an episode on Norman Borlaug, the Nobel-prize winner responsible for the 'Green Revolution', which depending on whose estimate you believe made it possible to feed an extra 1-3 billion people, but also had serious negative environmental effects.

If you find it interesting, I recommend reading "The Wizard and the Prophet", which looks at the competing ideologies of Borlaug and William Vogt, one of the environmentalists who influenced many who came after him in the 50s and later, and are far better known.

I'd never heard of him before reading the book, but I've sure as hell heard of his ideas and those of the generation he influenced.

I'm well aware of the environmental costs of the Green Revolution; OTOH, I find it way too elitist to say it shouldn't have been done - I'm not volunteering to die so others can be fed.

Anyway, the episode purports to look at both the positives and negatives, and IME Am Ex episodes are typically of a high standard.

Following that, Frontline is doing an episode on Covid-19, looking particularly at work on developing cures/vaccines.
Guy [I have lots of experience designing/selling off-grid AE systems, some using EVs but don't own one. Local trips are by foot, bike and/or rapid transit].

The 'best' is the enemy of 'good enough'. Copper shot, not Silver bullets.

LeftieBiker
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Re: PBS: Man who tried to feed the world

Tue Apr 21, 2020 7:40 pm

I'm well aware of the environmental costs of the Green Revolution; OTOH, I find it way too elitist to say it shouldn't have been done - I'm not volunteering to die so others can be fed.
It could have been done more safely and responsibly, and more of us could have chosen sterilization. Death is indeed a bit extreme.
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GRA
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Re: PBS: Man who tried to feed the world

Tue Apr 21, 2020 10:20 pm

LeftieBiker wrote:
Tue Apr 21, 2020 7:40 pm
I'm well aware of the environmental costs of the Green Revolution; OTOH, I find it way too elitist to say it shouldn't have been done - I'm not volunteering to die so others can be fed.
It could have been done more safely and responsibly, and more of us could have chosen sterilization. Death is indeed a bit extreme.
That assumes knowledge that largely wasn't available at the time, i.e. the law of unintended consequences. Sure, the long-term answer is to reduce population, a point that Borlaug himself made repeatedly. As he was quoted in the program, he thought the Green Revolution just bought us 20 to 30 years.
Guy [I have lots of experience designing/selling off-grid AE systems, some using EVs but don't own one. Local trips are by foot, bike and/or rapid transit].

The 'best' is the enemy of 'good enough'. Copper shot, not Silver bullets.

LeftieBiker
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Re: PBS: Man who tried to feed the world

Tue Apr 21, 2020 10:25 pm

The law of unintended consequences predates the mid twentieth century. It was disregarded. It is still disregarded by governments and scientists.
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GRA
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Re: PBS: Man who tried to feed the world

Wed Apr 22, 2020 4:46 pm

Of course - we don't know what we don't know, or at least what we haven't thought all the way through based on imperfect understanding. When cars were introduced they were hailed as a major urban public health advance (which they were) compared to horses, as they didn't leave crap all over the streets. It was only when the number of cars vastly increased that their public health negatives became apparent. I expect the same thing will happen with BEVs eventually, when we are surprised by some negative impact we just didn't think of when their numbers were small.
Guy [I have lots of experience designing/selling off-grid AE systems, some using EVs but don't own one. Local trips are by foot, bike and/or rapid transit].

The 'best' is the enemy of 'good enough'. Copper shot, not Silver bullets.

smkettner
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Re: PBS: Man who tried to feed the world

Wed Apr 22, 2020 8:33 pm

Well I don't want to go back to horse manure and I am ready for the air to clear. So whatever BEVs have, bring it on. Next generation can invent the next big thing.
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GRA
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Re: PBS: Man who tried to feed the world

Thu Apr 23, 2020 5:27 pm

smkettner wrote:
Wed Apr 22, 2020 8:33 pm
Well I don't want to go back to horse manure and I am ready for the air to clear. So whatever BEVs have, bring it on. Next generation can invent the next big thing.

Nobody wants to go back to horses, least of all the horses themselves - about 15,000 died on the streets of NYC every year at the end of the 19th century, and the carcasses normally weren't removed for a few hours, in some cases a couple of days.

BEVs are certainly an improvement over ICEs as far as local and global emissions, and we're already planning to deal with a couple of consequences, such as the need for recycling and avoiding child labor in mining, not to mention trying to develop chemistries that don't use toxic elements. Whether we'll actually take the steps needed to bring those about remains to be seen.

Whatever problem does develop with BEVs or what have you will likely be something that seems obvious in hindsight, like eutrophication in lakes and in seas off estuaries as a result of the massive use of fertilizer and its subsequent runoff in Green Revolution agriculture.
Last edited by GRA on Sun Apr 26, 2020 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Guy [I have lots of experience designing/selling off-grid AE systems, some using EVs but don't own one. Local trips are by foot, bike and/or rapid transit].

The 'best' is the enemy of 'good enough'. Copper shot, not Silver bullets.

nlspace
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Re: PBS: Man who tried to feed the world

Sat Apr 25, 2020 10:12 am

That was a very interesting documentary. Norman was a very hard-working and unselfish person--he wasn't working for patents or money or ideology, but to solve one problem: millions of poor people starving to death. He did this by developing a fungus-resistant high-yield variety of wheat which required lots of fertilizer and irrigation.

The film seemed to portray this as a triumph of the "Green" revolution of capitalism in contrast to the "Red" of communism, not in the sense as used today for environmentalism. The USA of the late 40's and early 50's was ruled by a fear of the red devils.

/rant
Why is it that governments put everything into military terms; first there is "something" that we must be made to fear, which then results in a war on "something"? Later it seems we can look back at how misguided, mislead or flat out lied to we were about it.

Fear of communism, the Cold War, McCarthy inquisitions, and the perpetual Korean War.
Fear of drugs, the endless war on drugs (with a new position for a drug czar).
Fear of Terrorism and the evil-doers, the Global War on Terrorism.
Fear of Immigration, resulted in a national emergency declared to build a Great Wall.
Fear of Covid-19, national emergency for the War on Covid, creating a War-Time president.
/rant

LeftieBiker
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Re: PBS: Man who tried to feed the world

Sat Apr 25, 2020 11:37 am

The fear response in humans is much easier to produce and control than is any logical decision.
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