Why Modern Famine Predictions Failed !

What’s Natural column

Guest post by Jim Steele,

published in the Pacifica Tribune Wednesday December 18, 2019

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Victims if 1876 Famine in India

When I graduated high school in 1968 there were rampant predictions of environmental collapse and eco-catastrophe theories flourished. The highly influential Stanford scientist Dr Paul Ehrlich dominated the doomsday media stating, “Most of the people who are going to die in the greatest cataclysm in the history of man have already been born.” Predicting global famine in 1970 this PhD wrote, “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”

Why was Ehrlich’s apocalyptic predictions so wrong? Ehrlich believed the promise of the “green revolution” via high yield crops and better cultivation practices would never offset the needs of a growing human population. Indeed, the early distribution of high yield “miracle seeds” had failed to stave off famines during the cooler 1960s. But then the earth began to warm, there was a CO2 fertilization effect and the growing season increased in concert with great leaps forward in genetics, biotechnology and agricultural innovations.

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Figure 2 From NASA : CO2 fertilization – change in leaf area across the globe from 1982-2015. Credits: Boston University/R. Myneni

To produce high yield crops, early researchers had simply cross-bred compatible plants possessing desirable traits. Genetic manipulation via selective breeding had been done for hundreds and thousands of years as humans successfully created a wide variety of farm animals, or dog breeds like Chihuahuas and Great Danes from their ancestral wolf. Similarly, selective breeding transformed a scraggly grass into modern corn. Later, modern “mutant breeding” evolved in the 20th century as seeds were exposed to gamma rays searching for “hopeful monsters.” The public fails to recognize they likely consume many of the 3,000 crop varieties created via mutant breeding such as high yield barley, oats and grains commonly used in making premium beers and whiskey. For chocolate lovers, mutant breeding created a cocoa tree resistant to deadly fungus. At California’s UC Davis, scientists irradiated rice seeds to create a high yield variety that reached supermarket shelves in 1976 as “Calrose” rice, which still dominates over other varieties in many regions of the Pacific.

Next, the discovery of “restriction enzymes” in 1970 allowed scientists to successfully engineer organisms by surgically removing useful genes from one species and placing them into another

species. Such genetically engineered plants now comprise most of today’s soybean, corn and cotton crops, as well as some varieties of potatoes, apples, papayas and sugar beets. Yields increased as engineered crops were better able to flourish under stressful conditions. Plants became more resistant to specific insect and fungal pests, producing greater yields without pesticides. Despite the tremendous benefits of genetically modified crops (GMOs), many people remained distrustful of possible detrimental health effects. More radical groups condemned GMO’s simply because they generated profits for large businesses.

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Figure 3 Golden Rice Adds Vitamin A

The strange battle between pro and anti GMO groups is best illustrated in the Golden Rice saga. Golden Rice was first engineered in 1990s as a non-profit attempt to prevent blindness and premature deaths from vitamin A deficiency. That deficiency afflicted 250 million children, mostly in Asia, and killed more than 200,000 people a year. Because rice is those children’s primary food source, 2 German scientists, Ingo Potrykus and Peter Beyer, removed a gene, from daffodils that produced beta-carotene and carefully inserted the gene into rice. Beta carotene is the key building block for vitamin A and gives the rice its golden color. Later a more efficient gene from corn was used. Potrykus and Beyer also insisted the technology to create Golden Rice be donated freely. So, the biotech company Syngenta waived its right to commercialize the product. The humanitarian benefits of free Golden Rice could not be more clear.

Nonetheless opponents of GMOs, led primarily by Greenpeace, vilified Golden Rice. Greenpeace lobbied countries around the world to prevent legalization of Golden Rice by simply generating as much fearful speculation about “imagined” health repercussions. Greenpeace was also fanatical about fighting biotechnology companies. They justified their propaganda campaign against Golden Rice claiming, “Corporations are overhyping golden rice benefits to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops.”

However, as Golden Rice continued to be proven safe, a letter signed by more than 100 Nobel laureates, accused Greenpeace of leading a “fact-challenged propaganda campaign against innovations in agricultural biotechnology.” They demanded Greenpeace end its campaign against GMOs. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, had previously left the organization because its original good intentions were being subverted by extremists. Moore bemoaned, “They’re linking Golden Rice with death, which scares parents into not wanting the technology developed”. Such false propaganda so infuriated Moore he created an alternative movement – Allow Golden Rice Now. As the outcry of support grows, countries are now increasingly moving towards legalizing Golden Rice.

Ehrlich’s doomsday predictions were incomprehensible. That environmental groups like Greenpeace vehemently propagandized against the technologies that prevented Ehrlich’s doomsday is even more unintelligible. But then again, there are many activists who only see humanity as earth’s scourge and best eliminated.

Jim Steele is Director emeritus of San Francisco State’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus and authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

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82 thoughts on “Why Modern Famine Predictions Failed !

  1. I was a student of Ehrlich’s in 1969 and ’70. My Stanford classmates generally regarded him as a prophet of doom almost sure to be wrong. The only thing about which he was right was his prediction that a plague, spread by air travel, would come out of the tropics to infect the world. He was wrong however that it would wipe out billions.

    In a human bio class, he brought along a Marxist anthropologist buddy of his who extolled the virtues of hunter-gatherer cultures over industrialization. True that H-Gs have more free time, but don’t let’s talk about how much time they have on earth. Especially the women and kids, given the risks of childbirth without fossil fuel-provided health and medicine technology and practice.

    • The pompous Ehrlich is still out there spreading the same message and he thinks he has been correct all along.

    • 1 – Campaigning against golden rice should count as a crime against humanity.

      2 – In his book, Fourth Horseman: A Short History of Epidemics, Plagues, Famines & Other Scourges, Andrew Nikiforuk points out that plagues tend to spread in already weakened populations.

      3 – Ehrlich is a poisonous enemy of humanity.

        • The cancer analogy is not without merit. As one natural organ of the biosphere which is growing like a malignant tumor and consuming lots of resources and the expense of other parts of the system, it fits quite well.

          The fact that a cancer does not have consciousness and does not have the means to determine its future growth is where it may fall apart.

          Looking at the way most countries are governed it seems likely our precarious system will fall in like a house of cards before we manage to destroy the rest of nature.

          • Another human hating fascist are we?
            Why don’t you and the Greentards remove yourself from this earth if you are a plague or cancer as your cult believes?
            Act now.

          • Only one person doing the hating here. Some understand homo sapiens are not demi-gods but are part of a biological system and must obey all the usual biological laws. Some don’t.

          • When I leave my house I step into something like an Earthly paradise. In fact, the biodiversity in my neighborhood seems to be greater than in a nearby protected forest.

            The natural ecology of England was uninterrupted and rather boring forest. Humans replaced the forest with an artificial landscape of grassland and moorland, fields and farms, with a much richer variety of plant and animal species. Quite recently, only about a thousand years ago, we introduced rabbits, a non-native species which had a profound effect on the ecology. Rabbits opened glades in the forest where flowering plants now flourish. There is no wilderness in England, and yet there is plenty of room for wild-flowers and birds and butterflies as well as a high density of humans. Perhaps that is why I am a humanist. Freeman Dyson (he makes Dr. Mann look like a simpleton link)

          • Even the UN concedes that human population will peak well before the end of the century.

            In all probability it will peak well before 2050 and then start falling rapidly.

        • To bring that antihumanist quote up to date:
          “The Earth has cancer & that cancer is multi-billionaires.”
          Like the multi-billionaire members of depopulationist Rockefeller’s “Billionaire Good Club”.

          Nuclear PhD engineer Robert Zubrin revealed in his 2013 book Merchants Of Despair Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism that the worthy cause of environmentalism has been hijacked.

          Zubrin identifies the monster Malthus as the foundation of the perverted “environmentalist” cause. Malthus advocated that the poor be confined to overcrowded & unclean conditions, swampy & malarial if possible, to keep down their numbers. A real Charmer.

          Darwin is another mainstay: his theories of evolution gave encouragement to those who wished to regard mankind as animals, as opposed to beings with eternal souls. The traditional Christian view.
          This directly encouraged those eugenicists who believed that populations should be bred for the benefit of the elite: the survival of the fittest.
          Darwin was a rank racist who advocated the extermination of the upper ranks of great apes & the “lower orders” of humanity: blacks & aboriginals.
          Another charmer.

          Eugenicism led directly, through movements in GB & US, to Hitler in Germany & his obsession with untermenchen. We all know where that ended. A German scientist, Haeckel, was the first to coin the word ecology: worship nature, hate humans.

          Zubrin shows how safe & clean nuclear power has been demonised by the 1%s fake news MSM, how 100 million + lives have been destroyed by the depopulationist madmen, by various grisly means.

          Most importantly, perhaps, Zubrin shows clearly that human population growth has historically acted as a spur to human progress & prosperity.
          This has led to fantastic improvements in longevity & every other metric of progress. Zubrin’s graphs & charts rely heavily on the work of brilliant economist Julian L. Simon who took money off arch doomster Ehrlich in a bet on resources & prices 1980 – 1990. Simon’s great book is The Ultimate Resource 2. The Ultimate Resource is human ingenuity which the doomsters NEVER factor in to their false calculations & predictions.

          Zubrin is an essential read to understand the nature of the beast humans are up against. For an idea of the motives behind the “environmentalist” movement, click on Quotes: http://www.c3headlines.com
          John Doran.

          • I have mentioned before, the average age size of families in most cases is proportional to their poverty index–those with the largest families usually have access to the least assets, be it wealth, jobs, farm land, whatever.
            When the West stepped into Africa, it brought less internecine rape and pillage, better medical expectations, and many population blooms–unfortunately without the wherewithal to create a growing middle class. Thus rampant population growth and poverty.
            Fortunately that is all about to change. Forget INTER. It appears that catalyzed low-cost nuclear transformation energy has been proven. See the E-cat and the energy revolution.

            This will reduce the cost of fertilizers, transportation, and oil jobs for Nigerians. In exchange they can return to the highly efficient electrical furnace route to phosphoric acid, with no need to worry about to do with tremendous quantities of Phospho-gypsum.
            How soon? If the inventors are smart, the government keeps it’s nose out of this new energy, and war doesn’t happen, I think 5 to 10 years. There’s a company that can screw this up or jump-start it, in Morocco, that has LOTS of phosphate rock.

          • Don’t hold your breath.

            “Rossi Admits e-Cat Not Yet Capable of Making Electricity
            Andrea Rossi has made an interesting admission about his ecat low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) technology on his blog. The inventor revealed that he and his team have attempted to produce electricity with their device but admitted they have failed to do so.”
            http://energycatalyzer3.com/category/buy

        • MarkW December 20, 2019 at 8:46 am

          Humans do obey all the biological laws.

          Yabut there are a lot of biology deniers out there.

    • Mr. Borlaug is a personal hero to me. If you did a movie on his accomplishments it would be hard to believe the plot even by Hollywood standards. I privately celebrate his birthday on 3/25. He is generally credited with saving 1 billion lives. (Yes, that is ‘b’ for billion)

  2. Let me take a stab at this one! Because most”modern” famines are political in nature, not natural in cause. Wow, that only took 12 words, where is my $100,000,000 grant?

    • How can a famine not be due to a lack of the natural foods? Your claim is absurd. Aboriginals starved in Australia from lack of food every drought. Have a look at the photo at the top of this Article, this was political, eh? Rubbish, it was due to a failure of food production due to weather variability. Natural famines have always occurred.

      The modern relative lack of famines however is due to better diplomacy, cooperation, aid and trade.

      • Modern famines in an age of global food shipment are famines due to political structure, such as Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, cartel and war lord economies in various third world and communist/socialist locations.

      • War and Corruption are always the biggest drivers of famine they always have been.

        Lets look at the data right now 2019 .. 6 listed food emergencies
        https://www.wfp.org/countries
        Congo … Conflict and Ebola
        Nigeria … Conflict
        Sahel … Conflict
        South Sudan … Conflict
        Syria … Conflict
        Yemen … Conflict

        So 6 out of 6 current food emergencies caused by conflict because it’s pretty hard to farm while you are dodging bullets and bombs.

        Climate change and nature aren’t even on the scoreboard 🙂

        • LDB, don’t confuse UN and NGO food-aid programs ’emergencies’ with a famine, they’re not equivalent. Most food-aid ’emergencies’ are aid lobbying operations, not actual famines.

          The picture at the top of the article is an actual famine and nowhere on Earth is in famine like that at present. The closest to a famine we saw recently was the potential for one in Mozambique, earlier this year, due regional total crop destruction from a cyclone and flood, after a major drought, and just prior to the harvest of what was growing and the destruction of all seed, and most farms and equipment, bot to mention roads, bridges, trains and trucks.

          A natural event.

          • Potential, meaning there was not one. If it had been necessary, there was/is ample food in the world to prevent the ‘potential’ famine, and organizations would do so.

            We live in a big world. There will always be places where natural events destroy food production, but the world still grows enough food to feed everyone, and organizations to collect and redistribute it as needed. Man has the ability to prevent natural famines.

            The only time this is twarted is when political elements prevent such redistribution. The greatest example of that was Stalin.

          • Which is what I said in my first remark, above:

            “… The modern relative lack of famines however is due to better diplomacy, cooperation, aid and trade.”

            But that does not mean politics is the cause of all famines, on the contrary, its the management of them.

          • WXCYCLE, yes, you are correct dat famine
            is related to weather, whether by droughts or
            flooding or other climatic conditions.

            However, you are wong if you reason [?} that
            famine can not be caused by politics. There
            are simply too numerous examples which you
            have choose to ignore.

        • Both make a point omitted in Jim’s OP as to why another major famine won’t happen: transportation, communication and distribution networks.

          But, as stated, just because rice is delivered to their shores doesn’t mean it will get where it is most needed. But the evolution of the world seems to be one of poor countries learning from richer ones, tyrants being deposed, and networks bringing opportunity for prosperity closer to the people who need it.

          Amazing to me how many photos of the most destitute corners in the world show people using cell phones.

      • Have a look at the photo at the top of this Article, this was political, eh?

        Er, yes. Britain was still exporting hundreds of millions of tons of rice out of India in the years of drought and starvation, instead of redistributing it to areas affected.

        Check your history before jumping to conclusions.

        • Nonsense, what occurred was an entirely a natural event which was managed by colonial authorities with no understanding of its severity and completely oblivious to its potential duration.

          Do you imagine you could do better in that situation with the same knowledge that they would have collectively had then?

          You may want to impose a Black-Arm-Band 20-20 hindsight interpretation, to cast alleged ‘political’ blame, but it absolutely was NOT the deliberate choice nor intent of the British to starve India. You’re implying they knew the future, and then deliberately chose to create a gigantic famine, to eliminate millions.

          What a claim!

          History is first lived, and only later do people who are wholly removed from the events read about it in books and recline in contempt to reinterpret events, to imply and mean whatever they chose. Not buying such nonsense.

          ____
          “Preceding events
          In part, the Great Famine may have been caused by an intense drought resulting in crop failure in the Deccan Plateau. It was part of a larger pattern of drought and crop failure across India, China, South America and parts of Africa caused by an interplay between a strong El Niño and an active Indian Ocean Dipole that led to between 19 and 50 million deaths. …”
          ____

          Britain did not control the weather then and still don’t. Were they likewise allegedly responsible for the total 50 million deaths globally or just the 5.5 million in India? It was clearly a global natural weather event and the ~45 million other people who died in other parts of the world at the same time died because everyone failed to deal with this overwhelming natural series of weather disasters.

          And all due to natural-variability, by the way.

          Is there another favorite ‘informed’ bombastic narrative you’d like to run?

        • @ John Doran – Perhaps your jaundiced propaganda-based view of history could do with a good flush too. One book and its anti-British narratives as ‘interpretation’ of events, does not equal the truth. If it did we would not need more than one historians. You can claim the British engineered global famines all you want, but you just sound like a subversive who is pushing your favorite BS, as the British did no such thing.

          This was once a very popular saying – “Don’t believe everything you read.”

          • Nowadays it is more accurate to say “be careful what you read”. Most publications seem to be propagandists for the left. And the far left.

          • The Irish famine in the 1840s could have been averted by food shipments from Britain. It was not. Malthusians, like Francis Galton, argued that it was futile to feed the Irish since they would only live to reproduce more people unable to feed themselves. Malthus had “proven” mathematically that population growth would inevitably outstrip food production by the mid-19th century — this dynamic seemed obvious to the scientists of the day and the potato crop failures were taken as confirmation. The English allowed the Irish starve, simple as that.

  3. I believe Norman and Greta are essentially polar opposites.

    One is educated, one is ignorant.

    One saved the lives of hundreds of millions of people, the other is the Person of the Year.

    • Your post got me thinking:
      ‘Norman is to Greta’ as ‘Einstein is to Randy Marsh (from Southpark)’

      I’m a little embarrassed that we are talking about Norman in the same thread as Greta. That really isn’t fair …

  4. Thank You, Dr. Jim Steele!
    These are historical ‘lessons learned’ that need to be continuously reinforced.

  5. Why Modern Famine Predictions Failed
    Because lack of information and phantasy.
    Scientists as Ehrlich were not able to imagine the quality and quantity of future research and development.
    They start at a point believing that’s the status quo for ever.

  6. It takes an amazingly ignorant person to believe that the old technology, exposing seeds to gamma rays and hoping one of the mutations would be useful, is less dangerous than the new technology, taking a specific gene and inserting it into the genome of the target seed.

    • MarkW, you fail to appreciate and or understand
      the test of time. GMOs, have been a work in progress
      for over five decades, with little or no known impact
      upon humanity; yet you continue to cry wolf, wolf,
      be ware.

  7. I just stumbled across this piece of good news. http://www.goldenrice.org/ says in part:

    The Filipinos are First!
    The Philippines is the first Asian country to approve Golden Rice for Direct Use
    By Adrian Dubock, Peter Beyer & Ingo Potrykus

    December 2019

    In a victory for science-based regulatory decision-making, the Government of the Philippines has, on 10th December 2019, authorised the direct use of GR2E Golden Rice in food, feed, and for processing. The regulatory data were submitted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the spring of 2017 and were scrutinized by several regulatory committees representing agriculture, environment, health, science and technology, and local governments. This decision is huge, representing the first food approval for Golden Rice in a country where rice is the staple and vitamin A deficiency a significant public health problem. Those involved in the authorisation are to be praised for their scientific integrity and courage in the face of stiff activist opposition.

    In taking their decision, the Philippine Government has joined Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the USA in affirming that Golden Rice is perfectly safe.

    The World Health Organization lists Philippine mothers as being moderately vitamin A deficient, and children less than 5 years old as being severely vitamin A deficient. This is despite, as reported in 2014, 85 percent of children consuming a vitamin-A rich food in the past day, and 76 percent of children receiving a vitamin A supplement in the past 6 months. Supplementation via Vitamin A capsule distribution in the Philippines has been in place since the early 1990s. Initially, the use of capsules was highly controversial. Globally, over the past 20 years, about 10 billion vitamin A capsules have been distributed to preschool children at a cost of about US$10 billion. In the Philippines, increasing standards of living, in combination with supplementation, reduced VAD incidence among preschool children from 40 percent in 2003 to 15 percent in 2008. By 2013, however, VAD incidence had increased again to 20 percent of preschool children, and 28 percent of children between 6 and 12 months old.

    A universal source of vitamin A will reduce child mortality by 23–34 percent, and up to 50 percent in cases of measles, thanks to the immune-system-boosting effects of vitamin A. It is expected that adoption of Golden Rice —the golden colour beta-carotene is a source of vitamin A— into the regular diet will continue to reduce the incidence of VAD, and very sustainably: there is no extra cost for the additional nutrition, and no limitations on what small farmers can do with the seed. In the last month, a New Scientist article about Golden Rice commented: “What shocks me is that some activists continue to misrepresent the truth about the rice. The cynic in me expects profit-driven multinationals to behave unethically, but I want to think that those voluntarily campaigning on issues they care about have higher standards”.

    • This explains China’s naval push of the last couple of years, let RP establish Golden Rice production and then “buy” it at a substantial discount. Buying US rice will get them over the hump. Does it really need a sarc tag?

    • The cynic in me asks whether Golden Rice opposition is a good or a bad thing for Gaia. Good for quality of life, but…

      The scientist in me analyzed a long and tortuous path to conclude, not a relevant question.

      Gaia’s carrying capacity for mankind is roughly fixed by two things, food calories and fuel calories. Those merit intense scrutiny, as in my early 2012 ebook Gaia’s Limits. Even my son said, Dad, that is not a beach read. True, but still relevant.

    • The Philippines has always had a problem with lack of vitamin A. A few years ago, Greenpeace bused a bunch of what were called militant farmers to two test fields of yellow rice where they proceeded to cut both fields down. An early variety of yellow rice suffered from low yield. I believe that the yield has been improved. The people can not afford to pay more for less even with the benefits. Production of rice in the Philippines is still mostly a crude process. The country must import large quantities from Thailand. The Philippines is world famous for rice research, The Philippine Rice Research Inst.

      • As coincidence would have it, just as my article mentioned, governments are moving towards legalizing the GMO Golden Rice, the Philippines did just that this week!

        https://www.supportprecisionagriculture.org/Good_news_from_the_Philippines.html

        Golden Rice moves towards full cultivation
        Richard J. Roberts
        1993 Nobel Prize Winner in Physiology or Medicine.

        On behalf of the 151 Nobel Prize winners and 13,292 co-signers supporting GMOs, we were delighted to hear of the recent announcement of the approval by the Philippine Department of Agriculture to authorize the direct use of Golden Rice as Food and Feed or for Processing (FFP). This brings the cultivation of Golden Rice in developing countries to combat Vitamin A deficiency ever closer to realization.

  8. Prof Colin Clark published Land Use and Population about the same time as The Population Bomb. He had data confirming that FAO calculations of hunger were vastly over-stated, there was ample arable land available to cope with a much larger global population at the then prevailing levels of productivity and the process of development would inevitably lead to lower fertility. The major problem as he saw it was the rapid urbanisation that would accompany development. His work is worth re-reading now. The contrast with Ehrlich is clear. Ehrlich shows how badly wrong ‘experts’ can be when they start with the answer and then collect facts to confirm the conclusions they started with.

  9. Earth has value only because humans are present to give it value.

    Absent humans, the biome of Earth is philosophically mindless.

    Absent mindful consciousness, there is no value.

  10. Of course, the first Malthusian was Malthus himself who published his personal revelations in the late 1700s.
    Too many people and not enough food, forcing massive starvation, famine and death.
    Some in the British government fell for it. And the notions continued such that with the Irish potato blight in the 1840s “Whitehall” was implying that if the Irish were allowed to die it would ease the massive size of some future disaster.
    Aid was argued against.
    And even into the late 1800s there were famines in parts of India. The picture above is one of the worst famine images I’ve seen.
    When yet another generation of Malthusians concluded much the same and advised it would be for the better over the longer term to let the Indian famine run its course.
    No aid.
    To use an old saying–nonsense so blatant that only an intellectual would fall for it.

  11. It is well to be cautious of genetic tinkering. However, caution is not what environmentalists preach on the subject. They basically want it banned.

    Take one plant, viper’s bug-gloss. In its native environment, it’s a valuable insect-feeding herb. In Australia, it’s Paterson’s curse, a weed which bears the mis-spelt name of the person said to have introduced it as an exotic garden flower.

    It grows rather too well here. That might not be a problem if it wasn’t full of toxins which prevent it from being palatable to livestock. If the chemicals could be removed it would be a valuable pasture asset with greater benefits to apiary as well.

    As it is, Paterson’s curse is aptly-named. It costs Australian agriculture a fortune. Turning a cost into a profit won’t be possible for agriculture, though, with green-tape strangling it harder by the year.

    The push for supposedly-climate-change-saving veganism is completely at odds with technology-driven pasture development for obvious reasons. That is a real threat to future food production as much of the World’s agricultural land is best utilised by livestock agriculture.

    • I miss seeing it growing
      and it was ok for sheep and cattle in limited amounts even horses did nt fall over IF the paddocks werent chokka
      a small amount in mixed grazing was ok
      and damn I DO miss the salvation Jane honey so much
      its was a damn sight safer to graze than bloody cape tulip which is now infesting pastures!
      its a pig to dig out and damned near impossible to kill without burning slashing for manyyears
      gimme back the Sally Jane anyday

  12. Some typos:

    “Victims if 1876 Famine in India”

    “Why was Ehrlich’s apocalyptic predictions so wrong?”

  13. Why no mention of Norman Borlaug, the Nobelist most responsible for “genetically modified organisms” (GMOs) beginning with food crops, abolishing famines by doubling yields per hectare over standard growing seasons?

    As for Ehrlich’s preposterous “Population Bomb” published 1968, this Luddite-Malthusian’s primitive obsessions are a cliche example of academic clerisy’s status-anxiety fixations. This reaming lamprey’s whole death-by-overcrowding, resource depletion, civilization-as-disease ensemble betokens a profoundly disordered, psychogenic mindset, no more amenable to rational discourse than a rattlesnake coiled beside a trail.

    For the record, high-density First World populations are an asset, not a liability; nuclear energy is inexhaustible; despite organic analogues, petroleum is not a “fossil fuel”; above all, facing a cyclical 102-kiloyear Pleistocene Ice Age, from c. AD 2050 cyber-genomic engineered humanity is due to rise en masse off Planet Earth to vast intra-solar refugia pressing ever outward, to the stars.

  14. I’m not at all sure your comments about GMO are correct.
    I understood that Norman Borlaug’s work with old school Mendelian breeding to create short stem varieties of the staple crops was the important turning point.
    My understanding is the GMO has had very little effect and it mostly a canard to push artificial pesticides and herbicides that only breed super weeds and destroy the normal fertilisation vectors (bees, insects, etc).
    I like the point that warming and CO2 fertilisation have improved things too.
    But with GMO, we are so totally in the dark ages when it comes to that stuff, we have no idea of what actually happens when we insert sequences into DNA, we get maybe an effect we desired but no idea of what unintended effects may also occur. The hubris of the scientists takes over and the negative effects are ignored and suppressed. No to GMO.

    • Wrong done properly in lab conditions you can turn on or off specific genes and identify the results. We are not in the dark ages.

      • Unfortunately, if there are unintended consequences, and the numbers are low enough, they may never be detected or identified. Even if side effects are found, would its benefit outweigh them?

        I think this would be akin to a debate on a wonder drug that cures all ailments.
        The downside is that 50% would die. Do you still make the drug available?
        What if the mortality was 10% or 1%?

        At what point do the beneficial aspects outweigh the negative outcomes?

        • At what point? When fewer people die taking the drug than not taking the drug. That should be fairly obvious. At that point, taking the drug should be the choice of the individual.

          The question is, at what point do you make it mandatory? Then you need to consider a host of factors, like the death rate of those who are unable to take the drug.

    • Surfer Dave, makes a most excellent point.

      The breeding of dogs, for example, has lead to the
      warewolf. [sic] Even the failure and release of the
      African Bees has not resulted in a massive disaster.

  15. Climate is not the only reason for famine. Somewhere in the 1970s a friend of mine visited Pakistan at a time when it was suffering from severe famine. The countries of the world had come to Pakistan’s aid and she found that the warehouses were full of food, mainly grain. But she found that none was being distributed as the government of the time was holding it in bond until the import duties had been paid. 20% as I recall. Meantime people were dying of starvation in the streets.

  16. I agree with the scare-mongering tactics against golden rice is reprehensible.
    However, I have read in a couple of places that the beta-carotene being supplied by the rice is not sufficient to really make a difference. In other words, the amount of golden rice that would have to be consumed in order to get sufficient daily dosage is so high as to be risible.
    Is this true? If so, that is a much more legitimate complaint.

    • My understanding is when Golden Rice was engineered with a daffodil gene the amount of beta proteins was low. The new varieties engineered with a new corn gene now supplies ample vitamin A building blocks!

    • If you are vitamin A deficient, any increase in vitamin A intake is beneficial. You rarely get 100% of your needs from a single source.

  17. The base belief of environmentalism is that the earth would be better off without people. Everything else after that is just tinsel and hand waving.

    The fact is that we represent the Earth’s best chance of staying alive.

  18. “Ehrlich’s doomsday predictions were incomprehensible. That environmental groups like Greenpeace vehemently propagandized against the technologies that prevented Ehrlich’s doomsday is even more unintelligible.”

    Those activist groups and fake-scientists as most of the Climate lunatics are above all Malthusians (or usefull idiots put forward by Malthusians).

    For the psychopaths who attended the Club de Rome, Humanity is the enemy.

  19. It’s time to mention the role of modern fertilizers in increased world wide
    crop yields. Along with low-till/no-till contour farming, judicious use of pesticides,
    and hybrid crop strains, most of the Malthusian/Ehrlich prerequisites for massive
    population reductions through starvation have been radically diminished.

    Sadly, when we talk about fertilizers and pesticides/fungicides, we’re also talking
    about the petrochemical (carbon-based) industries that have drawn the ire of
    today’s radical left.

    I was a youth in college when Ehrlich’s book hit the pop stands. At the same
    time the Zero Population Institute was recruiting for assistantship applications…
    the leaflets and flyers for them were everywhere you looked on bulletin boards
    and walls in every college social science department.

    Earth Day had started out as simply protesting air & water pollution. By 1974
    it had stated to grow horns and began morphing into something much more virile.

    We are now reaping the political whirl winds of those early days.

    • Not just fertilizers. The availability of fossil fueled agricultural machines has exponentially increased production. And kudos to the mega farms that can efficiently use them.

  20. This is just who we are, we are human beings. In many ways our success as a species is that we understand and fear the weather.

    Since the dawn of civilisation we have always thought our actions affect the weather, we have always made sacrifices to the weather gods, and our high priests continue to insist we do.

    Science challenges our primitive beliefs, Climate Change Science and its believers reinforces our primitive beliefs, so it is almost certainly wrong.

  21. Greenpeace — working to make poor people blind since 1970!

    Not a slogan I would want to be associated with, but each to his own!

  22. It seems to me that we are in the midst of a cataclysmic ignorance storm. Food production, population, climate, etc. Are all very complex systems. To truly understand them requires a great deal of interdisciplinary knowledge.

    Sadly, we live in a time of increasingly intradisciplinary experts who can easily leverage their ‘expertise’ to manipulate an ignorant population’s emotions.

  23. “But then again, there are many activists who only see humanity as earth’s scourge and best eliminated.”

    And to them I reply: “Fine. You first.”

  24. Little did I realize, when I first saw a man wearing a turban cross the campus that I was witnessing an early leader of India’s Green Revolution. Not known to me but another Indian, now no longer anonymous but then newly minted Ph.D (OSU1968), Rattan Lal was mimicking an earlier no-till researcher Ohio Stater Bill Richards at the time experimenting with no-till farming on designated lands as well as his own farm in Centerville Ohio. Since then, Lal has taken his advocacy for returning carbon to soil, now called: Regenerative Agriculture which will feed the expected population in 2100 of 10 billion people. Regenerative Agriculture is: cover crops, no-till farming, manure & compost as natural fertilizers with the benefits of sequestering carbon, restoring soil health as it retains water and nutrients, while increasing crop yields.

  25. “According to Malthus, human populations could double if food output was able to keep up with the number of mouths to feed. If there is not enough food to feed everyone, then Malthus suggests that human population levels would naturally decline.

    His calculations suggested that by the year 2000, human populations on the planet could reach 256 billion, but that the Earth only had enough resources to support up to 9 billion people. To solve this problem, he suggested the idea of “moral restraint” being placed on society.”

    Mathis, put the cart before the horse.

    “What Is Boserup’s Theory of Population?”

    “Boserup notes in her theory of population growth that when communities experience low levels of population, then land use becomes intermittent and sparse. Unused parcels of land are left undeveloped, which means they are taken out of agricultural production. When population levels rise, the undeveloped land begins to be developed so that is can be used to grow food.

    Humans also begin to look for new ways to work their fields as population levels grown. Boseruup found that in rural areas with low population densities, farmers had to work more hours to achieve the same yields as their counterparts in areas of high population densities. Workloads rise when efficiency levels drop, which means greater population levels encourage better levels of efficiency from the agricultural sectors.

    According to Boserup, as long as human beings have an ability to be innovative, there will always be an ability to continue growing more food. That means the only thing that holds back population levels is our own ability to be creative and innovative.”

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