Another giant of science has passed

Dennis Avery, coauthor of Unstoppable Global Warming – Every 1,500 Years, has died

Paul Driessen

Another giant of science, history and scholarship has left our world. Dennis T. Avery died June 21 at age 83. With the passing of this “gifted scholar and communicator, the world became a less interesting place,” former Heartland Institute president and CEO Joe Bast commented.  

Avery’s career was indeed remarkable for its breadth and depth. Born in 1936 in Lansing, Michigan, he earned degrees in journalism and economics from Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin, then worked for a variety of federal government agencies before retiring in 1989 as Senior Agricultural Analyst for the U.S. State Department. Among his many other awards and honors, he received the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement in 1983. 

After moving to northwestern Virginia in 1990, he launched the Center for Global Food Issues and began his international consulting, lecturing and writing career. His farming operations practiced no-till agriculture, which utilizes biotech seeds and herbicides to help preserve soil structure and organisms, moisture, organic matter and nutrients, thereby improving drainage and soil biodiversity, while reducing erosion. Avery practiced and studied what he wrote about in his books and articles.

His 1995 book Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic: The Environmental Triumph of High-Yield Farming was used in classrooms throughout the world. His 2007 New York Times bestseller, Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years (coauthored by S. Fred Singer) became “the Bible of the fast-growing ‘global warming skeptics’ movement,” Bast said. (Dr. Singer died in April 2020 at 95.) Avery’s last manuscript, Climate and Collapse, will be published posthumously.

For many years he monitored developments in world food production, farm product demand, the safety and security of food supplies, and the sustainability of world agriculture. As a staff member of the President’s National Advisory Commission on Food and Fiber, he wrote the Commission’s landmark report, Food and Fiber for the Future. He traveled widely as a speaker, testified before Congress, appeared on many radio and television news programs, and was often quoted in publications like Time magazine, The Washington Post and The Farm Journal.

Dennis was a frequent speaker at climate change conferences hosted by The Heartland Institute (available on YouTube), contributed to the Climate Change Reconsidered series produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), and traveled to Katowice, Poland to join other scholars in presenting contrarian, real-world opinions on climate change at the United Nations 24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24) in December 2018.

Countless people read his informative and entertaining articles on energy, environmental and agricultural issues, and on climate changes throughout history, as warmer periods helped civilizations to flourish, while little ice ages and droughts caused many to disappear.

I was honored to edit and distribute some of his columns, and delighted to hoist occasional beers with him while we discussed these topics and the sad decline of civil, civilized discourse and debate over them in recent years. As Joe Bast observed, “In an age when angry exchanges between partisans get much more attention than scholarship and debate, Dennis maintained a dignified but not silent presence. He was a true gentleman and scholar, willing to calmly and patiently explain complex issues, even as others tried to shout down or cancel opposing views” – or even prosecute and jail anyone presenting those views.

My family and I spent a glorious day on his farm, feeding and enjoying the animals, savoring a delicious dinner prepared by his delightful wife and Center for Global Food Issues associate Anne, and chatting on into the night about multiple topics. His friends remember him as “inquisitive, articulate, energetic, humble and well informed” – as much as for his “ready smile and quick dry wit.” Dennis was admired and loved by his family and his many colleagues and friends around the United States and world. He revered history and conducted lengthy, painstaking research in search of the truth on every topic he addressed, even when truth was uncomfortable.

Dennis is survived by his wife Anne, sons Adam and Alex, daughter Amy, stepson Kevin, brother Lawrence, sister Carol, and five grandchildren. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date. Memorials may be given to Covenant Presbyterian Church (2001 North Coalter Street, Staunton, VA 24401) or a charity of choice in his name.

We will all miss him, but his amazing legacy will live on. 

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, environment, climate and human rights issues.

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14 thoughts on “Another giant of science has passed

  1. My condolences.

    A nice list of the YT videos is presented by the keywords “Dennis Avery heartland institute” at Youtube.

  2. Sad news indeed.
    When I began to get interested in the global warming story, ‘Unstoppable Global Warming – Every 1,500 Years’ co-authored with S. Fred Singer was the book I read at about the same time as Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’.
    The arguments and data presented in Singer and Avery’s book were clearly written and understandable.
    In contrast, Al Gore’s book was clearly a cleverly crafted piece of work designed to promote his doomsday views, but lacking in scientific rigor in many aspects.

    • Carbon500
      June 25, 2020 at 3:35 am

      Yes, a very thought provoking book.

      Very sad they are both gone…we need good communicators and clear thinkers like them.

  3. He was a true gentleman and scholar, willing to calmly and patiently explain complex issues, even as others tried to shout down or cancel opposing views” – or even prosecute and jail anyone presenting those views.

    His childhood and youth were during WW2 and the cold war. Folks knew then that totalitarianism was evil. Freedom, and especially freedom of thought and speech, was celebrated. After WW2, when the atrocities of the communists and national socialists were fully exposed, and George Orwell had written “Brave New World”, the virtues of freedom were fully inculcated into the population.

    It is sad indeed that later generations have not learned those necessary lessons. You can now have your career totally trashed if you commit a thoughtcrime in a private communication, never mind in public.

    The people, like Dennis, who understand the value of civil discourse are ageing out of the population (I’m avoiding words that will trigger moderation). As a result, the world is becoming a less civilized place.

  4. His farming operations practiced no-till agriculture

    Most of the farms here in west Maryland & adjacent south-central Pennsylvania practice this now instead of plowing.

    • Beng135

      I am not familiar with no-till agriculture. Perhaps someone can explain the benefits and advantages of the practice.

      • No-till or more commonly, low-till means not destroying the soil structure each year by ploughing. Ploughing was invented to keep the weeds down, but it is expensive, requires a great deal of energy, and disturbs the natural soil structure which reduces yield.

        So the question arose as to how weeds can be controlled acceptably without disturbing the soil structure (which is easily seen and characterized). The answer is chemical applications. Because of sanctions, large scale Zimbabwean farmers became very good, highly talented, at making the right application at the right time to minimize the application of chemicals with no- or lo-till methods. One told me it came down to to or three particular days after emergence.

        What happens after some time (and it varies by soil type) is the minerals needed from the soil become depleted. The answer is to rip deep with a single tooth (about a metre) once in a while, from 3 to 10 years depending. After that the soil is again left undisturbed.

        The big saving is with the cost of ploughing.

        Dr A D Karve, Pune, India, has approached the mineral availability problem without deep ripping, instead feeding bacteria in the soil that liberate minerals from it. This is accomplished by feeding them sugar. About 25 kg of sugar is applied annually to the fields (per hectare) and this feeds the relevant bacteria, which then die and leave the minerals in a soluble form. Many thousands of Indian farmers practice this method now. It removes the need to apply P and K to the soil which again, saves a large amount of money which they previously had to borrow.

        • How much sugar would a rose bush need? Can you apply too much sugar to the point it is toxic to a plant? Sugar fertilizing is an interesting idea.

      • Jan E Christoffersen

        Jan, I think the chemical fellow geologist Crispin refers to is Roundup…hugely successful here in NZ for this type of farming…preserves soil structure, saves fuel, etc. I’ve use it a lot on our small property here for our macadamias and general weed control since we last worked together back in the 1970’s…but alas, my hair has turned grey and some has even fallen out!

        • Alastair,

          Alas, I see Monsanto (I think) just agreed to pay some legalized U.S. racketeers some $ 9-10 billion to settle the interminable Roundup lawsuit. What BS. Hope you are not suffering from a rare form of cancer. I have used Roundup a few times and feel – wheeze – just fine.

          By the way, we worked together in 1970/71 exploring for Cu-Au porphyry deposits with the inimitable Dr. Peter Fox. He’s still around.

          • Jan E Christoffersen
            June 25, 2020 at 7:51 pm

            Yes, your’re right it was 1970/71.

            I think it is now Bayer who now owns the Roundup issue and inherited all the stupid litiagation. I guess they knew it was coming and just paid this settlement to end it (for now).

            They are now funding research to prove it does not cause cancer. There’s an interesting article on it in Friday’s WSJ.

            Yes, sadly I, too, wheeze more and more these days…maybe we could do a joint lawsuit or maybe even a class action…some of my best friends have grey hair too.

  5. Jan E Christoffersen
    June 25, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Actually Jan it was the 1960’s when we worked together in BC…maybe that explains my symptoms!

    Nevertheless, I make sure to keep a good stock of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, on hand here in case our socialist/green government decides to ban it overnight…just like they banned offshore gas exploration. No public input or any consultation at all with the industry. So now we are going to have to import it…just how does that save the planet? Our very own version of Drax-think.

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