To the editor:
I found James A. Haught’s Aug. 3 column, “Second Green Revolution needed to feed burgeoning population,” to be well-meant but misguided in its call for new technologies as a solution to feeding our ever-growing numbers. I also find his defense of the Green Revolution to be short-sighted. The solution to feeding our growing numbers is to stop population growth as soon as possible, establish what is a truly ecological and sustainable number for global population, and achieve that number over time. The Global Footprint Network estimates that we would need 1.75 Earths to sustain our present population (without changing our use of resources). Population never crosses the lips of our politicians but it should. Its a bigger elephant in the room than the one in the Oval Office!
The Green Revolution, with its use of high-yield crops and heavy fertilization, did increase food production. It also drained aquifers, polluted rivers and oceans and bankrupted millions of poor farmers who couldn’t afford the tools (chemicals, fertilizer, expensive seed) that accompanied this so- called miracle. Small farms around the world failed or sold out. The many chemical concoctions used to keep this revolution going are losing their effectiveness to “superweeds,” and they are decimating the populations of pollinators.
With rapidly occurring climate change we must assume that temperate zones will be required to welcome millions of refugees from lands that are no longer livable. This is already happening all around the equator. It is incumbent on the developed world to welcome these refugees because it is the developed world that has destroyed their homes. We in temperate zones will also see our coasts flooded and crop failures. How shall we add 4 billion people to a world that is shrinking?
I agree that we need a second Green Revolution, but that second revolution should focus on sustainable farming, the welfare of small farmers, and the health of our farmers and their customers. We need protection of our waterways from chemical and fertilizer runoff, conservation of water, massive cutbacks on pesticide and herbicide use. These and other measures should be how farmers qualify for the billions paid out each year by our government. As for the growing population? It has been shown that when women around the world are educated and given control over their bodies, as well as birth control options, they tend to choose smaller families. The U.S. currently has a birthrate below what is described as replacement, which happily means we can welcome millions of climate refugees! Every woman should have the right to have as many children as she feels happy with, and I’m sure that fact in itself will go a long way to shrinking our numbers over time. I myself have 13 brothers and sisters, and I’m sure glad mom wasn’t told to stop after seven!
Even if CRISPR or some other technology does increase food production, will it create the water needed to feed these crops? More importantly, will it house, clothe, educate and give a life worth living to our newly created billions? Lastly, will it stop the destruction of our only home? It’s time to address population and where man’s numbers fit in a sustainable world. I think that number is fewer than the 7 billion we have today. I hope we correct this problem before nature does it for us.