Matching Grant Challenge
BruceMatch
We’re slowly making headway in our annual fund drive, but not nearly fast enough to meet our make-or-break goal.  On the bright side, a generous CounterPuncher has stepped forward with a pledge to match every donation of $100 or more. Any of you out there thinking of donating $50 should know that if you donate a further $50, CounterPunch will receive an additional $100. And if you plan to send us $200 or $500 or more, he will give CounterPunch a matching $200 or $500 or more. Don’t miss the chance. Double your clout right now. Please donate.

Day 17

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)

pp1

or
cp-store

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

How Lucky Will We Be?

The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives

by DAVID MACARAY

It’s probably safe to say that most of us haven’t heard of agronomist Norman Borlaug. If I hadn’t been tangentially involved with Indian agriculture, I wouldn’t have heard of him. But Borlaug is not only a famous scientist, he’s one of only seven people to have won the Nobel Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Apparently, the only prize to elude him was the Cy Young Award.

Dr. Borlaug is most famous for having launched what came to be known the Green Revolution—the agricultural phenomenon responsible for an exponential increase, a veritable explosion, in the amount of food produced on earth. And yes, it’s no exaggeration to say that Borlaug did, in fact, save a billion lives.

His singular achievement, the thing he’ll be remembered for forever, was the development of a strain of high-yield, disease-resistant, semi-dwarf Mexican wheat, an achievement that more or less prevented a big part of the underdeveloped world from starving to death.

While I was with the Peace Corps in Punjab, India (attached to the Punjab Department of Irrigation), a U.S. State Dept. agriculture officer kindly provided me with a layman’s overview of the significance of dwarf wheat. At the risk of overly-simplifying it, here is what I understood it to be.

Whereas “standard” wheat plants are fairly tall and have narrow stalks (I saw them in the cultivated fields of Punjab), dwarf wheat plants are relatively short and squat, and have thick, husky stalks. One advantage of that unique feature is that dwarf plants can remain upright. They don’t fall over from their own weight and lie on the ground, rotting, and they don’t usually break down on a windy day.

Another advantage—indeed, the most important advantage—is that, compared to standard wheat plants, the dwarf produces a prodigious amount of wheat kernels. The comparison is astounding. It’s the difference between a fragile, spindly, low-yielding wheat stalk, and an incredibly resilient, high-yielding, highly motivated “wheat shrub” that is absolutely bursting with edible kernels.

Even with a population of 1.1 billion people (in a country about one-third the size of the U.S.), India is now self-sufficient in food production, an accomplishment that would’ve been regarded as wildly unrealistic, as all but impossible, just a few decades ago. The world can thank Dr. Norman Borlaug for achieving that.

But oddly, scientific achievements like Borlaug’s can have a weird downside. They seem to promote a reckless, almost irrational sense of optimism about the future, a belief that technology will eventually solve all the hairy problems we now face.

People like to remind you of all those semi-hysterical 1970s doomsday predictions of imminent world famine—predictions gravely guaranteeing that hundreds of millions of Indians and Chinese would die of starvation. Paul Erlich (author of the best-selling The Population Bomb) was one of those prognosticators.

The fact that this mass-starvation never occurred leads some people to the dubious conclusion that everything will turn out all right, that technology will tackle all of our future problems, including alternative energy sources, climate change, potable water shortages, and pollution.

Few people seem to be overly concerned about that Texas-size mound of garbage that’s floating around in the Pacific Ocean. The reason they are unconcerned is, presumably, because they are confident science and technology will eventually address that filthy problem and solve it.

It’s as if these people have not only seen way too many of those sci-fi movies where the scientists are able to deflect the earth-bound asteroid at the very last minute, but have forgotten that those movies are pure fiction.

Wishing and hoping ain’t going to make that Texas-size mass of garbage (or for that matter, the actual state of Texas itself) disappear. We won’t be that lucky.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition), is a former union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net.