What are the implications of the green revolution from the perspective of human population growth? It:
- Increased life expectancy by over 10 years in many nations over a couple of decades
- Allowed many people who would otherwise have starved to survive, and to have children.
So, from one perspective, the green revolution has been humane; it has kept people from starving!
Yet, from another perspective, it has been inhumane and cruel. How might such an argument go?
This argument would suggest that the green revolution artificially boosted "K" (the carrying capacity) of Earth for humans through unsustainable agricultural practices and food imports which provided short term relief. While humane in the short term, some argue that it has only exacerbated the long-term suffering, in that it has allowed more people to live and have children than would have otherwise been the case.
Thus, some argue that, rather than being kind, the green revolution may have been cruel from a global perspective (not from the perspective of the individual involved). This perspective is referred to as "bioregionalism" or "life boat ethics" (the latter term used by Garrett Hardin, the author of "Tragedy of the Commons", which you read earlier this term). This perspective argues that each region of the world should support only as many people as it is able to, on its own (i.e. without food subsidies). That is, each region should support only as large a population as its own resource base will allow. Further, it argues that food subsidies are even more problematic if they result from agricultural practices in the donor nations (or regions) that are likely to be unsustainable; that is, if they degrade the resource base on which agriculture depends. See "Lifeboat Ethics" if you'd like to read Garrett Hardin's 1974 paper on these challenges. Your assigned reading, "Feeding Nine Billion" makes a similar case in suggesting that each nation might calculate its water and land availability, use that to calculate how many people it should have given a desired type of diet, and should then work towards achieving that population size.
This is a very challenging ethical dilemma....comments?? Send them to the BI 301 Discussion Board!
Other problems with the green revolution are not as clearly ethical problems (although they have ethical implications), but relate to specific practices and their effects on the agroecosystem or other ecosystems, and to questions about the sustainability of these practices.
Remember, to get high yields, many agronomic practices had to change:
(And recall that many of these involve, directly or indirectly, high inputs of fossil fuel energy...)
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