November 26, 2003
by Dennis T. Avery
As my family gathers at the Thanksgiving feast this year, I am thankful that a larger percentage of the world's people than ever before enjoy food abundance. I am thankful that last winter's famine in southern Africa was no worse than it was, and that such famines are becoming increasingly rare. I am thankful for the farm science that is extending our ability to enhance both the productivity and sustainability of modern food production.
At the same time, I grieve over the politically created famine in North Korea, and long for the day when the North Korean government lets American food aid reach all its hungry, not just its military establishment. I wish for freedom and abundance in places such as North Korea, Syria, Sudan, southern Africa, and Burma. Democracy and free markets, which under-gird food abundance, are thankfully spreading in the world even if fitfully and too slowly.
I am grateful that the rate of wild species extinction is now as low as it has been since the sixteenth century. We lost only half as many known species of birds, animals and/or fish in the last third of the twentieth century (twenty species) as we did during the last third of the nineteenth century (forty species), according to the UN Environmental Program. I am startled to realize that only during the last sixty years or so has the world been able to feed all people without either hunting wild species to extinction or stealing hunting/farming land from other people.
I feel keenly about this since one of my ancestors was a member of the Massachusetts Bay colony. He wasn’t there for the first Thanksgiving celebration, but he took part in the land-driven conflict with the Pequot Indians in 1657. In remembering Christopher Avery, I am grateful for the inheritance of knowledge from previous generations, which has allowed those of us living today to live better and longer than our ancestors, with far more attractive lifestyle choices. I am also grateful for the technology that may make food-driven conflicts, such as the world saw in Rwanda, a relic of the past.
The old saying goes, if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day; teach him to fish, and he can eat for a lifetime. However, that's only true if there are enough fish to be caught. Taking the saying literally, today we teach people to do fish farming, providing not only more food for the planet but also future sustainability. On land, we've tripled the yields on the world's good farmland, and made the cropping more sustainable than it's been in 10,000 years.
Dr. Norman Borlaug the leader of the Green Revolution and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, would blush to be called St. Norman. He'd say that a million agriculturists went before him and paved the way for the "miracle" cereal varieties that saved a billion people. But since we need to honor a high-yield agriculturist on Thanksgiving, St. Norman will just have to grin and accept our gratitude.
For all these things I am thankful, but most of all, I am thankful to be spending this holiday season with my kids and grandchildren, knowing that they share the bright prospects for good lives offered by a stable, peace-loving, embracing society. The stability and affluence were both founded on the food abundance provided by America's pioneers in high-yield farming.
Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.
Home | Learn About Hudson | Hudson Scholars | Find an Expert | Support Hudson | Contact Information | Site Map
Policy Centers | Research Areas | Publications & Op-Eds | Hudson Bookstore
Hudson Institute, Inc. 1015 15th Street, N.W. 6th Floor Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.974.2400 Fax: 202.974.2410 Email the Webmaster
© Copyright 2013 Hudson Institute, Inc.