The term "Green Revolution" is associated nowadays with the increased level of environmental consciousness: businesses changing their operations to incorporate more environmental practices, and the advent of environmental consumerism. Actually the "Green Revolution" was a 1960's term that referred to new varieties of rice and wheat for developing countries that were more drought and pest resistant, more responsive to advanced fertilization methods, and ultimately produced higher yielding crops. A comprehensive report [PDF] on the Green Revolution by the International Food Policy Research Institute describes the background and history of this movement.
This "Revolution" was a great way to increase yields of wheat and rice production, alleviate hunger and provide an income to poverty-stricken farming communities in developing countries. But now, 4 decades later, other problems are arising. The land is no longer arable due to the excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides, polluted waterways, salt build-up and eventual loss of biodiversity on farms. The people forced to leave their land are known as environmental migrants or climate refugees. More details on the environmental impacts of the Green Revolution can be found on Wikipedia.
Developing countries, such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia, that could be considered to be among the least responsible for major climate change, are the ones that are being the hardest hit. A video report created by the U.N. Development Program explains the relationship between human development and climate change.
Rice farmers in Bangladesh have lost their crops due to excessive flooding, while farmers in Ethiopia are praying for rain, all resulting in more poverty, starvation and refugees as land becomes less and less arable.
However, Indian farmers have taken matters into their own hands by shunning modern agricultural technologies and going back to their traditional ways of farming. According to this article on NPR’s website, an Indian farmer named Sharma enjoyed 20 years of an increase in crop yields and subsequent income as a result of the Green Revolution. Then his soil began to deteriorate and he needed to buy more and more fertilizers to grow the same amount of crops. He soon realized that the only way to sustain his crops was to go organic. In another article, the Guardian states that "Sustainable agriculture involves hard work and does not guarantee huge profits, but it will not harm the farmers' health, brings personal satisfaction, and involves fewer financial risks."
The U.S., as one of the world’s largest consumers, can take a stand in reducing its own unsustainable agricultural practices and become a model for other nations, by increasing the demand for organic farming and native plant propagation. The Slow Food Organization is a great international proponent of eating locally grown and prepared foods. Furthermore, if we as citizens of this country demand more government subsidies for organic farmers, then perhaps sustainable farming will gain significant momentum. Here is an article that points to how little the government supports organic farming. The International Society for Cow Protection talks about how the future lies in organic farming, and industrial farming practices are becoming less and less attractive, especially for small farmers. This video indicates how the future might look if we adopt organic farming practices fully. It seems bright indeed!
And learn more about the current state of the food crisis on our dedicated Issue page.