October 16, 2017

Feeding the Hungry

Feeding the Hungry

A sea of greenhouses surrounds a farmer’s home in the Westland region of the Netherlands. The Dutch have become world leaders in agricultural innovation, pioneering new paths to fight hunger.

Matthew 25:34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat… Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you… The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

By the time 2050 rolls around, the population of the world is estimated to reach 9 to 10 billion.  How, especially in the developing countries, are all those people going to be fed?  Are the dire prophecies of Thomas Malthus finally going to come to pass?  Some sobering stats :

  • Although the number of undernourished people has dropped by over 20% since 1992 (216 million fewer than in 1990-92) today there are 795 million people – or one in nine people in the world – who do not have enough to eat.
  • 98% of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries.
  • 50 percent of pregnant women in developing countries lack proper maternal care, resulting in approximately 300,000 maternal deaths annually from childbirth.
  • 1 out of 6 infants are born with a low birth weight in developing countries.
  • Nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are attributable to under-nutrition. This translates into the unnecessary loss of about 3 million young lives a year.
  • Every 10 seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases.

What’s the answer?  Apparently the answer is Holland.  In the September 2017 edition of National Geographic  there is an amazing article about how tiny Netherlands has become the world’s giant in sustainable agriculture.

Despite its size (Indiana is 2.5 times larger than Holland) and dense population (1300 people per square mile), the Netherlands is world’s number two exporter of food as measured by value, second only to the United States.  And they have done it in a sustainable, energy efficient, and nearly pesticide-free manner that has the potential to be put in practice around the world.

What looks to be huge mirrors stretch across the countryside, shining like mirrors when the sun shines and glowing with eerie interior light when night falls. These are Holland’s extraordinary greenhouse complexes, some of them covering 175 acres.  These climate-controlled greenhouses enable a country located only a thousand miles from the Arctic Circle to be a global leader in exports of a fair-weather fruit: the tomato, as well as the world’s top exporter of potatoes and onions and the second largest exporter of vegetables overall in terms of value. More than a third of all global trade in vegetable seeds originates in the Netherlands.

With demand for chicken increasing, Dutch firms are developing technology to maximize poultry production while ensuring humane conditions. This high-tech broiler house holds up to 150,000 birds, from hatching to harvesting.

The Dutch do this by means of what they call “precision farming”.  For example, the global average yield for potatoes is 9 tons per acre, the Dutch average 20 tons per acre.  They carefully measure and monitor soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth down to measurement of a single plant.  They’ve almost completely eliminated the use of chemical pesticides and since 2009 have cut their use of antibiotics by as much as 60 percent.

An example is the Duijvestijns farm, outside of Delft.  Since relocating and restructuring their 70-year-old farm in 2004, the Duijvestijns have declared resource independence on every front. The farm produces almost all of its own energy and fertilizer and even some of the packaging materials necessary for the crop’s distribution and sale. The growing environment is kept at optimal temperatures year-round by heat generated from geothermal aquifers that simmer under at least half of the Netherlands.  There are ranks of deep green tomato vines, 20 feet tall. Rooted not in soil but in fibers spun from basalt and chalk.  The only irrigation source is rainwater.  Each kilogram of tomatoes from their fiber-rooted plants requires less than four gallons of water, compared with 16 gallons for plants in open fields. Once each year the entire crop is regrown from seeds, and the old vines are processed to make packaging crates. The few pests that manage to enter the greenhouses are eaten by Phytoseiulus persimilis, a predatory mite that shows no interest in tomatoes but gorges itself on hundreds of destructive spider mites.  No pesticides are used.

 

Jan and Gijs van den Borne play on mountains of potatoes grown on their family’s ultra-productive farm, which yields twice the global average. The reason? Drones and other tools assess the health of individual plants and determine exactly how much water and nutrients they need to thrive.

The most promising aspect of what this article reported was that none of the science and technology used by the Dutch is too advanced to be used by any developing nation.  And this model of sustainability has been used in the poorer nations.  For example look at the island of Bali.  For at least a thousand years, its farmers have raised ducks and fish within the same flooded paddies where rice is cultivated. It’s an entirely self-contained food system, irrigated by intricate canal systems along mountain terraces sculpted by human hands.  Of course such high-tech agriculture cannot be immediately implemented in the developing countries.  But the Dutch are well into introducing medium-tech solutions that can make a vast difference.  From the article:

The brain trust behind these astounding numbers is centered at Wageningen University & Research (WUR), located 50 miles southeast of Amsterdam. Widely regarded as the world’s top agricultural research institution, WUR is the nodal point of Food Valley, an expansive cluster of agricultural technology start-ups and experimental farms. The name is a deliberate allusion to California’s Silicon Valley, with Wageningen emulating the role of Stanford University in its celebrated merger of academia and entrepreneurship…

Ernst van den Ende, managing director of WUR’s Plant Sciences Group, embodies Food Valley’s blended approach… Hunger could be the 21st century’s most urgent problem, and the visionaries working in Food Valley believe they have found innovative solutions. The wherewithal to stave off catastrophic famine is within reach, van den Ende insists. His optimism rests on feedback from more than a thousand WUR projects in more than 140 countries and on its formal pacts with governments and universities on six continents to share advances and implement them.

“What does our work mean for developing countries? That question is always raised here,” says Martin Scholten, who directs WUR’s Animal Sciences Group. “It’s part of every conversation.”

The Bible says, “Isaiah 58:10 If you give some of your own food to feed those who are hungry and to satisfy the needs of those who are humble, then your light will rise in the dark, and your darkness will become as bright as the noonday sun.”  The thing about the Netherlands is that they are on the same secularizing trend as the rest of Europe.  Less than a third of Dutch people have a religious faith and nearly one in four describe themselves as atheists, according to the latest census of belief in the Netherlands .   The trend towards secularization also saw a decline in the number of people describing themselves as spiritual, which dropped from 40% 10 years ago to 31%. The number who believed in the existence of a higher power fell from 36% to 28% over the same period. Overall 25% of people identified themselves as Christian, while 5% were Muslim and 2% belonged to another faith group.  And Amsterdam’s reputation as “sin city” where drugs are tolerated (technically not legal) and prostitution is legal is well known.  De Wallen, the largest and best-known red-light district in Amsterdam, is a destination for international sex tourism, with its infamous “window prostitution”.

So which is it?  Shining city set on a hill, feeding the world, or the whore of Babylon with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication.  I doubt there is any less prostitution in the United States and the Dutch do have a very pragmatic approach. The men and women get to choose their clients safely, they do have legal protections, they have access to health care… It is really much better for sex workers than to risk being prosecuted yourself if you want to report abuses. Also the police does check for human trafficking, so it does limit that.  Of course, by any measure, America is certainly one of the most generous nations on the planet as well.

Perhaps Luther’s famous “Simul justus et peccator” applies here.  Or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s quote that: “The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”

So what do you think?

Is this the future of agriculture?

Are the Dutch acting in a “Christ-like” manner in regards to feeding humanity?

 

 

Comments

  1. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    Using reason to look at a problem and then go about solving it in a systematic way, without succumbing to hysteria or other nonsense is always the best way. What does the evidence say? What is rational? Etc. The Dutch are showing the way.

    PS: In a little way I am part of this wave- as a geologist I specialize in “industrial minerals “, which include potash, phosphate, boron etc – all part of the fertilizer one needs in precision agriculture.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > What does the evidence say?

      Exactly.

      Focus on the problems and you find solutions.

      • But if the solutions don’t 100% solve the problem instantly and cost effectively, why bother even starting. It’s not like a 20% reduce is better than a 0% reduction. Let’s make perfect the enemy of good.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Now THAT is the dogma of an Activist.
          “UTTER PERFECTION NOW!!!!!!!!!!”

        • James the Mad says:

          So StuartB, you’re saying if a technology isn’t mature and cost-effective right out of the gate it shouldn’t even be developed? I hope you don’t have a cell phone, then. After all, they started out as those ridiculously expensive toys of the rich known as satellite phones. But given improvements in technology, increased market penetration and the resulting lowering of cost per unit my 16 y/o granddaughter’s single mom can now afford to buy her a cell phone.

          Or better yet, solar power. Some 30+ years ago I took a class on solar energy. I remember discussions of conversion efficiency and the necessary market penetration required to drive improvements in the efficiency and scale of the manufacturing process needed to make solar power a viable, cost-effective alternative to other energy sources. Only now, some 3 decades later, are we seeing that come to fruition.

          Are you saying we should have walked away from solar energy 30 years ago and just stayed with hydroelectric and fossil fuels, since it didn’t “100% solve the problem instantly and cost effectively”?

    • Ronald Avra says:

      Myself, I have thought the occupation of a farmer as a good excuse to be outdoors. I’m glad the Dutch are achieving great things in their greenhouses, but the loss of the opportunity to stand under an open sky is not my idea of Eden.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        You will still need extensive open air farms for corn and wheat and barley and rice etc etc. As well as beef and dairy and sheep etc etc.

        Of course this means that in future, eating more vegetables will be a good thing, economically and environmentally speaking. Some folks are going to have a problem…

        As an aside though, there is lots of precision farming here on the prairies as well, with tailor- made fertilizer solutions for each section, farming equipment that runs with high accuracy etc etc.

        • Ronald Avra says:

          I keep forgetting that you’re in Canada. Are the growing seasons there gradually lengthening?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            I haven’t looked at that in a lot of detail, but we are seeing a lot of shifts. We had two mild winters in a row – the last one was so mild in that it killed plants – cold came very late, some warm ups followed by a typical cold spell which meant that plants were “half awakened” then froze again – I lost grapes and blackberries.

            This summer was the hottest I have experienced yet in my decade and a bit here. Of course, by themselves these could just be “normal outliers”, but viewed as a whole, in conjunction with other changes (wildlife movement, as well as similar changes all over the planet), climate change is affecting agriculture most definitely.

  2. As someone from the Netherlands, and from Delft specifically, this article made me proud. From my apartment on the 15th floor I can see the lights from the greenhouses reflected in the clouds at night.

    As to our less savory aspects (De Wallen in Amsterdam), I must say that I spent some time in Las Vegas on a journey through the US some years ago, and I found the atmosphere there more vulgar and cloying, evil, than in Amsterdam … I think there’s as much depravity, sexual and otherwise, out there than there is in Amsterdam. And Amsterdam has great beauty to offer as well.
    The view of the Netherlands that I see on American forums sometimes as being ‘spiritually dead’, ‘weaklings’ et cetera, is pretty weird. We are pretty proud of ourselves, even though we have also some unsavory people in our politics, with extreme right sympathies. Luckily they do not have a majority vote yet!

    • I must say that I spent some time in Las Vegas on a journey through the US some years ago, and I found the atmosphere there more vulgar and cloying, evil, than in Amsterdam … I think there’s as much depravity, sexual and otherwise, out there than there is in Amsterdam.

      I’ve never been to Amsterdam but I’ve been to Las Vegas. I’ve walked down New Orlean’s Bourbon Street at midnight. It’s hard for me to imagine that Amsterdam or anywhere else has anything on the US when it comes to open and explicit displays of depravity.

      • I think it’s a reflection of a reaction. Depravity isn’t really so much of a thing; nothing is truly depraved, as most are just excesses of something normal. Acting profane against something secular definitely can be.

        It’s the difference between enjoying alcohol with every meal versus being a raging drunk. Some cultures enjoy a drink responsibly with each meal and consume quite a bit. Other cultures have history of teetotalism and christian sharia I mean blue laws, so the reaction to it is quite worse and leads to the worst forms of drunkedness.

        Maturity vs immaturity.

        Which, in the long run, means Netherlands, with full blown prostitution and drugs and everything, will always be more cleaner, safer, mature, less profane, less depraved…maybe even more holy…than a Las Vegas or Bourbon Street.

        And that scares the fundamentalists.

        • Put another way, what’s more Satanic: a teen dressed up in black and wearing makeup and listening to Marilyn Manson and being edgy, or a nice white smiling man in a suit stealing money from the sick and poor.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I was in New Orleans for TechEd 96. Stayed in the Quarter, but never actually went down Bourbon Street. Royal St (one street closer to the river) had all the art galleries and some good restaurants, and The Gumbo Shop on St Peter St had all the local specialties. (Except for breakfast; for that, the Café du Monde by the levee on Jackson Square, where you can watch the ships going by above your heads.)

        • Watching ship traffic on the Mississippi while enjoying beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde is truly enjoyable. I recommend wearing a white shirt so the powdered sugar that you’ll inevitable spill on yourself doesn’t show.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            That was my only time in the Big Easy; since I was on an expense account, I decided to sample all the local specialties — beignets, gumbo, jambalaya, etoufee, red beans & rice, po’ boys (never got to the muffuleta). Found out why all the Louisiana chefs on cookbook covers weigh about twice as much as me.

            First night there, discovered that Gumbo Shop Jambalaya and a thick stack of paper napkins are the best and quickest sinus headache remedy I’ve ever come across.

            And that in shrimp etoufee, the heat is on a delay fuse. You notice it’s kinda spicy as you’re eating it, but a minute or two after you finish, your mouth goes Carolina Reaper Challenge on you.

        • When I was in college in northern California, Second Street in old town Eureka, near the waterfront, was a long stretch of dive bars and falling-down structures that were “houses of ill repute.” After I left college, the city got a passel of money for municipal rehab, and turned Second Street into the the trendy spot: art galleries, specialty shops, boutique restaurants, etc. So where did all the ousted denizens go? One block east, to Third Street, is where you’ll find the dive bars and falling-down houses today, though not so many of them.

          Dana

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The view of the Netherlands that I see on American forums sometimes as being ‘spiritually dead’, ‘weaklings’ et cetera, is pretty weird.

      That’s because American Christians can only think with the brain below their belt. To them, there is NOTHING other than SEXUAL morality. Culture War Without End, Amen.

      • I can’t count the times I’ve heard conservatives in the US going on and on about the awful, nightmare societies of Western Europe. But these secular welfare states always rank near the top of every metric with which we define civilization. The good ole USA always floats about 19th or 20th in everything except child mortality and handgun murders.

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > Are the Dutch acting in a “Christ-like” manner in regards to feeding humanity?

    No. However, nobody can act in a Christ-like towards the hungry unless they have food.
    Generosity requires prosperity, prosperity is built on pragmatism.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Ever wonder whether the Dutch are able to do this because they don’t have Perfectly-Parsing Theology, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, or Culture War Without End to get in the way? Instead of Perfectly Parsing Theology and denouncing Heretics and Apostates, they are Getting Things Done?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        P.S. Forgot Rapture Scare Du Jour.

        • That just means the Netherlands are an untapped missions field. We need to the gospel to them! Bring the light into their eyes! Rub the salt into their (God-shaped open) wounds! From our city on the hill we shall reach down to them, and show them their True North!

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And they shall go to church every time they can, put the Fags and Trans back in their place, and vote for Trump.

      • +111111111111

      • They used to have those things. Remember the Synod of Fort?

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synod_of_Dort

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Ah, yes. The Reformation Wars. Where Europe did what Islam is doing now.

          And a little commentary from the resident SF fan:

          Eric Flint has written a “Forward into the Past” time-travel series (commonly called “1632” after its first novel) where a West Virginia town circa 2000 gets one-way time-slipped into Central Europe during the middle of the Thirty Years War (last, longest, and bloodiest of the Reformation Wars) and has to deal with it. As the downtimers have to deal with them and the uptime history trace and knowledge they bring.

          In one of the “Grantville Gazette” short story collections of the series, there’s a short titled “Hobson’s Choice”, centering on a literate downtimer Englishwoman. The “AHA!” moment of the story is when Miss Hobson discovers mentions of an uptime crop failure when reading/translating an uptime almanac — a “crop failure” whose yields per acre were TWICE what was a bumper crop in contemporary (downtime) agriculture. And only Miss Hobson and her circle of commoners notices this — their betters, like all Lords Temporal and Spiritual, are tunnel-visioned on Predestination, Election, God’s Purpose, and all the other Heavy Questions arising from the arrival of the uptimers.

  4. The problem of feeding the world doesn’t only have to do with production, it also has to do with corruption. A country like Venezuela should be able to easily feed it’s people, but many are starving. Why? A corrupt government. Nobody in the world today should be starving. We produce plenty. But getting it to the people is another story.

    • Yes. The problem everywhere is “distribution.” I heard stories from some folks who went to help in Haiti that there was tons of food and medical aid sent there, but just sitting at the docks going to waste and spoiling. Often it is a country’s own government preventing it from getting it to those in dire need.

    • Ronald Avra says:

      A government whose purpose is to continue in power rather than serve its citizens will go in the direction of Maduro’s in Venezuela.

    • And yet if history is any indication, Christianity and the gospel will do little to improve or minimize that corruption.

      Might even make it worse.

      Blessed are the poor in spirit.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And yet if history is any indication, Christianity and the gospel will do little to improve or minimize that corruption.

        And if Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, and Wondering Eagle are any indicator, it is those Gospelly Christians in Pastor and Elder positions who are the most corrupt of all.

      • Stuart, here you are just wrong. Certainly there have been and are corrupt people and leaders within Christianity, but to say that it can’t help and would just make things worse actually flies in the face of history and all the benevolent work that has been done by Christians, and the many governments which are not as corrupt (there is no such thing as government with absolutely no corruption), that have been heavily influenced by Christian beliefs and history. This includes even increasingly secular societies, like the Netherlands.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          I agree with Stuart. If one takes a global view, there are lots of majority – Christian countries both at the top and the bottom of the World Corruption Index, especially if one discounts countries in the grip of war.

          The best indicator of low corruption, when it comes to belief systems, is secularization – ie previously religious countries that are strongly secularized or in the process thereof. In the top 20 countries (ie low corruption), for 2016,there are only 2 countries one could consider strongly religious – and they are numbers 19 and 20 (Ireland and the US).

          • Where are France and Greece in the ranking? I’ve heard that both of these highly secularized nations are known for corruption; nothing gets done without bribes being directed to the right people.

            • Daniel Jepsen says:

              France is 23rd. Greece is 69th, right above Bahrain and Ghana.

              There does not seem to be a strong correlation between countries that have become secularized and those that are still more religious. US and Ireland fall in the middle of the pack among those countries with a Christian heritage (which countries score quite a bit higher than countries with other heritages as a whole, though this may simply be because of western wealth). Of course, it is incredibly tricky to prove causation through correlation.

              • Klasie Kraalogies says:

                Daniel – any strongly secularized countries in the lowest 50? And how many in the top 20?

                Depending on how one defines being secularized, almost 80% of the top 20 are secular. And none of the lowest 50. That is a pretty strong indication. Although, correlation is not causation. But if anything, it does belie the idea that religion = moral values, at least in broad strokes, as often claimed.

                • The lowest is North Korea. What do you call them? And as Daniel pointed out, most of those top 20 have a Christian heritage and you can’t just discount that influence on the culture even if they aren’t as religious as they used to be. You’ve taken a highly complex issue and tried to narrow it down to just one cause, secularization. It’s not that simple.

                  • Klasie Kraalogies says:

                    North Korea is a cult disguised as a country. That is pretty obvious. Also, I did not imply causation. I agreed with Stuart that there is no causation going the other way.

                    • I see now that you say in your second post that correlation is not causation. But what then was the reason for your first response to me in even posting the world corruption index? How does this back up Stuart’s original point if you aren’t implying causation?

                    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

                      Jon – I was presenting evidence that corroborated what Stuart said, namely that religuosity (of any kind) is not an improver of circumstances, as you were implying way back in your first comment. At the very least it has no impact.

              • I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a correlation in most cases between low corruption in a country and the existence in it of a reasonably robust and independent free press (North Korea is a separate and anomalous case).

                • Klasie Kraalogies says:

                  Hong Kong and Singapore at enot all that free, compared to other countries at the top of the list.

                  I think there is a range of factors, and to pick any one by itself can be problematic.

  5. “Is this the future of agriculture?”

    I hope so, because if not, we’re all going to be a hell of a lot hungrier in the second half of this century…

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/only-60-years-of-farming-left-if-soil-degradation-continues/

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      I suspect it will be and won’t be.

      This *amazing* level of productivity is requires a lot of infrastructure; infrastructure requires political stability, which in turn requires at least a modest share of civic trust. Places with those properties will build the infrastructure and reap the rewards, those without will not be able to, and likely never even get around to thinking about it – stressed humanity seems inclined towards blaming failure on everything other than the lack of success. I fear those places will be unpleasant on a scale we’ve never yet seen. 🙁
      But some of the great places have to potential to be prosperous at a scale my grand-parents could not even imagine.

  6. Well all this sounds impressive but is really wasted effort because the Rapture is going to take place in a couple days, dontcha know? This is the consensus of the really thoughtful voices on the Internet so it behooves us to take heed.

    What the Dutch also lead in is land reclamation. And given the probable conditions of life on this benighted planet in the next hundred years it may be that the it is the Dutch who will inherit the earth!

    • I was in a prayer meeting a couple days ago when one of the people said that the “new” predicted end was 9/23/17. I said, “Dang, I’m flying to Dallas tomorrow and I’ll be out of town then!”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        My writing partner tipped me off about this Rapture Scare a couple weeks ago.

        IT’S ENTIRELY BASED ON ASTROLOGY. Both Sun and Moon are entering Virgo, which fulfills Prophecy, specifically Revelation 12:1.

        And there’s more: Planet X/Nibiru (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nibiru_cataclysm) will also make an appearance. The fulfillment of Revelation 12:1 is its cue to sweep insystem in a matter of minutes to destroy the world.

        • A planet-sized object tearing through the solar system at faster-than-light speeds? Astrology, hell – they’re basing this on Anime. 😛

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            They probably have a Verse:
            “What is impossible for man is possible for God!”

            Though this one’s about as farfetched as the 1974 Comet Kohoutek Rapture Scare, a local one based entirely upon a Verse that “the sun and moon shall brighten sevenfold”, to be fulfilled by the brightness of the comet.

            And at least this one admits to their (highly questionable) source. The widespread Rosh Hashanah Rapture Scare of 1975 (of which today is the 42nd anniversary on the Jewish calendar) actually began among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but nobody at the time would admit to that. Most detailed and exactly-calculated I’ve been through, with the Rapture predicted to the exact minute (of sunset in Jerusalem beginning Rosh Hashanah) and the Tribulation choreographed almost down to the minute, everything proven again and again from SCRIPTURE(TM). All completely airtight, Verse after Verse after Verse. And it is now 2017 — what does that tell you?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        I saw that on RNS. I am so happy that in my current environs/circles I would be oblivious to that nonsense if I didn’t check RNS.

        I will be on a bus to Traverse City MI on Saturday, when the world ends, going through several places that look like it already did.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > …but is really wasted effort because…

      But math, economics, civics, and logistics are hard. Apocalypse is easy.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Just sit back, keep your nose squeaky-clean, and piously clutch your Fire Insurance policy and Rapture Boarding Pass.

        “And I will be laughing as the world burns.”
        — Some IMonk commenter who got banned around 10 years ago.

    • Ha, with a group of fellow Dutch authors I’m working on a sci fi project starting in 2018 on this basis: given that the Dutch are great in waterworks and land reclamation, the Netherlands grow financially due to the increasing demand as a consequence of climate change. And then as they already perform ‘terraforming’ on a great scale they are also in demand for work on Mars and other moons and planets – combined with the trading spirit that made the Netherlands one of the great powers in the 16th century (our ‘golden century’), the Dutch rule the solar system. Until it all goes wrong, that is. And there are posthuman cyborgs involved as well.

  7. Incredible. They’re doing amazing work and I wish the US was even half as good as them.

    +1 and AMEN to the concluding thoughts as well. It’s night and day, so simple and obvious. Once the shackles of politics and churchianity are off, this stuff just logically and naturally flows the right way.

    My step grandpa is from the Netherlands I believe. Would love to go visit sometime. What a wonderful country.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Once the shackles of _ churchianity are off, this stuff just logically and naturally flows the right way

      With that I wholeheartedly agree.

  8. Brother Smo says:

    I might even argue that our nation, yes I am a Dutchman, is more Christ-like in regards to our prostitution laws than our productivity and innovation in farming. Christ never said anything about glasshouses but He did show us how to treat a prostitute. The proof of the high quality and quantity farming will be visible when we distribute the harvest and gained knowledge.

    In the end it is not a matter of bargaining in front of the throne; “yes, we might have kept all the food for ourselves but please consider how we treated our prostitutes…” That will not fly.

    In my more cynical moods I suspect that a lot of the agricultural innovations were motivated by increasing profit and our prostitution laws by not willing to take a stance. But I am also optimistic: we are reducing the mistreatment of the land we received (and claimed) and prostitutes are closer to being treated as fellow citizens with equal rights.

  9. Great article. Thanks Mike.

  10. Heather Angus says:

    Wonderful article!

    And I entertain the notion that those Dutch atheists and agnostics are going to be among the sheep to whom Christ says ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat… Then the righteous [Dutch atheists] will answer him, ‘Lord [or Sir?], when did we see you hungry and feed you… The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    Not “whatever you believed…” but “whatever you *did*…”

  11. Daniel Jepsen says:

    I’m a little confused about the tenor of some of the comments, to the effect that the good news reported in the post is somehow a mark against religion.

    There are numerous ways of assessing agricultural output, including sheer tonnage and the dollar volume of the commodities produced. It’s important to look at both, as it is often the case that commodities critical to the food supply of less-developed countries don’t show up as high dollar-value crops.

    Three countries (the U.S., China and India) each produce more food than the entire European Union put together. In fourth place is Brazil. Obviously, no correlation between religion and food production here.

    As far as food exports per dollar (which metric favors fruit, vegetables and dairy over the grain products most poorer nations rely on) the list is here: http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-american-food-giant-the-largest-exporter-of-food-in-the-world.html

    This list seems to correlate with many other factors (wealth, land mass, climate, political stability) more than with religion or secularization. This is especially seen in the fact that two of the three countries with the most atheists per capita (Sweden and the Czech Republic) are not even on the list, while the most religious wealthy country (the U.S) dominates the list.

    Let’s rejoice that the Netherlands is able to sell a lot of surplus food; let’s not read theological/philosophical meaning into it.

    • Let’s rejoice that the Netherlands is able to sell a lot of surplus food; let’s not read theological/philosophical meaning into it.

      This.

      I see it as purely a pragmatism-driven phenomenon, and more power to them.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > the good news reported in the post is somehow a mark against religion.

      Probably because this is America, and most of us are likely in the mid-west.

      My sentiments are more Sociological than Theological; it is the white hot correlation between hand-wringing utter despair and churchianity.

      One of the principle reasons we cannot “have nice things” in America, why we can so rarely achieve the kind of this this post describes: The church [and pastors]. The church’s devotion to Cynicism [the bad kind of Skepticism], pessimism, and disgust may be, IMNSHO, so deep it is unsalvageable for a generation. They can hand wave away people dying, hunger, the epidemic of drug addiction, bad water, because – of course the world is that way, it cannot be any other way, all notions of progress are delusion, everyone is corrupt. Much of American Christianity is like the dwarves of the the Narnian Last Battle: “so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out”. Sadly here in the real world they insist all the rest of us be locked up with them.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        They can hand wave away people dying, hunger, the epidemic of drug addiction, bad water, because – of course the world is that way, it cannot be any other way, all notions of progress are delusion, everyone is corrupt.

        You missed “It’s All Gonna Burn.”

  12. Thanks for highlighting this, Mike.

    With regard to population control, the answer has been shown again and again:

    EDUCATE THE WOMEN.

    Educated women have fewer children, and besides that they contribute significantly to the family and village/town economy – and thus affect the economy of their country – via small businesses.

    This also is not a snap-your-fingers solution; it requires time and investment of resources. It requires having and enforcing a rule of law (see Gary Haugen’s TED talk), along with, as Finn noted above, “political stability, which in turn requires at least a modest share of civic trust.” With the education of women particularly, it requires THE WILL TO DO IT. In first world countries, population rates are decreasing, which is actually becoming a problem. But increasing population in the third world is an indicator of our general lack of concern for the people there, and ***particularly*** the women and children. We don’t educate women, and we don’t support things like these self-sustaining, pesticide-free farming operations, because WE JUST DON’T WANT TO DO IT (not excluding myself here, either). Not much prospect of exploitation or immediate $$$ return, so not much incentive.

    /rant

    Dana

    • +1

      Poverty is sexist.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > This also is not a snap-your-fingers solution; it requires time and investment of resources.

      Yep.

      > Not much prospect of exploitation or immediate $$$ return, so not much incentive.

      I am with you up to here; the economic incentive is ***MASSIVE***.
      The hard part is getting people to a point where they are willing to do the math.
      Which goes back to civic trust.

      • Finn, I said *immediate economic return*. You’re right about doing the math and civic trust, but that’s not going to happen under strong-arm rulers; they have to expend too much energy keeping their position. People like Mugabe and Maduro are not going to let power be wrested from them except through their cold, dead fingers.

        Dana

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      Absolutely correct!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Thanks for highlighting this, Mike.

      With regard to population control, the answer has been shown again and again:

      EDUCATE THE WOMEN.

      Educated women have fewer children, and besides that they contribute significantly to the family and village/town economy – and thus affect the economy of their country – via small businesses.

      And judging from what’s come under scrutiny on Wartburg Watch, Spiritual Sounding Board, and Homeschoolers Anonymous, there’s a semi-stealth movement among American Christians(TM) to reverse these gains in our own country — Quiverfull breeding programs, Christian Complementarianism/Patriarchy. Seems to be a fringe centered around the Neo-Cal, Fundagelical, and Culture Warrior types, but I don’t know how sizable or influential a fringe.

      Outside the First World, look into “microloans” that emphasize female-run cottage industries. I know they’re there, but I don’t know which groups are reputable.

  13. Wow, after reading Mike’s post today (and it is really good) and then perusing the subsequent comments, it occurs to me that Charles Fines comment yesterday seems all the more profound.

    • You can feed a lot of people in 100 years.

      And a lot of people can die in 20 minutes of silent meditation.

      Did Jesus go to pray before or after the 5000 were fed?

      There’s value in both. But I’ll always side with the group that wants to discuss and do something instead of sitting and contemplating and finding their third eye before they act.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        +1

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        All Marys and No Marthas are out-of-balance.
        All Marthas and No Marys are out-of-balance.

        Charles Fines comes across as a “Mary”, a contemplative mystic type (which I definitely am not).

  14. How much of what you are describing is “Dutchness” of the culture, rather than Christ-likeness?
    The same culture that gave you land reclamation and legalized prostitution and drugs, also gave us the work ethic of the Dutch reformed in Michigan.
    And gave us the Dutch Afrikaaners, with a legacy of both highly efficient government and apartheid.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      Speaking as an ethnic Afrikaner – my ancestors might be about 50% Dutch, and then French, German, English, Khoi and Malagassy.

      Implying that the good or bad of a society is due to its ethnicity is, well, do I have to say It??

      • Notice I did not say I was referring to ethnicity or race. But I am wondering about cultural traits that may have been handed down, such as work ethic ( NOT work “ethnic”).

        The original post asked this question: “Are the Dutch acting in a “Christ-like” manner in regards to feeding humanity?” That is a broad-brush question about the values of Dutch culture. If we can’t dispassionately discuss whether aspects of a culture are better or worse (or perhaps “more/less preferable in some of its outcomes”) than another, then it would render the original post meaningless.

        And if all cultures must be considered morally equal in order to avoid potential offense, then on what basis, for example, would one be able to criticize aspects of 1950’s American southern culture?

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          I am not speaking about culture per Dr. But the connection between Afrikaners and the Dutch is much more ethnic than cultural – if anything, the Afrikaner culture is closer to the British/ Australian culture, even if the language is fairly close.

          Not all cultures are the same. But that says nothing about races…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      However you want to argue it, when it comes to high-tech “sustainable agriculture”, the Dutch are doing it right. More like “Truck Farm” crops instead of grain staples, but our truck farm agriculture could learn from them.