How Two Christians and Climate Change Saved India

Vijay Jayaraj (M.S., Environmental Science) is the Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.
Vijay Jayaraj (M.S., Environmental Science) is the Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Climate plays a critical role in determining the success of crop production in any country. India, home to 1.2 billion people, was favored by two key allies — faith and climate change.

India gained independence from the British in 1947. During the colonial rule, a missionary named William Carey had already laid the foundation for India to become a successful agricultural nation.

Carey was the first Agricultural Minister of India, establishing the Agricultural and Horticultural Society in 1820 — thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England.

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The society's main goals were to develop and promote agriculture in India. It included efforts to improve the land, encouraging a superior mode of cultivation, introducing best rotation policies for crops, introducing new and useful plants, improvement of husbandry, and developing the animal stock that led to India's dairy revolution.

However, there remained a void after the departure of famed agricultural missionaries like Carey. Post-independence, during the 1960s, the country struggled to meet the demand for food crops from the growing population.

To address the dire circumstances, the Indian government called in Norman Borlaug. Borlaug had already revolutionized the agricultural situation in Mexico by introducing using high-yield, disease-resistant, reliable varieties of crops.

In India, Borlaug introduced high-yield and high fidelity rice varieties, averting what had seemed the certain collapse of the entire nation. Aided by modern agricultural techniques and fertilizers, these crop varieties helped the nation to achieve a surplus in crop production and begin exporting the surplus to other countries.

Both Carey and Borlaug exemplified their Christian faith by their service to God and to humanity. Their ingenious methodologies gifted India with a potential that resulted in an agrarian powerhouse.

India was not alone in this massive agricultural revolution. Other developing tropical countries also benefitted immensely.

This global success had another common catalyst — carbon dioxide.

It is critical to address the biogeochemical cycles and physical phenomena that facilitated the agricultural explosion during the 20th century.

Contrary to public perception and media folklore, the increase in carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere during the past two centuries has actually resulted in increased plant growth globally.

This is a scientifically recognized, empirically verified fact that has contributed to the greening of the planet.

Undoubtedly, India also owes its well-acclaimed agricultural success to the steady increase in carbon dioxide content, which has increased plant growth and decreased water use.

Besides the help from carbon dioxide increase, the nation also enjoyed other favorable climatic conditions. The past 15 years saw the country receive healthy rainfall.

Technological developments, supported and sustained by coal-powered energy, helped the country build dams and irrigation systems that guaranteed adequate water to crops.

Today, India's crop production is increasing constantly, and each year surpasses the production of the previous year.

Carbon dioxide (and the energy sources that emit it) has been falsely accused of causing disruption to the agricultural sector in India. Allegations of ill effects of carbon dioxide enhancement are solely based on incorrect and unscientific hypotheses concerning global temperature increase.

The climate change in the past 50 years, along with the modern agricultural technological innovations, has been a boon, not a curse, for Indian agriculture.

My own roots are from a family of agriculture, and I am a successful individual today because of the climate change-fueled agricultural success of India and the same Christian faith that Carey and Borlaug brought to India.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in New Delhi, India.

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