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Can Planet Earth Feed 10 Billion People?

地球能养活100亿人吗?



Humanity has 30 years to find out.

人类还有30年的时间来寻找答案。

All parents remember the moment when they first held their children—the tiny crumpled face, an entire new person, emerging from the hospital blanket. I extended my hands and took my daughter in my arms. I was so overwhelmed that I could hardly think.

所有的父母都记得他们第一次抱起孩子的那一刻——那张小小的、皱皱巴巴的脸,一个全新的人,从医院的毛毯中出现。我伸出双手,把我的女儿抱在怀里。我太不知所措了,简直难以想象。

Afterward I wandered outside so that mother and child could rest. It was three in the morning, late February in New England. There was ice on the sidewalk and a cold drizzle in the air. As I stepped from the curb, a thought popped into my head: When my daughter is my age, almost 10 billion people will be walking the Earth. I stopped midstride. I thought, How is that going to work?

之后我在外面闲逛,这样妈妈和孩子就可以休息了。那时是凌晨3点,地点是2月下旬的新英格兰。人行道上有冰,空气中飘着冰冷的毛毛雨。当我沿着路边走下来的时候,一种想法突然出现在我的脑海里:当我的女儿到我现在的年纪时,差不多会有100亿人在地球上行走。我停止了散步。我在想,这是怎么回事?

In 1970, when I was in high school, about one out of every four people was hungry—“undernourished,” to use the term preferred today by the United Nations. Today the proportion has fallen to roughly one out of 10. In those four-plus decades, the global average life span has, astoundingly, risen by more than 11 years; most of the increase occurred in poor places. Hundreds of millions of people in Asia, Latin America, and Africa have lifted themselves from destitution into something like the middle class. This enrichment has not occurred evenly or equitably: Millions upon millions are not prosperous. Still, nothing like this surge of well-being has ever happened before. No one knows whether the rise can continue, or whether our current affluence can be sustained.

1970年,当我上高中的时候,世界上每四个人中就有一个人处于饥饿状态——也就是“营养不良”——联合国用这个词来形容他们。如今,这一比例已降至约十分之一。在过去的四十年里,全球平均寿命的增加量超过了11年;大部分的增长都出现在贫困地区。亚洲、拉丁美洲和非洲的数亿人已经让自己脱离了贫困,变成了中产阶级。这种脱贫的进程并不是均匀或公平地发生的:还有无数的人仍然处于贫困的状态。然而,以前从未出现过这种幸福感的激增。没有人知道这一增长能否持续下去,也没有人知道我们目前的富裕能否持续下去。

Today the world has about 7.6 billion inhabitants. Most demographers believe that by about 2050, that number will reach 10 billion or a bit less. Around this time, our population will probably begin to level off. As a species, we will be at about “replacement level”: On average, each couple will have just enough children to replace themselves. All the while, economists say, the world’s development should continue, however unevenly. The implication is that when my daughter is my age, a sizable percentage of the world’s 10 billion people will be middle-class.

今天,世界上大约有76亿居民。大多数人口学家认为,到2050年,这一数字将达到100亿,或者稍微少一点。到了这一时间,我们的人口可能会开始趋于平稳,作为一个物种,我们将处于“更替水平”:平均来说,每对夫妇将有足够的孩子来替换他们自己。一直以来,经济学家们都认为世界的发展应该会继续下去,无论发展是如何地不均衡。这意味着,当我的女儿达到我的年级时,世界上100亿人口中有相当一部分将是中产阶级。

Affluence is not our greatest achievement but our biggest problem.

富裕不是我们最大的成就,而是我们最大的问题。

Like other parents, I want my children to be comfortable in their adult lives. But in the hospital parking lot, this suddenly seemed unlikely. Ten billion mouths, I thought. Three billion more middle-class appetites. How can they possibly be satisfied? But that is only part of the question. The full question is: How can we provide for everyone without making the planet uninhabitable?

就像其他父母一样,我希望我的孩子在他们的成年生活阶段感到舒适。但在医院的停车场里,我觉得这似乎不太可能。我想,到时候将会有100亿张嘴。30亿中产阶级的胃。他们怎么可能会满意呢?但这只是问题的一部分。现在的问题是:我们如何才能在不让地球变得不适宜居住的情况下为所有人提供他们所需要的东西呢?

Bitter Rivals

激烈的竞争对手

While my children were growing up, I took advantage of journalistic assignments to speak about these questions, from time to time, with experts in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. As the conversations accumulated, the responses seemed to fall into two broad categories, each associated (at least in my mind) with one of two people, both of them Americans who lived in the 20th century. The two people were barely acquainted and had little regard for each other’s work. But they were largely responsible for the creation of the basic intellectual blueprints that institutions around the world use today for understanding our environmental dilemmas. Unfortunately, their blueprints offer radically different answers to the question of survival.

在我的孩子们成长的过程中,我利用了新闻作业的机会,不时地与欧洲、亚洲和美洲的专家们讨论这些问题。随着讨论内容的积累,我发现他们的反应似乎可以分为两大类,每一类都与两个人相关联(至少在我看来),这两个人都是20世纪的美国人。他们几乎不相识,对彼此的工作也几乎不关心。但是,他们在很大程度上与今天全世界各地的机构用来理解我们的环境困境的基本知识蓝图的创造是有密切关系的。不幸的是,他们各自的蓝图为生存问题提供了截然不同的答案。

The two people were William Vogt and Norman Borlaug.

这两个人就是威廉·沃格特和诺曼·博劳格。

Vogt, born in 1902, laid out the basic ideas for the modern environmental movement. In particular, he founded what the Hampshire College population researcher Betsy Hartmann has called “apocalyptic environmentalism”—the belief that unless humankind drastically reduces consumption and limits population, it will ravage global ecosystems. In best-selling books and powerful speeches, Vogt argued that affluence is not our greatest achievement but our biggest problem. If we continue taking more than the Earth can give, he said, the unavoidable result will be devastation on a global scale. Cut back! Cut back! was his mantra.

沃格特出生于1902年,他为现代环保运动提出了其基本的理念。特别是他创立了罕布什尔学院的人口研究人员贝齐·哈特曼所谓的“世界末日环境论”——这一理论认为除非人类大幅减少消费和限制人口数量,否则它将破坏全球生态系统。在其畅销书和强有力的演讲中,沃格特认为富裕不是我们最大的成就,而是我们最大的问题。他说,如果我们继续攫取的资源超出了地球所能提供的范畴,那么不可避免的结果将会是全球性的毁灭。“削减!削减!”便是他所念的咒语。

Borlaug, born 12 years after Vogt, has become the emblem of “techno-optimism”—the view that science and technology, properly applied, will let us produce a way out of our predicament. He was the best-known figure in the research that in the 1960s created the Green Revolution, the combination of high-yielding crop varieties and agronomic techniques that increased grain harvests around the world, helping to avert tens of millions of deaths from hunger. To Borlaug, affluence was not the problem but the solution. Only by getting richer and more knowledgeable can humankind create the science that will resolve our environmental dilemmas. Innovate! Innovate! was his cry.

比沃格特小12岁的博劳格现在已经成为了“技术乐观主义”的象征——他认为科学和技术的正确应用将让我们走出困境。在上世纪60年代,他是这项研究中最为著名的人物,他创造了绿色革命,将高产作物品种和农艺技术结合在一起,提高了世界各地的粮食收成,帮助数千万人避免了因饥饿而死亡的命运。对博劳格来说,富裕不是问题,而是解决方案。只有变得更富有、更有知识,人类才能创造出解决我们环境困境的科学。“创新!创新!”是他的呼声。

Both men thought of themselves as using new scientific knowledge to face a planetary crisis. But that is where the similarity ends. For Borlaug, human ingenuity was the solution to our problems. One example: By using the advanced methods of the Green Revolution to increase per-acre yields, he argued, farmers would not have to plant as many acres, an idea researchers now call the “Borlaug hypothesis.” Vogt’s views were the opposite: The solution, he said, was to use ecological knowledge to get smaller. Rather than grow more grain to produce more meat, humankind should, as his followers say, “eat lower on the food chain,” to lighten the burden on Earth’s ecosystems. This is where Vogt differed from his predecessor, Robert Malthus, who famously predicted that societies would inevitably run out of food because they would always have too many children. Vogt, shifting the argument, said that we may be able to grow enough food, but at the cost of wrecking the world’s ecosystems.

这两个人都认为自己是在应用新的科学知识面对一场行星级别的危机。但这就是他们所有的相似之处。对博劳格来说,人类的聪明才智是解决我们所面临问题的方法。他说,通过使用绿色革命的先进方法来提高每英亩的产量,农民们不需要种植那么多英亩的土地,这是研究人员现在所谓的“博劳格假说”。沃格特的观点则是相反的:他认为解决方案是利用生态知识来缩小规模。正如他的追随者所说的,与其种植更多的粮食来生产更多的肉类,人类更应该“吃处于食物链更低端的食物”,以减轻地球生态系统的负担。这是沃格特和他的前辈罗伯特·马尔萨斯的不同之处,后者曾预言,整个社会将不可避免地耗尽粮食,因为他们总是会生育太多的孩子。沃格特改变了这一观点,他认为我们可能可以种植出足够的食物,但代价是破坏整个世界的生态系统。

I think of the adherents of these two perspectives as “Wizards” and “Prophets.” Wizards, following Borlaug’s model, unveil technological fixes; Prophets, looking to Vogt, decry the consequences of our heedlessness.

我将这两种观点的追随者视为是“巫师”和“先知”。追随博劳格模式的巫师们揭开了技术修复的面纱;认同沃格特观点的先知们则谴责我们掉以轻心所造成的后果。

Borlaug and Vogt traveled in the same orbit for decades, but rarely acknowledged each other. Their first and only meeting, in the mid-1940s, led to disagreement—immediately afterward, Vogt tried to get Borlaug’s work shut down. So far as I know, they never spoke afterward. Each referred to the other’s ideas in public addresses, but never attached a name. Instead, Vogt rebuked the anonymous “deluded” scientists who were actually aggravating our problems. Borlaug branded his opponents “Luddites.”

沃格特和博劳格在同一轨道上行进了几十年,但他们很少承认彼此。在上世纪40年代中期,他们的第一次和唯一一次会面便导致了后来的不和,沃格特试图让让博劳格的工作无以为继。据我所知,他们之后从没有相互交流过。每个人都曾在公共演讲中提到对方的想法,但却从不附上对方的姓名。相反,沃格特不点名地批评了那些实际上加重了我们所面临问题的“充满迷惑性”的科学家。博劳格则把他的对手称为“卢德主义者”(译者注:卢德主义者是19世纪英国民间对抗工业革命、反对纺织工业化的社会运动者。在该运动中,常常发生毁坏纺织机的事件。这是因为工业革命运用机器大量取代人力劳作,使许多手工工人失业。后世也将反对任何新科技的人称做卢德主义者。)。

Both men are dead now, but the dispute between their disciples has only become more vehement. Wizards view the Prophets’ emphasis on cutting back as intellectually dishonest, indifferent to the poor, even racist (because most of the world’s hungry are non-Caucasian). Following Vogt, they say, is a path toward regression, narrowness, poverty, and hunger—toward a world where billions live in misery despite the scientific knowledge that could free them. Prophets sneer that the Wizards’ faith in human resourcefulness is unthinking, ignorant, even driven by greed (because refusing to push beyond ecological limits will cut into corporate profits). High-intensity, Borlaug-style industrial farming, Prophets say, may pay off in the short run, but in the long run will make the day of ecological reckoning hit harder. The ruination of soil and water by heedless overuse will lead to environmental collapse, which will in turn create worldwide social convulsion. Wizards reply: That’s exactly the global humanitarian crisis we’re preventing! As the finger-pointing has escalated, conversations about the environment have turned into dueling monologues, each side unwilling to engage with the other.

两个人现在都已不在人世,但是他们的门徒之间的争论变得更加激烈了。巫师们认为先知对削减规模的强调是智力上的不诚实,是对穷人的漠不关心,甚至认为他们是种族主义者(因为世界上大部分受饥饿威胁的人都是非白种人)。他们说,追随沃格特是一条走向退化、狭隘、贫穷和饥饿的道路,最终所导致的将是一个数十亿人生活于痛苦当中的世界,尽管我们有着可以解放他们的科学知识。先知们则冷笑着说,巫师们对人类智慧所抱有的信心是欠考虑的、傲慢的,甚至是被贪婪所驱使的(因为拒绝对超越生态的活动加以限制将会削减公司的利润)。先知们说,高强度、博劳格式的工业化农业可能会在短期内得到回报,但从长远来看,这将使生态的清算来的更加猛烈。不顾后果的过度使用所引发的水土毁灭会导致环境的崩溃,进而造成世界范围内的社会动荡。巫师们则回答:这正是我们要阻止的全球人道主义危机!随着两个群体之间相互指责的加剧,有关环境的对话变成了决斗式的自说自话,双方都不愿与对方进行互动。

Which might be all right, if we weren’t discussing the fate of our children.

如果我们不讨论孩子们的命运,这可能是对的。

The Roads to Hell

通往地狱之路

Vogt entered history in 1948, when he published Road to Survival, the first modern we’re-all-going-to-hell book. It contained the foundational argument of today’s environmental movement: carrying capacity. Often called by other names—“ecological limits,” “planetary boundaries”—carrying capacity posits that every ecosystem has a limit to what it can produce. Exceed that limit for too long and the ecosystem will be ruined. As human numbers increase, Road to Survival said, our demands for food will exceed the Earth’s carrying capacity. The results will be catastrophic: erosion, desertification, soil exhaustion, species extinction, and water contamination that will, sooner or later, lead to massive famines. Embraced by writers like Rachel Carson (the author of Silent Spring and one of Vogt’s friends) and Paul Ehrlich (the author of The Population Bomb), Vogt’s arguments about exceeding limits became the wellspring of today’s globe-spanning environmental movement—the only enduring ideology to emerge from the past century.

沃格特于1948年进入了历史,当时他出版了《通往生存的道路》一书,这是现代第一本“地狱之书”。它包含了当今环保运动的基本论点:承载能力。通常被冠以其他名称——“生态极限”、“行星边界”的承载能力假定每个生态系统都有其所能出产资源的极限。超过这个限度,生态系统就会被破坏。《通往生存的道路》指出,随着人类数量的增加,我们对食物的需求将超过地球的承载能力。结果将是灾难性的:水土流失、沙漠化、地力衰竭、物种灭绝和水污染,这迟早会导致大规模的饥荒。被像雷切尔·卡森 (《寂静的春天》的作者和沃格特的朋友)和保罗·欧利希(《人口炸弹》的作者)所接受的沃格特关于超越极限的观点成为了当今世界范围内的环境运动的源泉,这是过去一个世纪中唯一长盛不衰的意识形态。

When Road to Survival appeared, Borlaug was a young plant pathologist working in a faltering program to improve Mexican agriculture. Sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, the project focused on helping the nation’s poor corn farmers. Borlaug was in Mexico for a small side project that involved wheat—or rather, black stem rust, a fungus that is wheat’s oldest and worst predator (the Romans made sacrifices to propitiate the god of stem rust). Cold usually killed stem rust in the United States, but it was constantly present in warmer Mexico, and every spring winds drove it across the border to reinfect U.S. wheat fields.

当《通往生存的道路》面世时,博劳格还是一个年轻的植物病理学家,当时他正致力于一项旨在改善墨西哥农业的摇摇欲坠的项目。这个由洛克菲勒基金会赞助的项目致力于帮助贫穷的种植玉米的农民。博劳格之前还在墨西哥实施了一个小规模的项目,其对象包括小麦——或者说是杆锈病,对小麦来说,这是一种最古老也最可怕的“捕食者”真菌(罗马人曾经献祭讨好杆锈病之神)。寒冷的天气通常能够灭除美国的茎锈病,但它在温暖的墨西哥却一直得以幸存,然后每年春天,风便会带着它穿越边境,重新感染美国的麦田。

The sole Rockefeller researcher working on wheat, Borlaug was given so little money that he had to sleep in sheds and fields for months on end. But he succeeded by the mid-’50s in breeding wheat that was resistant to many strains of rust. Not only that, he then created wheat that was much shorter than usual—what became known as “semi-dwarf” wheat. In the past, when wheat was heavily fertilized, it had grown so fast that its stalks became spindly and fell over in the wind. The plants, unable to pull themselves erect, had rotted and died. Borlaug’s shorter, stouter wheat could absorb large doses of fertilizer and channel the extra growth into grain rather than roots or stalk. In early tests, farmers sometimes harvested literally 10 times as much grain from their fields. Yields climbed at such a rate that in 1968 a USAID official called the rise the Green Revolution, thus naming the phenomenon that would come to define the 20th century.

作为唯一一名研究小麦的洛克菲勒研究人员,博劳格所获得的赞助非常之少,以至于他在几个月的时间里不得不在棚屋和田地里睡觉。但他在50年代中期成功地培育出了对多个品种的秆锈病具有抗性的小麦。不仅如此,他还创造出了比普通小麦更矮的小麦,也就是所谓的“半矮杆”小麦。过去,当小麦被大量施肥时,它的生长速度非常快,它的茎秆变得细长,容易被风刮倒。那些无法直立的植株会腐烂和死亡。博劳格的矮小麦可以吸收大量的化肥,并将额外的营养传输给谷粒,而不是根或茎。在早期的测试中,农民们有时会收获10倍于过去的谷物。在1968年,美国国际开发署的一名官员称其为“绿色革命”,从而命名了这一将会定义20世纪的现象。

The Green Revolution had its most dramatic effects in Asia, where in 1962 the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation opened the International Rice Research Institute (irri) in the Philippines. At the time, at least half of Asia lived in hunger and want; farm yields in many places were stagnant or falling. Governments that had only recently thrown off colonialism were battling communist insurgencies, most notably in Vietnam. U.S. leaders believed the appeal of communism lay in its promise of a better future. Washington wanted to demonstrate that development occurred best under capitalism. irri’s hope was that top research teams would transform Asia by rapidly introducing modern rice agriculture—“a Manhattan Project for food,” in the historian Nick Cullather’s phrase.

绿色革命在亚洲产生了最显著的影响。1962年,洛克菲勒基金会和福特基金会在菲律宾开办了国际水稻研究所。当时,至少有一半的亚洲人生活在饥饿和贫困之中;许多地方的农业产量停滞不前,甚至出现了下降。那些刚刚摆脱殖民主义统治的政府正在与共产主义的叛乱作斗争,其中最引人注目的便是越南。美国领导人相信,共产主义的吸引力在于它对未来的承诺。华盛顿想要证明,在资本主义下才会有最好的发展。国际水稻研究所希望顶尖的研究团队将通过快速引入现代的水稻农业——“一项食物的曼哈顿计划”(这是历史学家尼克·卡拉瑟的说法)来变革亚洲。

Following Borlaug’s lead, irri researchers developed new, high-yielding rice varieties. These swept through Asia in the ’70s and ’80s, nearly tripling rice harvests. More than 80 percent of the rice grown in Asia today originated at irri. Even though the continent’s population has soared, Asian men, women, and children consume an average of 30 percent more calories than they did when irri was founded. Seoul and Shanghai, Jaipur and Jakarta; shining skyscrapers, pricey hotels, traffic-jammed streets ablaze with neon—all were built atop a foundation of laboratory-bred rice.

在博劳格的领导下,国际水稻研究所的研究人员开发出了新的高产量水稻品种。它们在70年代和80年代横扫亚洲,几乎是原有水稻产量的三倍。如今,亚洲超过80%的水稻都来自于国际水稻研究所。尽管亚洲的人口已经大幅增长,但这片大陆的男性、女性和儿童所获取的平均热量比国际水稻研究所建立时多出了30%。首尔、上海、斋浦尔和雅加达;闪闪发光的摩天大楼、昂贵的酒店、布满霓虹灯的街道,这些都是用人工培育的大米建造的。

Were the Prophets disproved? Was carrying capacity a chimera? No. As Vogt had predicted, the enormous jump in productivity led to enormous environmental damage: drained aquifers, fertilizer runoff, aquatic dead zones, and degraded and waterlogged soils. Worse in a human sense, the rapid increase in productivity made rural land more valuable. Suddenly it was worth stealing—and rural elites in many places did just that, throwing poor farmers off their land. The Prophets argued that the Green Revolution would merely postpone the hunger crisis; it was a one-time lucky break, rather than a permanent solution. And our rising numbers and wealth mean that, just as the Prophets said, our harvests will have to jump again—a second Green Revolution, the Wizards add.

先知们被打脸了吗?承载能力只是一种幻想了吗?不。正如沃格特所预测的那样,生产力的巨大增长导致了巨大的环境破坏:被抽干的蓄水层、肥料的扩散、死水区,以及退化的和渍水的土壤。更糟糕的是,生产力的迅速提高使农村土地变得更有价值。但是突然间,它的价值被偷走了,许多地方的农村精英就是这么做的,他们把贫穷的农民从土地上扔了出去。先知们认为,绿色革命仅仅是推迟了饥饿危机的发生;这是一次幸运的突破,而不是永久性的解决方案。正如先知所指出的,我们不断增长的人口数量和财富意味着我们的收成将不得不再次大幅提升才行——也就是第二次绿色革命,巫师们补充道。

Even though the global population in 2050 will be just 25 percent higher than it is now, typical projections claim that farmers will have to boost food output by 50 to 100 percent. The main reason is that increased affluence has always multiplied the demand for animal products such as cheese, dairy, fish, and especially meat—and growing feed for animals requires much more land, water, and energy than producing food simply by growing and eating plants. Exactly how much more meat tomorrow’s billions will want to consume is unpredictable, but if they are anywhere near as carnivorous as today’s Westerners, the task will be huge. And, Prophets warn, so will the planetary disasters that will come of trying to satisfy the world’s desire for burgers and bacon: ravaged landscapes, struggles over water, and land grabs that leave millions of farmers in poor countries with no means of survival.

尽管到2050年,全球人口将比现在多出25%,但典型的预测表明,农民将不得不将粮食产量提高50%至100%。其中的主要原因是,财富的增加总是成倍地增加人们对动物类产品的需求,如奶酪、奶制品、鱼类,尤其是肉类和饲料的增长需要更多的土地、水和能源,而不是仅仅通过种植和食用植物来生产粮食。确切地说,未来数十亿人想要消费多少肉是不可预测的,但如果他们和今天的西方人一样吃肉的话,这个任务将是艰巨的。而且,先知们警告称,试图满足全世界人口吃汉堡和培根的欲望的结果便是一场全球性的灾难:饱受蹂躏的风景地貌、对水资源的争夺,以及对土地的掠夺,这些都会让贫穷国家的数百万农民没有生存的机会。

What to do? Some of the strategies that were available during the first Green Revolution aren’t anymore. Farmers can’t plant much more land, because almost every accessible acre of arable soil is already in use. Nor can the use of fertilizer be increased; it is already being overused everywhere except some parts of Africa, and the runoff is polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans. Irrigation, too, cannot be greatly expanded—most land that can be irrigated already is. Wizards think the best course is to use genetic modification to create more-productive crops. Prophets see that as a route to further overwhelming the planet’s carrying capacity. We must go in the opposite direction, they say: use less land, waste less water, stop pouring chemicals into both.

我们有什么可做的吗?在第一次绿色革命中,一些策略已经无法再使用了。农民不能耕作更多的土地,因为几乎每一英亩的可耕地都已经被使用了。化肥的使用也无法再增加了;除非洲的部分地区外,它已经被过度使用了,而扩散的化肥污染了河流、湖泊和海洋。灌溉也无法得到大幅的扩张,大部分能够被灌溉的土地已经得到了灌溉。巫师们认为最好的办法是利用基因改造技术来创造更高产的作物。先知们认为这是进一步压制地球承载能力的一种方法。他们说:我们必须朝相反的方向走,少利用土地,少浪费水,停止向土地和水体中倾倒化学物质。

It is as if humankind were packed into a bus racing through an impenetrable fog. Somewhere ahead is a cliff: a calamitous reversal of humanity’s fortunes. Nobody can see exactly where it is, but everyone knows that at some point the bus will have to turn. Problem is, Wizards and Prophets disagree about which way to yank the wheel. Each is certain that following the other’s ideas will send the bus over the cliff. As they squabble, the number of passengers keeps rising.

就好像人类被挤到了一辆巴士上,穿过一团迷雾。前方的某个地方是一道悬崖:这是人类命运的灾难性逆转。没有人能确切地知道它在哪里,但每个人都知道,在某个时刻,公共汽车将不得不转弯。问题是,巫师和先知们不同意将公共汽车开到哪里去。每个人都确信,跟随他人的想法会把公共汽车送上悬崖。当他们争吵的时候,乘客人数还在不断增加。

The Story of Nitrogen

氮的故事

Almost everybody eats every day, but too few of us give any thought to how that happens. If agricultural history were required in schools, more people would know the name of Justus von Liebig, who in the mid-19th century established that the amount of nitrogen in the soil controls the rate of plant growth. Historians of science have charged Liebig with faking his data and stealing others’ ideas—accurately, so far as I can tell. But he was also a visionary who profoundly changed the human species’ relationship with nature. Smarmy but farsighted, Liebig imagined a new kind of agriculture: farming as a branch of chemistry and physics. Soil was just a base with the physical attributes necessary to hold roots. Pour in nitrogen-containing compounds—factory-made fertilizer—and gigantic harvests would automatically follow. In today’s terms, Liebig was taking the first steps toward chemically regulated industrial agriculture—an early version of Wizardly thought.

几乎每个人每天都在吃东西,但我们很少有人会想到这是怎么发生的。如果在学校里需要教授农业历史的话,更多的人就会知道尤斯图斯·冯·李比希的名字,他在19世纪中叶发现了土壤中氮的含量控制着植物生长的速度。据我所知,科学史学家曾指责李比希伪造数据,并窃取他人的想法。但他也是一个有远见的人,他深刻地改变了人类与自然的关系。聪明而有远见的李比希构想了一种新的农业形态:作为化学和物理的一个分支的农业。土壤只是一个基本的基础,具有维持根所必需的物理属性。倒入含氮化合物——也就是工厂生产的肥料之后,大丰收就随之而来了。用今天的话来说,李比希正在迈出走向化学调控的工业化农业的第一步,这是一种早期的神奇想法。

But there was no obvious way to manufacture the nitrogenous substances that feed plants. That technology was provided before and during the First World War by two German chemists, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch. Their subsequent Nobel Prizes were richly deserved: The Haber-Bosch process, as it is called, was arguably the most consequential technological innovation of the 20th century. Today the Haber-Bosch process is responsible for almost all of the world’s synthetic fertilizer. A little more than 1 percent of the world’s industrial energy is devoted to it. “That 1 percent,” the futurist Ramez Naam has noted, “roughly doubles the amount of food the world can grow.” The environmental scientist Vaclav Smil has estimated that nitrogen fertilizer from the Haber-Bosch process accounts for “the prevailing diets of nearly 45% of the world’s population.” More than 3 billion men, women, and children—an incomprehensibly vast cloud of hopes, fears, memories, and dreams—owe their existence to two obscure German chemists.

但是,当时还没有什么方法来制造为植物提供原料的氮素物质。这一技术是由两名德国化学家弗里茨·哈柏和卡尔·博施在第一次世界大战期间发明的。他们随后所获得的诺贝尔奖是当之无愧的:哈柏法可以说是20世纪最重要的技术革新。如今,哈柏法几乎贡献了世界上所有的合成肥料。世界上超过1%的工业能源都投入到这一领域。未来学家拉米兹·纳姆指出:“这百分之一大约让世界粮食产量翻了一番。”环境科学家Vaclav Smil估计,从哈柏法中获得的氮肥为“占世界人口近45%的主流饮食”做出了贡献。超过30亿的男人、女人和孩子——他们共同构成了一个无比庞大的希望、恐惧、记忆和梦想的云团——的存在要归功于这两位不知名的德国化学家。

Hard on the heels of the gains came the losses. About 40 percent of the fertilizer applied in the past 60 years was not absorbed by plants. Instead, it washed away into rivers or seeped into the air in the form of nitrous oxides. Fertilizer flushed into water still fertilizes: It boosts the growth of algae, weeds, and other aquatic organisms. When these die, they fall to the floor of the river, lake, or ocean, where microbes consume their remains. So rapidly do the microbes grow on the manna of dead algae and weeds that their respiration drains oxygen from the lower depths, killing off most other life. Nitrogen from Midwestern farms flows down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico every summer, creating an oxygen desert that in 2016 covered almost 7,000 square miles. The next year a still larger dead zone—23,000 square miles—was mapped in the Bay of Bengal, off the east coast of India.

紧随收获而来的就是损失。在过去60年里,大约40%的化肥没有被植物吸收。相反,它被冲进河里,或以一氧化一氮的形式进入空气中。冲入水中的化肥仍然具有肥效:它能促进藻类、杂草和其他水生生物的生长。当这些植物死亡的时候,它们会落到河流、湖泊或海洋的底部,在那里,微生物会消耗它们的残骸。这些微生物在死亡的海藻和杂草中生长的速度非常之快,以至于它们通过呼吸抽干了浅层水域的氧气,从而杀死了大多数其他生命。每年夏天,来自美国中西部农场的氮通过密西西比河流入墨西哥湾,形成了一个氧气沙漠,它在2016年覆盖了近7000平方英里的水域。翌年,印度东海岸附近的孟加拉湾形成了一个更大的、面积达23000平方英里的死亡区域。

Rising into the air, nitrous oxides from fertilizers is a major cause of pollution. High in the stratosphere, it combines with and neutralizes the planet’s ozone, which guards life on the surface by blocking cancer-causing ultraviolet rays. Were it not for climate change, suggests the science writer Oliver Morton, the spread of nitrogen’s empire would probably be our biggest ecological worry.

来自化肥并进入空气中的氮氧化物是造成污染的主要原因。在平流层中,它结合并中和了地球的臭氧,而后者正是通过阻止能够致癌的紫外线来保护地球表面的生命。科普作家奥利弗·莫顿认为,如果没有气候变化这回事,氮帝国的扩张很可能是我们所面临的最重大的生态担忧。

Passionate resistance to that empire sprang up even before Haber and Bosch became Nobel laureates. Its leader was an English farm boy named Albert Howard (1873–1947), who spent most of his career as British India’s official imperial economic botanist. Individually and together, Howard and his wife, Gabrielle, a Cambridge-educated plant physiologist, spent their time in India breeding new varieties of wheat and tobacco, developing novel types of plows, and testing the results of providing oxen with a superhealthy diet. By the end of the First World War, they were convinced that soil was not simply a base for chemical additives. It was an intricate living system that required a wildly complex mix of nutrients in plant and animal waste: harvest leftovers, manure. The Howards summed up their ideas in what they called the Law of Return: “the faithful return to the soil of all available vegetable, animal, and human wastes.” We depend on plants, plants depend on soil, and soil depends on us. Howard’s 1943 Agricultural Testament became the founding document of the organic movement.

在哈柏和博施成为诺贝尔奖得主之前,对这个氮帝国的强烈抵制就出现了。它的领导人是一个名叫艾伯特·霍华德的英国农场男孩,在他的大部分职业生涯中,他都是英属印度官方的帝国经济植物学家。霍华德和他的妻子加布里埃尔——一位剑桥大学毕业的植物生理学家——在印度度过了一段时间,他们在印度培育了新的小麦和烟草品种,开发了新型的犁,并测试了为牛提供了一种非常健康的饮食的结果。在第一次世界大战结束时,他们确信土壤不仅仅是化学添加剂的基础。它是一个复杂的生命系统,需要在植物和动物粪便中混合各种营养成分:也就是收获后的残余物和肥料。霍华德在他们所谓的“归返法则”中总结了他们的想法:“忠实地将所有可用的蔬菜、动物和人类排泄物归返到土壤里。”我们依赖于植物,植物依赖于土壤,土壤依赖于我们。霍华德1943年的农业宣言成为了有机运动的奠基文件。

Wizards attacked Howard and Jerome I. Rodale—a hardscrabble New York–born entrepreneur, publisher, playwright, gardening theorist, and food experimenter who publicized Howard’s ideas through books and magazines—as charlatans and crackpots. It is true that their zeal was inspired by a near-religious faith in a limit-bound natural order. But when Howard lauded the living nature of the soil, he was referring to the community of soil organisms, the dynamic relations between plant roots and the earth around them, and the physical structure of humus, which stickily binds together soil particles into airy crumbs that hold water instead of letting it run through. All of this was very real, and all of it was unknown when Liebig shaped the basic ideas behind chemical agriculture. The claim Howard made in his many books and speeches that industrial farming was depopulating the countryside and disrupting an older way of life was accurate, too, though his opponents disagreed with him about whether this was a bad thing. Nowadays the Prophets’ fears about industrial agriculture’s exhausting the soil seem prescient: A landmark 2011 study from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization concluded that up to a third of the world’s cropland is degraded.

巫师们攻击了霍华德和杰罗姆·I. 罗代尔——一个在纽约出生的企业家、出版商、剧作家、园艺理论家和食品研究员,他通过书籍和杂志宣传了霍华德的想法——认为他们是骗子和疯子。的确,他们的热情是受到对拥有有限边界的自然秩序的近乎宗教的信仰的启发而来的。但是当霍华德称赞土壤的生命本质时,他指的是土壤中生命的集合,是植物根系与其周边的土壤之间的动态关系,是将土壤颗粒粘乎乎地结合在一起,组成能够保持水分而不是让它流失的面包屑的腐殖质的物理结构。所有这些都是非常真实的,当李比希塑造了化学农业的基本思想时,所有这一切都是未知的。霍华德在他的许多著作和演讲中都在声称,工业农业正在减少农村人口,从而扰乱了一种古老的生活方式,这一说法也是准确的,尽管他的反对者不同意他认为这是一件坏事的观点。如今,先知们对工业化农业耗竭地力的担忧似乎是有先见之明的:联合国粮农组织在2011年进行的一项具有里程碑意义的研究得出的结论认为,世界上三分之一的耕地都在退化。

At first, reconciling the two points of view might have been possible. One can imagine Borlaugian Wizards considering manure and other natural soil inputs, and Vogtian Prophets willing to use chemicals as a supplement to good soil practice. But that didn’t happen. Hurling insults, the two sides moved further apart. They set in motion a battle that has continued into the 21st century—and become ever more intense with the ubiquity of genetically modified crops. That battle is not just between two philosophies, two approaches to technology, two ways of thinking how best to increase the food supply for a growing population. It is about whether the tools we choose will ensure the survival of the planet or hasten its destruction.

一开始,调和这两个观点可能是可能的。我们可以想象一下,博劳格派的巫师们会考虑肥料和其他自然土壤的投入,而沃格特派则愿意将化学药剂作为土壤改良的补充。但这一场景并没有发生。双方互相辱骂,进而疏远。他们开始了一场一直持续到21世纪的战斗,并且随着转基因作物的普及变得更加激烈。这场斗争不仅仅是发生在两种哲学、两种技术方法、两种关于如何最好地为不断增长的人口增加食物供应的思考方式之间的。它关乎的是我们选择的工具是否是在确保地球的生存,还是加速了它的毁灭。

“Not One of Evolution’s Finest Efforts”

“这不是进化中最好的尝试之一”

All the while that Wizards were championing synthetic fertilizer and Prophets were denouncing it, they were united in ignorance: Nobody knew why plants were so dependent on nitrogen. Only after the Second World War did scientists discover that plants need nitrogen chiefly to make a protein called rubisco, a prima donna in the dance of interactions that is photosynthesis.

当巫师们都在拥护合成肥料的时候,先知们却在谴责它,他们统一在这样一种无知论中:没有人知道为什么植物如此依赖氮。直到第二次世界大战后,科学家才发现植物需要依靠氮来制造一种被称为二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶的蛋白质,它是一种光合作用的交互舞蹈中的女主角。

In photosynthesis, as children learn in school, plants use energy from the sun to tear apart carbon dioxide and water, blending their constituents into the compounds necessary to make roots, stems, leaves, and seeds. Rubisco is an enzyme that plays a key role in the process. Enzymes are biological catalysts. Like jaywalking pedestrians who cause automobile accidents but escape untouched, enzymes cause biochemical reactions to occur but are unchanged by those reactions. Rubisco takes carbon dioxide from the air, inserts it into the maelstrom of photosynthesis, then goes back for more. Because these movements are central to the process, photosynthesis walks at the speed of rubisco.

如同孩子们在学校所学到的,在光合作用的过程中,植物利用来自太阳的能量来分解二氧化碳和水,把它们的化学成分混合到形成根、茎、叶子和种子所需的化合物当中。二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶是一种在这个过程中起着关键作用的酶。酶是生物催化剂。就像横穿马路、导致汽车事故但却未受到影响的行人一样,酶会导致生化反应的发生,但本身却不受这些反应的影响。二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶从空气中吸收二氧化碳,将其插入到光合作用的漩涡中,然后又回来了。因为这些运动是这个过程的中心,所以光合作用按照二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶的速度进行的。

Alas, rubisco is, by biological standards, a sluggard, a lazybones, a couch potato. Whereas typical enzyme molecules catalyze thousands of reactions a second, rubisco molecules deign to involve themselves with just two or three a second. Worse, rubisco is inept. As many as two out of every five times, rubisco fumblingly picks up oxygen instead of carbon dioxide, causing the chain of reactions in photosynthesis to break down and have to restart, wasting energy and water. Years ago I talked with biologists about photosynthesis for a magazine article. Not one had a good word to say about rubisco. “Nearly the world’s worst, most incompetent enzyme,” said one researcher. “Not one of evolution’s finest efforts,” said another. To overcome rubisco’s lassitude and maladroitness, plants make a lot of it, requiring a lot of nitrogen to do so. As much as half of the protein in many plant leaves, by weight, is rubisco—it is often said to be the world’s most abundant protein. One estimate is that plants and microorganisms contain more than 11 pounds of rubisco for every person on Earth.

从生物学的标准来看,二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶是一只懒虫,一个懒骨头,一个沙发土豆。典型的酶分子一秒钟可以催化成千上万次反应,但是二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶分子所催化的反应每秒却只有两三次。更糟糕的是,二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶是相当笨拙的。在每五次反应中,二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶就有多达两次的概率抓取氧分子,而不是二氧化碳,这导致光合作用的连锁反应中断,不得不重新启动,从而浪费了能量和水。几年前,我为一篇杂志文章而与几位生物学家讨论了光合作用。没有人对二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶有好的评价。一位研究人员说:“它几乎是世界上最糟糕、最无能的酶”。另一位则说道:“这不是进化中最好的尝试之一”。为了克服二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶的惰性和笨拙,植物需要制造大量的这种梅,这就需要大量的氮。按照重量来计算,许多植物的叶子中有一半的蛋白质都是二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶,据说它是世界上含量最丰富的蛋白质。据估计,地球上每一个人可以分得的植物和微生物中所含有的二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶超过了11磅。

Evolution, one would think, should have improved rubisco. No such luck. But it did produce a work-around: C4 photosynthesis (C4 refers to a four-carbon molecule involved in the scheme). At once a biochemical kludge and a clever mechanism for turbocharging plant growth, C4 photosynthesis consists of a wholesale reorganization of leaf anatomy.

人们会认为,进化应该已经改造了二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶。但是它没有这样的运气。但它确实找到了一种变通方法:即C4光合作用(C4指的是参与该一作用的四碳分子)。作为一种生物化学的凑合组合和一种增加植物生长速度的巧妙机制,C4光合作用是一种对叶解剖结构的大规模重组。

When carbon dioxide comes into a C4 leaf, it is initially grabbed not by rubisco but by a different enzyme that uses it to form a compound that is then pumped into special, rubisco-filled cells deep in the leaf. These cells have almost no oxygen, so rubisco can’t bumblingly grab the wrong molecule. The end result is exactly the same sugars, starches, and cellulose that ordinary photosynthesis produces, except much faster. C4 plants need less water and fertilizer than ordinary plants, because they don’t waste water on rubisco’s mistakes. In the sort of convergence that makes biologists snap to attention, C4 photosynthesis has arisen independently more than 60 times. Corn, tumbleweed, crabgrass, sugarcane, and Bermuda grass—all of these very different plants evolved C4 photosynthesis.

当二氧化碳进入C4叶时,它最初不是由二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶所抓取,而是被一种不同的酶所吸引,这种酶利用它形成了一种化合物,然后将其注入到叶子深处特殊的、拥有二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶的细胞中。这些细胞几乎没有氧气,所以二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶不会错误地抓取错误的分子。最终的结果与普通光合作用产生的糖、淀粉和纤维素完全相同,只不过速度快得多。C4植物比普通植物需要更少的水和化肥,因为它们不会在二磷酸核酮糖羧化酶的错误上浪费水。在使生物学家引人注目的收敛测试中,C4光合作用已经独立进行了超过60次。玉米、风滚草、马塘草、甘蔗和百慕大草所有这些非常不同的植物都进化出了C4光合作用进程。

In the botanical equivalent of a moonshot, scientists from around the world are trying to convert rice into a C4 plant—one that would grow faster, require less water and fertilizer, and produce more grain. The scope and audacity of the project are hard to overstate. Rice is the world’s most important foodstuff, the staple crop for more than half the global population, a food so embedded in Asian culture that the words rice and meal are variants of each other in both Chinese and Japanese. Nobody can predict with confidence how much more rice farmers will need to grow by 2050, but estimates range up to a 40 percent rise, driven by both increasing population numbers and increasing affluence, which permits formerly poor people to switch to rice from less prestigious staples such as millet and sweet potato. Meanwhile, the land available to plant rice is shrinking as cities expand into the countryside, thirsty people drain rivers, farmers switch to more-profitable crops, and climate change creates deserts from farmland. Running short of rice would be a human catastrophe with consequences that would ripple around the world.

在类似于登月计划的植物学计划当中,来自世界各地的科学家正试图将水稻转变为C4植物,这种植物生长得更快,需要更少的水和肥料,并且还能生产更多的粮食。这个项目的范围和大胆程度再怎么夸张也不为过。大米是世界上最重要的食物,是全球一半以上人口的主食,这种食物深深植根于亚洲文化当中,以至于在汉语和日语中,米饭和食物这两个词汇是彼此的变体。没人能颇具信心地预测到2050年农民将需要多种植多少的水稻,但估计受人口数量增加和财富增加——它让从前的穷人的主食从不那么享有盛誉的小米和甜薯转向了大米——的影响,增加幅度为40%。与此同时,随着城市向农村地区扩张、口渴的人抽干了河流、农民转向更有利可图的作物,以及气候变化让农田变为沙漠,种植水稻的土地正在萎缩。大米短缺将成为一场人类灾难,其后果将波及全球。

Rather than tinker with individual genes, the scientists are trying to refashion photosynthesis.

科学家们正在尝试重新调整光合作用,而不是对单个基因进行修补。

The C4 Rice Consortium is an attempt to ensure that that never happens. Funded largely by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the consortium is the world’s most ambitious genetic-engineering project. But the term genetic engineering does not capture the project’s scope. The genetic engineering that appears in news reports typically involves big companies sticking individual packets of genetic material, usually from a foreign species, into a crop. The paradigmatic example is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybean, which contains a snippet of DNA from a bacterium that was found in a Louisiana waste pond. That snippet makes the plant assemble a chemical compound in its leaves and stems that blocks the effects of Roundup, Monsanto’s widely used herbicide. The foreign gene lets farmers spray Roundup on their soy fields, killing weeds but leaving the crop unharmed. Except for making a single tasteless, odorless, nontoxic protein, Roundup Ready soybeans are otherwise identical to ordinary soybeans.

C4水稻计划是一次试图确保这种情况永远不会发生的尝试。该财团主要由“比尔和梅林达·盖茨基金会”资助,它是世界上最具雄心的基因工程项目。但是“基因工程”这个词并没有涵盖这个项目的范围。在新闻报道中出现的基因工程通常说的是大公司将单个基因——通常来自其他物种——嵌入到农作物当中。典型的例子便是孟山都的耐草甘膦大豆,其中含有一段从路易斯安那州废料池中所发现的细菌的DNA片段。这一片段使得该植物在其叶子和茎中合成一种化学化合物,阻止了孟山都所广泛使用的除草剂——草甘磷酸全面性除草剂的影响。这种来自其他物种的基因让农民们可以在他们的大豆田上喷洒草甘磷酸全面性除草剂,杀死杂草,而大豆却毫发无损。除了产生一种无味、无味、无毒的蛋白质外,耐草甘膦大豆与普通大豆完全相同。

What the C4 Rice Consortium is trying to do with rice bears the same resemblance to typical genetically modified crops as a Boeing 787 does to a paper airplane. Rather than tinker with individual genes in order to monetize seeds, the scientists are trying to refashion photosynthesis, one of the most fundamental processes of life. Because C4 has evolved in so many different species, scientists believe that most plants must have precursor C4 genes. The hope is that rice is one of these, and that the consortium can identify and awaken its dormant C4 genes—following a path evolution has taken many times before. Ideally, researchers would switch on sleeping chunks of genetic material already in rice (or use very similar genes from related species that are close cousins but easier to work with) to create, in effect, a new and more productive species. Common rice, Oryza sativa, will become something else: Oryza nova, say. No company will profit from the result; the International Rice Research Institute, where much of the research takes place, will give away seeds for the modified grain, as it did with Green Revolution rice.

C4水稻计划尝试对水稻所做的事情与典型的转基因作物的关系就像波音787与纸飞机的关系一样。科学家们正在尝试重新调整生命中最基本的进程之一——光合作用,而不是对单个基因进行改造,从而实现种子的商业化。因为C4基因已经在许多不同的物种中进化出来,科学家们认为大多数植物一定存在着C4基因的前体。人们希望大米便是其中之一,而该计划能够识别并唤醒其休眠的C4基因——这是进化过程中多次出现的情况。在理想的情况下,研究人员将会把已经存在于水稻中的遗传物质的休眠片段(或者使用有近亲关系且更容易产生作用的相关物种的基因),从而在事实上创造出一个新的、更高产的物种。常见的稻——水稻——将会变成其他的物种——新稻。没有一家公司会从这个结果中获利;许多研究都在其中展开的国际水稻研究所的大部分研究都会分发这种转基因谷物的种子,就像它在绿色革命水稻中所做的那样。

When I visited irri, 35 miles southeast of downtown Manila, scores of people were doing what science does best: breaking a problem into individual pieces, then attacking the pieces. Some were sprouting rice in petri dishes. Others were trying to find chance variations in existing rice strains that might be helpful. Still others were studying a model organism, a C4 species of grass called Setaria viridis. Fast-growing and able to be grown in soil, not paddies, Setaria is easier to work with in the lab than rice. There were experiments to measure differences in photosynthetic chemicals, in the rates of growth of different varieties, in the transmission of biochemical markers. Half a dozen people in white coats were sorting seeds on a big table, grain by grain. More were in fields outside, tending experimental rice paddies. All of the appurtenances of contemporary biology were in evidence: flatscreen monitors, humming refrigerators and freezers, tables full of beakers of recombinant goo, Dilbert and XKCD cartoons taped to whiteboards, a United Nations of graduate students a-gossip in the cafeteria, air conditioners whooshing in a row outside the windows.

当我访问位于马尼拉市区东南35英里处的国际水稻研究所时,许多人都在做着科学最擅长的事情:将问题分解成几个部分,然后各个击破。有些人在培养皿中种植水稻。另一些人则试图寻找可能有帮助的现有水稻品种的变异种。还有一些人在研究一种叫做狗尾草的C4植物。生长迅速并且能够在土地而不是稻田中生长的狗尾草要比水稻更容易在实验室里产生效果。他们进行了测试不同品种的光合作用化学物质、生长速度以及生物化学标记的传递的不同之处的实验。六个身穿白大褂的人正在一个大桌子上一粒一粒地分拣种子。更多的人则是在外面的田地里照顾试验稻田。当代生物学的所有实验附属物在这里随处可见:平板显示器、冰箱、冷冻机、装满了一烧杯一烧杯的重组体粘性物的桌子、贴在白班上的蒂尔伯特和兰道尔·门罗的卡通画、在自助餐厅里举行的研究生的模拟联合国活动、在窗外排成一排的飞速运转的空调。

Directing the C4 Rice Consortium is Jane Langdale, a molecular geneticist at Oxford’s Department of Plant Sciences. Initial research, she told me, suggests that about a dozen genes play a major part in leaf structure, and perhaps another 10 genes have an equivalent role in the biochemistry. All must be activated in a way that does not affect the plant’s existing, desirable qualities and that allows the genes to coordinate their actions. The next, equally arduous step would be breeding rice varieties that can channel the extra growth provided by C4 photosynthesis into additional grains, rather than roots or stalk. All the while, varieties must be disease-resistant, easy to grow, and palatable for their intended audience, in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

指导C4水稻计划的是简·兰代尔,她是牛津大学植物科学部的分子遗传学家。她告诉我,最初的研究表明大约有十几个基因在树叶结构中扮演着重要的角色,也许还有十个基因在生物化学过程中扮演着同样的角色。所有这些基因都必须以一种不影响植物现有的、令人满意的品质的方式被激活,并允许这些基因调整它们的活动。接下来,同样艰难的一步是培育水稻品种,这些水稻品种可以将C4光合作用提供的额外生长量转化为额外的谷粒,而不是根或茎。对于亚洲、非洲和拉丁美洲的潜在接受者而言,所有这些品种都必须具有抗病、易于生长和可口的特性。

“I think it can all happen, but it might not,” Langdale said. She was quick to point out that even if C4 rice runs into insurmountable obstacles, it is not the only biological moonshot. Self-fertilizing maize, wheat that can grow in salt water, enhanced soil-microbial ecosystems—all are being researched. The odds that any one of these projects will succeed may be small, the idea goes, but the odds that all of them will fail are equally small. The Wizardly process begun by Borlaug is, in Langdale’s view, still going strong.

兰代尔说:“我认为这一切都可能发生,但也可能不会”。她很快指出,即使C4水稻遇到了不可逾越的障碍,这也不是唯一的生物学的登月计划。自肥玉米、可在咸水中生长的小麦、得到强化的土壤微生物生态系统——所有这些都在进行研究。这些项目成功的几率可能很小,但这些想法仍在继续,因为所有这些项目都失败的几率同样也很小。在兰代尔看来,这一由博劳格开启的神奇进程仍在继续。

The Luddites’ Moonshot

卢德主义者的登月计划

For as long as Wizards and Prophets have been arguing about feeding the world, Wizards have charged that Prophet-style agriculture simply cannot produce enough food for tomorrow. In the past 20 years, scores of research teams have appraised the relative contributions of industrial and organic agriculture. These inquiries in turn have been gathered together and assessed, a procedure that is fraught with difficulty: Researchers use different definitions of organic, compare different kinds of farms, and include different costs in their analyses. Nonetheless, every attempt to combine and compare data that I know of has shown that Prophet-style farms yield fewer calories per acre than do Wizard-style farms—sometimes by a little, sometimes by quite a lot. The implications are obvious, Wizards say. If farmers must grow twice as much food to feed the 10 billion, following the ecosystem-conserving rules of Sir Albert Howard ties their hands.

只要巫师和先知们一直在争论如何养活这个世界,巫师们就会指责先知式的农业根本不能生产出足够的食物来满足明日的需要。在过去的20年里,数十个研究小组对工业化农业和有机农业的相对贡献进行了评估。这些调查依次收集和评估,这是一个充满困难的过程:研究人员使用不同的有机定义,比较不同种类的农场,并在分析中算入不同的成本。尽管如此,我所知道的每一种数据的结合和比较的尝试都表明,先知式的农场每英亩所出产的卡路里比巫师式的农场要少——有时是一点点,有时是相当多的。巫师们说,这种影响是显而易见的。如果农民们必须种植两倍的粮食来养活100亿人口,那么按照艾伯特·霍华德爵士的生态系统保护规则,他们将变得束手束脚。

Prophets smite their brows at this logic. To their minds, uating farm systems wholly in terms of calories per acre is folly. It doesn’t include the sort of costs identified by Vogt: fertilizer runoff, watershed degradation, soil erosion and compaction, and pesticide and antibiotic overuse. It doesn’t account for the destruction of rural communities. It doesn’t consider whether the food is tasty and nutritious.

对于这种逻辑,先知们不禁皱起了眉头。在他们看来,以每英亩所产出的热量来评估农业系统是愚蠢的。它还没有包括沃格特所确定要付出的代价:肥料的扩散、河流流域的退化、土壤被侵蚀和压实,以及杀虫剂和抗生素的过度使用。它没有阐明农村社区的破坏情况。它没有考虑到这些食物是否美味和营养。

Wizards respond that C4 rice will use less fertilizer and water to produce every calorie—it will be better for the environment than conventional crops. That’s like trying to put out fires you started by dousing them with less gasoline! the Prophets say. Just eat less meat! To Wizards, the idea of making farms diverse in a way that mimics natural ecosystems is hooey: only hyperintensive, industrial-scale agriculture using superproductive genetically modified crops can feed tomorrow’s world.

巫师们回应说,C4水稻将用更少的肥料和水来产生每一份热量,它对环境的影响比传统的作物更好。先知们说:这就如同火烧浇油!唯一的选择是少吃肉!对巫师们来说,用一种模仿自然生态系统的方式来让农场实现多样化的想法简直就是胡言乱语:只有高度集约化的、具备工业化规模的、使用超级高效的转基因作物的农业才能养活明日的世界。

Productivity? the Prophets reply. We have moonshots of our own! And in fact, they do.

先知们回应称:生产力?我们有自己的登月计划!事实上,他们就是这样做的。

Wheat, rice, maize, oats, barley, rye, and the other common cereals are annuals, which need to be planted anew every year. By contrast, the wild grasses that used to fill the prairie are perennials: plants that come back summer after summer, for as long as a decade. Because perennial grasses build up root systems that reach deep into the ground, they hold on to soil better and are less dependent on surface rainwater and nutrients—that is, irrigation and artificial fertilizer—than annual grasses. Many of them are also more disease-resistant. Not needing to build up new roots every spring, perennials emerge from the soil earlier and faster than annuals. And because they don’t die in the winter, they keep photosynthesizing in the fall, when annuals stop. Effectively, they have a longer growing season. They produce food year after year with much less plowing-caused erosion. They could be just as productive as Green Revolution–style grain, Prophets say, but without ruining land, sucking up scarce water, or requiring heavy doses of polluting, energy-intensive fertilizer.

小麦、水稻、玉米、燕麦、大麦、黑麦和其他常见的谷物都是一年生的,需要每年重新种植。相比之下,过去充斥着大草原的野草则是多年生植物:这是一种在长达十年之久的时间里可以年复一年长出来的植物。因为相比于一年生草本植物,多年生的草本植物建立起了深入地下的根系,它们能更好地控制土壤,减少对地表雨水和营养——也就是灌溉和人工施肥——的依赖。它们中的许多种类也更具备抗病的抵抗力。每年春天都不需要建立新的根系的多年生植物从土壤中脱颖而出,它们比一年生植物生长得更快。因为它们不会在冬季死亡,它们会在秋天继续进行光合作用,而在这时候,一年生植物却已经终止了它们的生命。实际上,它们的生长季节更长。它们年复一年地生产食物,而造成的土壤侵蚀却少得多。它们可能和绿色革命式的谷物一样高效,但是没有破坏土地,不需要吸收稀缺的水,或者大量的高污染、高能耗的化肥。

Echoing Borlaug’s program in Mexico, the Rodale Institute, the country’s oldest organization that researches organic agriculture, gathered 250 samples of intermediate wheatgrass (Thinopyrum intermedium) in the late 1980s. A perennial cousin to bread wheat, wheatgrass was introduced to the Western Hemisphere from Asia in the 1930s as fodder for farm animals. Working with U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers, the Rodale Institute’s Peggy Wagoner, a pioneering plant breeder and agricultural researcher, planted samples, measured their yields, and crossbred the best performers in an attempt to make a commercially viable perennial. Wagoner and the Rodale Institute passed the baton in 2002 to the Land Institute, in Salina, Kansas, a nonprofit agricultural-research center dedicated to replacing conventional agriculture with processes akin to those that occur in natural ecosystems. The Land Institute, collaborating with other researchers, has been developing wheatgrass ever since. It has even given its new variety of intermediate wheatgrass a trade name: Kernza.

与博劳格在墨西哥的计划相呼应的是这个国家最古老的研究有机农业的组织罗代尔研究所,它在20世纪80年代末收集了250种中间型麦草(中间型偃麦草)的样本。作为面包小麦的多年生表亲,麦草在上世纪30年代从亚洲引进到西半球作为农场动物的饲料。罗代尔研究所的佩吉·瓦格纳——一位具有开拓性的植物育种家和农业研究人员——与美国农业部的研究人员合作,种植了这些样本,测量了它们的产量,并杂交了其中表现最好的品种,试图使其成为一个具有商业价值的多年生植物。瓦格纳和罗代尔研究所于2002年将指挥棒传递给位于堪萨斯州萨利纳的土地研究所,这是一个非营利性的农业研究中心,致力于用类似于自然生态系统的过程取代传统农业。从那时起,土地研究所就与其他研究人员合作,一直致力于开发麦草。它甚至给了它的新品种麦草起了一个商标名:Kernza。

Like C4 rice, wheatgrass may not fulfill its originators’ hopes. Wheatgrass kernels are one-quarter the size of wheat kernels, sometimes smaller, and have a thicker layer of bran. Unlike wheat, wheatgrass grows into a dark, dense mass of foliage that covers the field; the thick layer of vegetation protects the soil and keeps out weeds, but it also reduces the amount of grain that the plant produces. To make wheatgrass useful to farmers, breeders will have to increase kernel size, alter the plant’s architecture, and improve its bread-making qualities. The work has been slow. Because wheatgrass is a perennial, it must be uated over years, rather than a single season. The Land Institute hopes to have field-ready, bread-worthy wheatgrass with kernels that are twice their current size (if still half the size of wheat’s) in the 2020s, though nothing is guaranteed.

像C4水稻一样,麦草可能无法满足其发起者的期望。麦草籽粒的大小是小麦籽粒的四分之一,有时更小,其上有一层更厚的麸皮。与小麦不同的是,麦草生长在一片覆盖着田野的深色茂密的树叶中;茂密的植被保护土壤,防止杂草生长,但同时也减少了植物的产量。为了让麦草变得对农民有用,育种者必须增加其内核的大小,改变植物的结构,并提高它的面包加工品质。这一工作进展缓慢。因为麦草是多年生植物,所以它必须经过多年——而不是一个季节——的评估。尽管没有什么是可以保证的,但土地研究所希望到21世纪20年代,能开发出一种适合田地种植、适合加工成面包、籽粒是现在的两倍大(但仍然只是小麦籽粒大小的一半)的麦草。

Domesticating wheatgrass is the long game. Other plant breeders have been trying for a shortcut: creating a hybrid of bread wheat and wheatgrass, hoping to marry the former’s large, plentiful grain and the latter’s disease resistance and perennial life cycle. The two species produce viable offspring just often enough that biologists in North America, Germany, and the Soviet Union tried unsuccessfully for decades in the mid-1900s to breed useful hybrids. Bolstered by developments in biology, the Land Institute, together with researchers in the Pacific Northwest and Australia, began anew at the turn of this century. When I visited Stephen S. Jones of Washington State University, he and his colleagues had just suggested a scientific name for the newly developed and tested hybrid: Tritipyrum aaseae (the species name honors the pioneering cereal geneticist Hannah Aase). Much work remains; Jones told me that he hoped bread from T. aaseae would be ready for my daughter’s children.

驯服麦草是一个长期的游戏。其他的植物育种家一直在尝试着走一条捷径:创造一种小麦和麦草的杂交品种,希望能将前者的丰产和后者的抗病和多年生生命周期相结合。在20世纪中期,北美、德国和苏联的生物学家为了培育有用的杂交品种,曾尝试了几十年,但没有取得成功。在生物学发展的支持下,土地研究所,以及太平洋西北区和澳大利亚的研究人员,在本世纪初重新开始了这项研究。当我访问华盛顿州立大学的斯蒂芬·琼斯时,他和他的同事们刚刚为新开发和测试的杂交品种取了一个学名:Tritipyrum aaseae (这个物种的名字是为了纪念先驱性的谷物遗传学家汉娜·奥瑟)。琼斯告诉我:还有很多工作没有完成,他希望我女儿的孩子们能够用这种杂交品种制作面包。

African and Latin American researchers scratch their heads when they hear about these projects. Breeding perennial grains is the hard way for Prophets to raise harvests, says Edwige Botoni, a researcher at the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel, in Burkina Faso. Botoni gave a lot of thought to the problem of feeding people from low-quality land while traveling along the edge of the Sahara. One part of the answer, she told me, would be to emulate the farms that flourish in tropical places such as Nigeria and Brazil. Whereas farmers in the temperate zones focus on cereals, tropical growers focus on tubers and trees, both of which are generally more productive than cereals.

非洲和拉丁美洲的研究人员在听到这些项目的时候都在挠头。布基纳法索的萨赫勒地区的干旱控制委员会的研究人员埃德维热·伯托尼说,培育多年生谷物是先知们提高收成的一种艰难的方式。伯托尼在旅行到撒哈拉沙漠边缘的时候,就在劣地上养活人的问题进行了大量的思考。她告诉我,答案的一部分将是效仿尼日利亚和巴西等热带地区的农场。温带地区的农民关注谷物,而热带种植者则关注于块茎和树木,这两种作物的生产效率都高于谷物。

Consider cassava, a big tuber also known as manioc, mogo, and yuca. The 11th-most-important crop in the world in terms of production, it is grown in wide swathes of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The edible part grows underground; no matter how big the tuber, the plant will never fall over. On a per-acre basis, cassava harvests far outstrip those of wheat and other cereals. The comparison is unfair, because cassava tubers contain more water than wheat kernels. But even when this is taken into account, cassava produces many more calories per acre than wheat. (The potato is a northern equivalent. The average 2016 U.S. potato yield was 43,700 pounds per acre, more than 10 times the equivalent figure for wheat.) “I don’t know why this alternative is not considered,” Botoni said. Although cassava is unfamiliar to many cultures, introducing it “seems easier than breeding entirely new species.”

想想木薯吧,它是一种被称为树薯、莫戈和木薯的大块茎。作为世界上第十一大最重要的作物,它生长在非洲、亚洲和拉丁美洲的大片地区。其可食用的部分生长在地下;不管块茎有多大,植物都不会倒下来。在每英亩土地上,木薯的收成要远远超过小麦和其他谷物。这种比较是不公平的,因为木薯块茎比麦粒含有更多的水分。但即使考虑到这一点,木薯每英亩的热量也要比小麦多。(在北方,马铃薯是和它差不多的一种作物。2016年美国土豆的平均产量为每英亩43700磅,是小麦的10倍多。”)伯托尼说:“我不知道为什么这一选择不被人们所考虑。”尽管木薯在许多文化中并不常见,但引进它“似乎比培育全新物种更加容易”。

Much the same is true for tree crops. A mature McIntosh apple tree might grow 350 to 550 pounds of apples a year. Orchard growers commonly plant 200 to 250 trees per acre. In good years this can work out to 35 to 65 tons of fruit per acre. The equivalent figure for wheat, by contrast, is about a ton and a half. As with cassava and potatoes, apples contain more water than wheat does—but the caloric yield per acre is still higher. Even papayas and bananas are more productive than wheat. So are some nuts, like chestnuts. Apples, chestnuts, and papayas cannot make crusty baguettes, crunchy tortillas, or cloud-light chiffon cakes, but most grain today is destined for highly processed substances like animal feed, breakfast cereal, sweet syrups, and ethanol—and tree and tuber crops can be readily deployed for those.

对于木本类作物来说,情况也是如此。一种成熟的苹果树一年可以出产350到550磅苹果。果园种植者通常每英亩种植200至250棵树。在好的年份,每英亩的水果出产量可以达到35到65吨。相比之下,小麦的等效数字大约是1.5吨。和木薯和土豆一样,苹果所含的水份比小麦多,但每英亩的热量仍然比后者更高。就连木瓜和香蕉都比小麦更高产。还有一些坚果,比如栗子。苹果、栗子和番木瓜不能做成硬邦邦的长棍面包、脆脆的玉米煎饼,或如云一般轻薄的戚风蛋糕,但今日大部分的谷物都是经过加工处理的,如动物饲料、早餐麦片、糖浆和乙醇——木本类和块茎类作物也能进行这样的开发。

Am I arguing that farmers around the world should replace their plots of wheat, rice, and maize with fields of cassava, potato, and sweet potato and orchards of bananas, apples, and chestnuts? No. The argument is rather that Prophets have multiple ways to meet tomorrow’s needs. These alternative paths are difficult, but so is the Wizards’ path exemplified in C4 rice. The greatest obstacle for Prophets is something else: labor.

我是否认为世界各地的农民应该用木薯、土豆、甘薯、香蕉、苹果和栗子等作物来取代他们所种植的小麦、水稻和玉米?不。我的看法是:先知们有多种方法来满足明日的需求。这些不同的路径是很艰难的,巫师们在C4水稻计划中所展示的路径也是如此。对先知们来说,最大的障碍是其他因素:劳动力。

The Right Way to Live

正确的生活方式

Since the end of the Second World War, most national governments have intentionally directed labor away from agriculture (Communist China was long an exception). The goal was to consolidate and mechanize farms, which would increase harvests and reduce costs, especially for labor. Farmworkers, no longer needed, would move to the cities, where they could get better-paying jobs in factories. In the Borlaugian ideal, both the remaining farm owners and the factory workers would earn more, the former by growing more and better crops, the latter by obtaining better-paying jobs in industry. The nation as a whole would benefit: increased exports from industry and agriculture, cheaper food in the cities, a plentiful labor supply.

自第二次世界大战结束以来,大多数国家政府都有意将劳动力从农业中转移出去(长期以来,共产主义的中国是个例外)。我们的目标是将农场联合化和机械化,这将增加粮食产量,降低成本,特别是劳动力成本。我们不再需要农场工人,他们将搬到城市,在那里他们可以在工厂里找到更好的工作。在博劳格派的理想中,剩下的农场主和工厂工人都能挣更多的钱——前者是通过种植更多更好的作物,后者是通过在这一产业中获得报酬更高的工作岗位。整个国家都将从中受益:工业和农业的出口将会增加,城市里的食品价格将会下降,劳动力供应将变得充足。

There were downsides: Cities in developing nations acquired entire slums full of displaced families. And in many areas, including most of the developed world, the countryside was emptied—exactly what Borlaugians intended, as part of the goal of freeing agriculture workers to pursue their dreams. In the United States, the proportion of the workforce employed in agriculture went from 21.5 percent in 1930 to 1.9 percent in 2000; the number of farms fell by almost two-thirds. The average size of the surviving farms increased to compensate for the smaller number. Meanwhile, states around the world established networks of tax incentives, loan plans, training programs, and direct subsidies to help big farmers acquire large-scale farm machinery, stock up on chemicals, and grow certain government-favored crops for export. Because these systems remain in effect, Vogtian farmers are swimming against the tide.

但它也有不利的一面:发展中国家的城市中出现了满是流离失所的家庭的贫民窟。在许多地区——包括大多数发达国家,农村都是空空荡荡的——这正是博劳格派所期望的,它是没有了束缚的农业工人追求梦想的目标的一部分。在美国,农业劳动力的比例从1930年的21.5%降到了2000年的1.9%;农场的数量减少了近三分之二。幸存的农场的平均规模增加了,以补偿数量的减少。与此同时,世界各国建立了税收激励、贷款计划、培训计划和直接补贴等网络,帮助大农场主获得大规模农业机械,囤积化学品,并种植某些政府青睐的出口作物。因为这些系统仍然有效,沃格特派的农民们正在逆潮流而上。

To Vogtians, the best agriculture takes care of the soil first and foremost, a goal that entails smaller patches of multiple crops—difficult to accomplish when concentrating on the mass production of a single crop. Truly extending agriculture that does this would require bringing back at least some of the people whose parents and grandparents left the countryside. Providing these workers with a decent living would drive up costs. Some labor-sparing mechanization is possible, but no small farmer I have spoken with thinks that it would be possible to shrink the labor force to the level seen in big industrial operations. The whole system can grow only with a wall-to-wall rewrite of the legal system that encourages the use of labor. Such large shifts in social arrangements are not easily accomplished.

对沃格特派来说,最好的农业首先是要关照土壤,而这一目标需要通过在更小的地块上种植多种作物来实现,当进行集中于单一作物的大规模生产时,它是难以实现的。真正得到扩张的农业至少需要把一些父母和祖父母还留在农村的人带回来。为这些工人提供体面的生活将会增加成本。一些节约劳动力的机械化是可能的,但是和我交谈过的小农场主认为,在大规模的工业化生产中,将劳动力缩减到这一水平是有可能的。整个体系只能通过对鼓励使用劳动力的法律体系的全面改动来实现。这种社会安排的巨大转变是不容易实现的。

And here is the origin of the decades-long dispute between Wizards and Prophets. Although the argument is couched in terms of calories per acre and ecosystem conservation, the disagreement at bottom is about the nature of agriculture—and, with it, the best form of society. To Borlaugians, farming is a kind of useful drudgery that should be eased and reduced as much as possible to maximize individual liberty. To Vogtians, agriculture is about maintaining a set of communities, ecological and human, that have cradled life since the first agricultural revolution, 10,000-plus years ago. It can be drudgery, but it is also work that reinforces the human connection to the Earth. The two arguments are like skew lines, not on the same plane.

这就是巫师与先知之间数十年争执的起源。尽管争论的依据是每英亩所出产的热量和生态系统的保护问题,但其本质上的分歧在于农业的本质,以及在这种情况下什么才是最好的社会形态。对博劳格派来说,农业是一件有用的苦差事,应该尽可能地减轻和减少其负担,从而最大限度地提高个人自由。对沃格特派来说,农业就是要维持一整套的社区、生态和人类的生活,自从一万多年前的第一次农业革命以来,人类就一直过着摇篮般的生活。这可能是一件苦差事,但也可以加强人类与地球的联系。这两个观点就像是两条不在同一平面上的偏斜线。

My daughter is 19 now, a sophomore in college. In 2050, she will be middle-aged. It will be up to her generation to set up the institutions, laws, and customs that will provide for basic human needs in the world of 10 billion. Every generation decides the future, but the choices made by my children’s generation will resonate for as long as demographers can foresee. Wizard or Prophet? The choice will be less about what this generation thinks is feasible than what it thinks is good.

我的女儿现在已经19岁了,她在上大学二年级。到2050年,她将人到中年。她这一代的人将会去建立制度、法律和习俗,为世界上100亿人口的基本需求提供帮助。每一代人都在决定着未来,但只要人口学家能预见,我的下一代所做出的选择就会产生何种共鸣。巫师还是先知?这一代人认为可行的,并不一定就是好的。