Why did countries go to war over bird droppings in the 1800s? In this episode of Johan Norberg’s New and Improved, Norberg shares the extraordinary history and jaw-dropping numbers behind artificial fertilizer.
In the 1800s, over-farming left farmlands depleted. It was found that bird guano could reinvigorate the soil, but its scarcity led to violent conflict. After years of work, chemist Carl Bosch invented a machine that could mass-produce an artificial alternative…from air!
Before the invention of artificial fertilizer, the earth could feed around 4 billion people. Today it feeds nearly double that. Individuals free to pursue their interests and building off their predecessors set the stage for the abundance we enjoy today.