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Who Was Norman Borlaug and The Problem With America’s Short Attention Span

Posted on | October 29, 2009 | No Comments

Mike Magee MD

Few would argue that there is a great cultural shift going on in America today. Agree or not, we’re questioning our opinions, priorities, and beliefs. Every sector is up for grabs – financial, health care, agriculture, energy and education. Dealing with change on this level seems all the more daunting because of our nation’s short attention span. Our worries about the future are often uninformed by the past.

Norman Borlaug is a good example. Who is he? I’ll get to that in a moment. First, let me make a list of a few things that have occupied me this past week. First, I read John Steinbeck’s classic, “The Grapes of Wrath”, the story of the Dust Bowl and a population’s migration from Oklahoma to California to survive.(1) I was interested in it because of all the discussion of how we have just barely escaped “another depression”.  Next I was drawn to a series of articles highlighting Arne Duncan, our current Secretary of Education, teeing up the Q&A of “Why are American students so bad in math and science ?” (2)  I also followed the controversy around our President’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize.(3)  And finally I gave the opening address at the Water Environment Federation’s annual meeting in Orlando, speaking on water scarcity, and the impact of agriculture on water use (70% of water consumed worldwide goes to agriculture).(4)

By the end of all that, I was feeling a bit low when I came across an editorial from September which basically asked the question, “Who was Norman Borlaug?”  Since I had no idea who he was, I read it. (to continue…)

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