Friday, September 18, 2009

Norman Borlaug - What I Had Been Waiting For

It's a bit pointless doing an R.I.P. post immediately without a good obit. I have been waiting.
Iowahawk, normally one of the great satirists, posts the obit I wish I had seen earlier, and it well worth reading.
He sounds to me even more amazing than other accounts suggested to me.
The last season of Norman Borlaug's life was spent on the faculty of Texas A&M University where [he, ed. fixing typo] continued working to promote humanitarian projects and food yields around the world. Despite the many accolades he earned he remained modest, almost to a fault. According to one story a security cop refused him entry into his campus office parking lot one Saturday morning, due to an Aggie football game. He cheerfully complied and walked an extra mile from another lot, instead of pointing out to the cop that the building was actually named after him.

And I agree with Iowahawk that his virtues are those of the Midwesterners, as they mesh with what I know of them.
Unlike contemporary self-styled members of the environmental-scientific community -- many of whom seem to view the human race as malignancy -- Norman Borlaug was unapologetic in his view that science should be harnessed for the good of mankind. For him, starvation was a pressing human problem to be eradicated, not the inevitable self-inflicted consequence of human folly; and he went about solving it in a systematic, methodical way. Not through armchair theorizing or manifestos, but through hard work and dirt-under-the-fingernails empiricism. He didn't seek utopia, just better crop yields.
I like to believe a good measure of that came from the flat black earth of Howard County. There's plenty of old jokes about the stereotypical boring Iowa farmer, who can only talk about rainfall and crops. If you'll permit me a little state pride, I would only say thank God and Cresco for that. Because Norman Borlaugh was simply the greatest Iowa farmer who ever lived.

That he came from Norwegian Lutheran stock, of course, does not enter into it at all.


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