Change: One step forward, two steps back

By Gene Hall

I had some fever last week with my bout of bronchitis, which normally would be no time to plan a blog, but I got carried away.

What if, I surmised in my fevered state, the protagonists in some of America’s greatest true stories—those of scientific advancement—had tried to further their ideas in the age of the Internet and cable TV?

In the early 19th Century, Edward Jenner, the first to consider smallpox vaccination, might have received this response from a skeptic on his “Cowpox is Good for You” blog:  “Are you kidding me? Inject a cow virus into MY body?  Who’s making money off this, you corporate hack?”

Jenner, of course, figured out that folks who worked with cows and were exposed to cowpox did not get sick with the great killer of the age, smallpox.

On the blog, Jenner might have responded: “I have proven that a mild case of this lesser disease would provide immunity from smallpox.”

“NO!!!  IT HAS NOT BEEN TESTED!!” yelled the skeptic in 19th Century all caps.

“Actually, it’s been in practical use now for years, with millions of successful immunizations,” Jenner responds.

“How much money have you made, you immoral slug?” the skeptic asks.

When the steam locomotive was first put into use, there was great fear that the human heart could not withstand the unheard of speeds—as much as 35 miles per hour—the hurtling locomotive could achieve.

I can only imagine the critics: “I saw on the Susan B. Anthony Show that this thing will cause heart attacks!”

And more: “I read on,  (don’t look for this—I made it up) ‘If God had meant for people not to walk, he’d have put wheels on ’em.’”

Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of The Green Revolution, is credited with saving more human life than anyone else who ever lived with his dwarf wheat varieties.  His discoveries paid off in the 1950s and 1960s.

But today, by the light of glowing computer screens, some critics have said his work is not “sustainable.”  By some estimates, Borlaug’s work “sustained” the lives of about a billion people.

The world has managed to move forward despite resistance to change.  Change is uncomfortable and sometimes hurts, and nothing is more necessary.  I’m just glad Borlaug didn’t have to deal with MSNBC.

Gene Hall

Public Relations Director
Texas Farm Bureau
I believe that the only hope for a food secure world is capitalism and reasonable profits for America’s farm and ranch families–that the first element of sustainability is economic survival.
Follow Gene on Twitter and Facebook.

5 Responses to “Change: One step forward, two steps back”

  1. I think you’re point really proves that the truth eventually comes out… with time. Without the protagonist you’d still have mercury fillings in your teeth, asbestos insulating your house, lead in your dinner ware, and so on.

    However, much time can pass as the two sides battle over truth. While undeniable truth slowly makes its way toward acceptance, better to err on the side of caution. Don’t risk ruining your health on chemicalized food.

    • “Chemicalized?” Methinks you’ve coined a new word, Clay. I was trying to be funny, and making the point of how hard it would be to make any progress at all in today’s 24/7 news cycle, Internet fish bowl, trust no one world.

  2. Gene,
    There are two types of people pushing Agriculture. Those who want to “Feed the world” for profits, no matter what the cost to human life, and those who want to teach the world to grow their own crops. Sorry you had Bronchitis, truly. I bet if you ate more organic food and less processed food you would never get sick again. I’m 8 years free of sickness myself. Blessings.

    • Gene Hall says:

      I appreciate your kind thoughts Li.
      What happened to me is an allergy attack, ragweed, cottonwood etc, the drainage of which caused an upper respiratory infection. I had been for awhile now, remarkably disease free. I don’t eat a lot of processed food. I do eat a substantial amount of fruits and veggies, but I don’t care a whit if it’s organic or not. Though I have respect for organic growers, I believe the mountains of evidence that suggest the consumption of same does not matter to my health, or yours. The important thing is that we all eat good portions of fruits and veggies, lean meat and other proteins and so on. Bet we can agree on that. I’d take your bet if we had any way to settle it! Blessings back.

  3. Gene Hall says:

    If capitalism has proven anything, it’s that reasonable profits create opportunity – and lot’s of a desired product. I’m just not seeing people dropping from the healthy and nutritious food produced by U.S. agriculture. Not everyone can grow their own food. Not everyone wants to. And I’m not real sure that “feeding the world” is a bad thing.

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