Throwing My Loop…
By: Michael Johnson
JUST ONE PERSON?
“I’m just one person. What can
I do?” We’ve all heard that and we have all felt that way.
Especially these days. What on earth can one person do
about what we have to face? Violence, vandalism, social
unrest, terrorist plots, and the Lord Himself has been
physically removed from the classrooms of America. (And by
the way, don’t blame teachers for that. Teachers didn’t do
that. The Supreme Court did.) All that bad news spells
doom for us all. Man, we got trouble right here in River
City. As Robert Preston said in the Music Man, “Everybody’s
drinkin’ and shootin’ pool, and pool ends with an L – and
that rhymes with Hell – and that’s where we’re headed if we
don’t change our ways!”
Sound familiar? What on earth can one person do?
In 1968, a man named Paul Ehrlich wrote a book called
Population Bomb. This best seller predicted, “in the
1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve
to death”, that nothing could be done to avoid mass famine
greater than any in history. Ehrlich said, “The battle to
feed all of humanity is over. Hundreds of millions will
starve in the 70s and 80s in spite of any crash programs
embarked on now. At this late date, nothing can be done to
prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”
Ehrlich – a Stanford professor, for goodness’ sake - also
predicted Pakistan and India would be the first to go in
just a few years. Nothing could be done. Certainly not by
It’s a good thing Norman Borlaug didn’t feel that way.
Norman was a Minnesota farm boy who – after making it
through the depression – wanted to go to the University of
Minnesota. His grandfather inspired him by saying, “Your
wiser to fill your head now if you want to fill your belly
later on.” With high hopes, Norman set off, and promptly
failed the entrance exam.
He then enrolled in the school’s newly created two-year
General College and eventually graduated with a degree in
agriculture majoring in forestry. Norman was also a member
of the university wrestling team. He said, “College
wrestling taught me I could hold my on against the best of
the world.” Even though Norman was not a man big in
stature, he was big in heart. (He was inducted in the
National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma in
According to Wikipedia, after college Borlaug worked
for the Civilian Conservation Corp in 1935 working with the
unemployed on U. S. federal projects. Many of the people
who worked for him were starving. He later recalled, “I saw
how food changed them. All of this left scars on me.”
(Once again we see so often our mission comes from our
misery.) Borlaug was inspired by a professor named Elvin
Charles Stakman whom Borlaug heard lecture on plant
pathology. Later they became friends and Stakman encouraged
Norman to focus on elimination of plant diseases. Why am I
telling you all this? Watch what happens…watch what one
person can do.
Combining these events in his life, Borlaug became
convinced the problem of world hunger was solvable!
While Dr. Ehrlic was sittin’ on his dead butt in an
air-conditioned office at Stanford whining about the end of
the world, Stormin’ Norman hopped on over to Pakistan and
said, “Hope is alive! Let me show you how to plant
disease-resistant wheat.” In three years, Pakistan
doubled their wheat production. Then Borlaug went to
India – all of whom should be dead by now, according to
Ehrlich - and within six years, India farmers
mastered all of the cereals.
Ehrlich was recently interviewed about his dire
predictions and the fact that almost none came true.
(‘Course he still made millions on his book.) His response
was, “Uh…well, uh, it’s still a shame that so many are
hungry.” Yes, it is a shame that anybody is hungry, but
hold on here a minute, Pablo. You said, ‘everybody’s gonna’
die.’ Maybe I’m just splitting hairs here, but seems to me
there’s a difference between being hungry…and being dead.
Borlaug died in September of this year. He spent
the last few years of his life teaching at Texas A&M
University at College Station… which proves he was smarter
than Ehrlich in the first place.
So what can one person do?
One person can love and inspire their grandchild. One
person can feed a charm of hummingbirds, change a child’s
life at a public school, help an abused horse heal, cook for
the entire family on Thanksgiving, be a life-long friend,
and one person can – as Norman Borlaug did – receive such
honors as the Nobel Prize, the Presidential Medal of
Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal because he…one person…saved a billion lives!
Whenever we feel weak and unable to cope, we often say,
“What can I do? I’m just one person.” On those occasions,
we should remember - when the world is changed, it’s always
by just one person.
In memory of
Norman Borlaug –
1914 - September 12th, 2009
-- Michael Johnson
Michael heading for the great Sonny Gould
The Rowdy Cow Dog