Minnesota has a rich agricultural history, which is why it’s surprising that a researcher like Jon Foley has become so well known for his work that challenges conventional ideas and practices. Yet, in light of his TEDxUMN talk recently, his presence — and the presence of others like him — is increasingly important.
In a nutshell, Foley says the way we produce food needs to change because it is currently the biggest contributor to climate change, and it’s affecting the availability of natural resources like water. It is time to take seriously the need for cross-disciplinary discussions of how to improve food production.
We applaud the University of Minnesota for retaining strong, collaborative, critical thinkers like Foley, and we see the TED event as an opportunity to spread faculty research inside and outside of the University community in an effort to give it momentum and to inspire students to study new and controversial ideas.
Faculty who are passionate about solving societal issues on various levels — economics, the environment, social inequality, education — have a way of passing on that passion in lectures and public discussions. At a time when our country’s leaders are unwilling to cooperate for the greater good, the role of the academic collaborating with others to solve problems has become even more important.
For reasons beyond inspiring confidence and investment in the University, we should continue to disseminate research that tries to solve society’s ills in a way that inspires collaboration and further scholarship by faculty peers and the next generation.