University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Needed: Clear Thinking on Complex Subjects

OK, so this is my latest on the “Troubled Waters” film and it may not be the last I write on the movie.  It certainly won’t be the last on the film’s subject:  the connections between agricultural practice and water quality in the Mississippi River.

So here goes:  I’ve now seen the film, thanks to a screening shown to attendees of the Mississippi River Network‘s annual meeting.  I’m glad the film was made, glad it raises the points it raises, and hope that the project furthers more discussion on the subject.  More discussion is needed, because no single film or any other presentation can adequately address the subject’s complexity.  To me, the issues raised here are issues of what we value as a society and how we make communal decisions on structural questions that change the ways we live.  No wonder people get passionate about this!

Last Sunday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune editorialized about the issues posed by the film to the University, including conflict of interest and academic freedom.  The same day’s editorial section also included a commentary by David Mulla, a soil scientist at the University, taking issue with some of the facts and claims in the film.  The fact that Mulla, a highly respected scientist, could debate other University scholars and program staff in this open forum demonstrates that academic freedom is not dead yet at the University.

Then on Wednesday, Barb Coffin and Larkin McPhee, the executive producer and director of “Troubled Waters,” wrote a rebuttal to Mulla’s piece.

This robust exchange between knowledgeable, thoughtful people is what the University excels at.  It is one of our primary contributions to the state and region.

I look forward to the discussion continuing.  Please weigh in with your thoughts!  And if you want to watch the movie, go to the Twin Cities Public television web site, click “tpt on demand,” and there you’ll find it.


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One Comment

  1. Mark GormanOctober 15, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Very good point on the need for civil dialogue and discussion.
    Would these ongoing discussions be akin to a “Bridge Over Troubled Waters?” (Excuse the pun, But it’s a Friday afternoon in a sunny DC, and my brain is ready for the weekend!)

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