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  • Last modified 135 days ago (March 8, 2018)

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The more we know

Among the many clever quotes he gave us, a 20th century spin on a Socrates saying by Albert Einstein is among my favorites of his:

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”

Before Monday, I already knew more than I ever wanted or expected about blue-green algae, that summertime bacterial nemesis that attacks our lakes in random but relentless fashion. We’ve made it a point to seek out experts to enhance our reporting and provide our readers with a broader understanding of the scope of the problem, and we’ve learned some things in the process.

After attending a Monday meeting of the Neosho Regional Advisory Committee of the Kansas Water Office at the Scout House in Hillsboro, I gained new appreciation for just how much I don’t know about blue-green algae.

Experts from Kansas Biological Survey, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Geological Survey talked at length about research, mitigation practices, specific features and chemistry of Marion Reservoir, and more. The information was at once fascinating and overwhelming.

I was at least happy to see that an old family friend on the committee, Pat Sauble of Cedar Point, seemed to be in the same boat as I. He asked many questions I might have, and at times interjected humor when the data seemed too technical for common folk such as us to grasp.

That Einstein quote also seemed to apply Sunday as I talked with friend Mike Ottensmeier about a radical career change from law enforcement to cattleman. At times, I had to conceal a smile as Mike talked about new experiences hooking up feed wagons, pulling calves, tagging cattle, and the like. At almost every turn, there was an underlying sense of astonishment in his voice that it all could be so complex. He’d done some work on farms as a teen, and that was just enough to take everything in with the realization that what he knew about raising and selling cattle wasn’t nearly enough as what he needs to learn.

Our county economic development corporation board members must often feel the same. Each is seemingly successful in their chosen walks of life, and all came to the task with at least basic knowledge of certain economic development concepts.

Running a successful enterprise is one thing; running an enterprise that’s supposed bring businesses and jobs to the county in the face of complex and daunting challenges is quite another. It’s almost certain that every time they tackle a new topic, board members realize how much they still have to learn to provide guidance to an entity meant to save our county from economic peril. How well they succeed will depend in part on how well they learn.

That goes for about any enterprise someone might want to undertake. It’s been my experience over the years that when I encounter someone who thinks they know it all, they’re often setting themselves and others up for a big fall.

Of course, knowing is worth nothing if it doesn’t inform actions. That reminds me of a newer favorite quote, this one from author Eileen Anglin: “If knowing something got you where you needed to go, you’d be there already.”

— david colburn

Last modified March 8, 2018

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