The Roots of Progress

The Wizard and the Prophet

Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World

Charles C. Mann

A book about two archetypes: the “wizard” is basically a techno-optimist; the “prophet” is an enviro-pessimist. The story is told in large part through the lives of two men who exemplify the two worldviews: Norman Borlaug, founder of the Green Revolution in agriculture, and William Vogt, who helped establish the environmentalist movement. Mann summarizes Vogt’s view as: “Cut back! Cut back! Otherwise everyone will lose!” while Borlaug’s was: “Innovate! Innovate! Only in that way can everyone win!” The book also looks at a handful of issues in agriculture, energy, and water usage in order to further illustrate the difference in these ways of thinking, trying to be fair to both views throughout. Worth reading for Borlaug’s fascinating life story alone.

Highly recommended, one of my top picks.

Get the book