Doing the right thing simply for the sake of it reeks of simplistic idealism. And it certainly will not get you ahead in the cashrenter-eat-cashrenter world of American crop farming, right?
So why does it persist? I have known farmers - too few, to be sure - who ignored the obvious commands of self-interest and social status to work for a goal that was, as far as my skeptical eye could discover, completely altruistic.
Maybe they aren't as loony as we think.
We have a biological drive. We eat when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, have sex to satisfy our carnal urges. We also have a second drive—we respond to rewards and punishments in our environment. But what we’ve forgotten—and what the science shows—is that we also have a third drive. We do things because they’re interesting, because they’re engaging, because they’re the right things to do, because they contribute to the world. The problem is that, especially in our organizations, we stop at that second drive. We think the only reason people do productive things is to snag a carrot or avoid a stick. But that’s just not true. Our third drive—our intrinsic motivation—can be even more powerful. [More of a very interesting interview]I hesitate to use this blog as an example other than to suggest it satisfies that third drive for me - it feels like one right thing to do. Perversely, this satisfaction does not arise from being right in every instance (heh), but from making the effort to communicate and idea or opinion.
The Internet has allowed many of us to engage in this increasingly collaborative adventure, and as mentioned in the interview, much of the time has been taken from thoughtless TV viewing. This is the miracle of the cognitive surplus.
Agriculture may be poised on the brink of a considerable cognitive surplus of our own. We need to examine how we spend our time, and what we could be doing for ourselves and our profession.
More importantly, the insights Shirky shared above gives pause for those of us in the ag media.
I know I'm listening. And I think the decisions by viewers/readers will be self-evident sooner than we think.