Julie’s Resolutions for 2016

As 2015 comes to a close, I am routinely cursing myself for not paying more attention in science class. I have become somewhat obsessed with CRISPR-Cas9, this really cool process where the smarty pants people who did pay attention in science class are fixing screwed-up genes in plants, animals and people. That meteorology class I took in college isn’t really coming in handy (I thought it would help me get a job as a weather girl) so now I’m immersed in step-by-step videos, articles and interviews.

Apparently, I’m not the only person excited about CRISPR. It was just named 2015’s Breakthrough of the Year by Science magazine. Even my husband – who has perfected the technique of rolling his eyes without actually doing so whenever I talk about genetic engineering – showed some genuine interest in the topic. I must be on to something.

My top resolution for 2016 is to be able to explain CRISPR in less than 30 seconds, just before the “oh shit, she’s talking about GMOs again” look starts to cloud the faces of my friends and family as they reach for their iPhone. I might even design a little cocktail napkin illustration with Cas9 as a mini pair of scissors. This is a far cry from my resolution last year, which was to improve my short game from 70 yards, although I’d say they both have the same degree of difficulty.

I have a few other resolutions to share:

Start a podcast with Amy: I’m pretty sure we can get an audience just by reading aloud our daily texts. Especially the drunk texts when we whine about how the world doesn’t understand us, and why do we have to listen to people yammer about college visits and soccer tournaments when we want to talk about nukes and GMOs, dammit!

We joke that we are trying to dumb down the world of science. A little humor, snark, and profanity wouldn’t hurt either.

Read Calestous Juma’s new book: This Harvard professor is kind of a rock star. When he followed me on Twitter, I couldn’t help but brag (to Amy, the only person who would’ve cared). I’ve learned a ton from him and he has a new book coming out this year – Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies. I hope he has an entire chapter devoted to organic assholes like Gary Hirshberg. Speaking of which….

Bring some amount of misery to the Garys: Two people who really deserve some comeuppance in 2016 are Gary Ruskin and Gary Hirshberg (who we loving refer to as Gary Doucheberg). Gary Hirshberg has gotten away with too much shit for too long. Not only does he get glowing coverage from the media (Google his name, you’ll find nothing but fawning profiles and bullshit quotes from him in “objective” news articles) but the guy also gets honorary degrees and speaking engagements where bobble-headed audiences nod in agreement and admiration. The media has totally failed to fairly cover this guy, not one word about how much money he’s spent lobbying to get food labeled as GMO. Still trying to get a serious reporter to write that story.

Gary Ruskin is a soulless turd of a man who spent 2015 trying to destroy the reputation of “pro-GMO” scientists and journalists. His character assassination campaign is backed by the Organic Consumers Association; I have no clue how that group maintains a non-profit status while maliciously attacking good people. Hey, there’s another idea for a news story! I won’t hold my breath for the media to report on that either, but it won’t stop me from trying in 2016.

Try not to end any friendships over the presidential election: Nothing ruins a friendship faster than a presidential election year and 2016 will be no exception. Most of my real-life friends are Republicans like me, but most of my tweeps are liberals. I’ve learned there are days you need to stay off Twitter entirely, because people you otherwise admire and respect are posting some really stupid shit. Those are days that my daytime sober self tells my evening wine-drinking self, “avoid the blue bird tonight.” It’s relatively easy now because my party doesn’t have a candidate. But once we do and they gloves come off even more, it’ll be a shit show. I will try to hold my tongue and my trigger finger (very tough for me to do, as some of you already know).

Keep writing, learning, engaging and listening: This year has been amazing. I’ve learned so much from so many smart, passionate people. I feel truly blessed to be a small part of the conversation about food, science, policy and progress.  I’m really excited to do more of the same in 2016…while laughing the whole time at Amy’s texts.

Amy’s Resolutions for 2016 

My new Republican friend, Julie, is all Type A ambitious with her goal-setting so now I’m going to scramble around and try to think of something that makes me sound like a person with a game plan. Last year worked out pretty well when my goal was something along the lines of Watch 10 Seasons of Friends in One Sitting without Getting a Blood Clot. A fixation on global poverty and clean energy issues wasn’t really on my radar last January.

So, here it goes but I reserve the right to change course because that’s how I roll: 

Keep Reading and Learning:  The more I learn about global issues like hunger or energy poverty, the more I realize how little I know. Every new piece of information leads to more questions, new problems, and different points of view. Sometimes it feels like I’m playing Information Whack-a-Mole so all I can do is keep reading. Professor Juma’s book is on the list for sure but so are a couple of Naomi Klein’s books. Which leads me to…

Avoid the Echo Chamber: One of the greatest things about this year on a personal level is that I’ve found my tribe. They’re rationalists, realists, and optimists but most of all, they’re pro-human. I’m so grateful to have found my people but I want to constantly remind myself that it’s okay to go against the tribe. Admitting I was wrong about GMOs being dangerous has taught me a good lesson – that being wrong is okay and admitting it actually feels pretty great even if it pisses off family and friends.

Learn More about Nuclear Energy: I’m what you’d call cautiously optimistic on nuclear power. It makes the most sense in terms of a clean energy source that’s capable of scaling up quickly but I’m not ready to go to the mat for it just yet since I still have a lot to learn. I will say though that the more I learn, the less afraid I am. I’ve learned enough to understand that even a worst case scenario with nuclear power won’t lead to an On the Beach world where there’s nothing left but the sound of a rolling Coke bottle.

I bought a little Geiger counter for my Learn about Radiation project and I’m having a blast hunting for radioactive stuff.  I get really excited when I find something “clicky.” My husband might be looking for a nice facility where I can eat pudding and talk about my feelings but I’m enjoying my new toy. I’m trading in my Beg Me for Seeds t-shirt for one that says Radiation is My Bitch.

Fight Pretend Science: Pseudoscience isn’t cute anymore. It used to be kind of a fun, quirky thing that your weird aunt with all the bracelets was into. Your weird aunt wasn’t hurting anyone even if she smelled funky. Now though, it’s every-fucking-where and it’s causing real world harm – like babies dying from not getting vaccinated sort of harm. And one of the reasons it’s everywhere is that mommy bloggers have been scammed by fear-mongering Internet quacks into becoming true believers of their fake science bullshit.

I’m not a scientist but I love reading and I love writing so I’m going to keep trying to wade through the muck to add a voice against pseudoscience even though I’m getting called a shill on a regular basis now. (Note to the person screaming shill: You sound so stupid that I’m tempted to feel sorry for you but you’re an asshole so, you know…fuck off.)

On that note of rage, I’m looking forward to seeing what this year brings. Getting involved with the ecomodernist movement has given me hope that real progress can be made on climate change and poverty. Shifting the focus toward making energy clean, abundant, and affordable seems like an approach that has better odds of success than the old Let’s Turn the World into a Bunch of Itty Bitty Communes with Windmills and Goats strategy.

If that hope can energize me enough to trade in Netflix for climate books and motivate Julie to give up her short game and study CRISPR, there’s a good chance that others could feel the same way so feel free to jump on board with us.

Julie and I are coming from different political perspectives but we’ve been able to find common ground by looking at issues through the lens of evidence and common sense rather than ideology. As we head into what’s destined to be a nasty election year, we’ll continue to fist bump when we agree, laugh when we don’t, and maybe throw in a safe word (Doucheberg?) in case it gets ugly.  We wish everyone a happy, hopeful new year and we hope you’ll join us in saying to 2016 –

Hell Yeah, Let’s Do this!