Now What?

Donald Trump and the election are subjects I’ve intentionally avoided discussing in terms of this blog or ecomodernism. I’ve written about him elsewhere but up until now, I’ve felt that one of the beautiful things about ecomodernism is its potential to be a political bridge – at least in terms of dealing with environmental issues and climate change. I’ve defended the “climate deniers” and tried to put forth the idea that the left pushed them into denialism by attaching a socialist agenda to climate change action. I stand by that but I think I may have been very wrong that the right will ever accept the science on climate change if we could just disentangle the environmental left’s ideology from the solutions.

 I thought maybe we could find common ground with clean air. I thought that we could meet them halfway with technology and an acceptance of moderate capitalism – and maybe we still can do that – but my naïve dreams that the right will accept climate science or care about clean air is dead. (I thought everyone could get on board with clean air but that was stupid – if it looks clean, it is clean – fuck New Dheli, right?) The reality:

There is not going to be a centrist solution to climate change. There is no moderate movement.

It feels hopeless today but maybe it’s not. Trump will probably be okay with clean energy if there’s money to be made. He’ll back nuclear if there’s money to be made. He’ll back any technology if there’s money to be made. His complete lack of character and soullessness might even be useful in certain ways. That’s grasping though. The truth is that climate change action under him is toast – he does not give a shit. And he won’t give a shit unless it affects him personally – which it never will. It won’t even affect his kids (not that I think that’s a concern to him either) because the wealthy will be the last to notice.

One possible silver lining is that he’ll protect American agriculture but that won’t be because he cares about farmers or farmland (although he will want their votes again in 4 years). He’ll support genetic engineering for the sake of biotech companies and the corporations that make snacks so that’s nice I guess – but he won’t spend one second thinking about climate adaptation for crops or humanitarian applications for biotechnology. Humanitarian anything will be a joke under this guy but maybe he won’t stand in the way.

You would think that some sort of economic development for the global poor might possible under a Trump presidency but I doubt it. I’m sure he’s delusional enough to think that he’s going to be responsible for a booming American economy – some of his supporters certainly buy that idea – but he’s never given any indication that he’s concerned with the plight of the rest of the planet. He would probably cock his head to the side like a confused dog if you mentioned energy poverty in the developing world. The upside is that he won’t care enough to stand in the way of poor countries and electricity. The downside is that he also won’t care how dirty it is.

So, what can we do? Ecomodernism is optimistic (which I’m not right now) but it’s also realistic – which we have to be. We’re stuck with Trump [insert your favorite orange insult, I’m tapped out] and a country full of people who think climate change is a joke. The only thing left to do is push forward with developing technology that might help get us out of this mess because in that war of “Capitalism vs. the Climate”, the climate has lost. The faster the people who care about climate change accept that truth, the more effectively we’ll be able to fight the environmental damage that’s coming in the next 4 years. Because, a Donald Trump presidency? Well, that changes everything.


Everything is not awesome.





Amy and Julie Celebrate Nobel Laureates Day


This is a (mostly) true story about how Julie and I reacted to the exciting news that Nobel Laureates were uniting to tell Greenpeace to knock it off with their GMO opposition:

Julie:  *bounces* I have scoop. Over 100 Nobel laureates are getting together to tell Greenpeace to stop being assholes about GMOs and Golden Rice.

Amy: *seal claps* I love Golden Rice. Maybe Greenpeace will finally stop being assholes about it.

Julie: *rolls eyes* Greenpeace will never stop being assholes about GMOs and Golden Rice.

Amy:  *cries*

Julie:  Buck up, Buttercup. This will be huge news.

Amy:  Yes! Nobel laureates telling Greenpeace to stop being assholes about Golden Rice will be the biggest story ever!

Julie:  The laureates are even giving a press conference in D.C.!

Amy:  Oh my god. This is so huge.

Amy and Julie:  Hooray for Nobel laureates! This will change everything!

Day of Nobel Laureate Announcement…

Amy:  *wakes up early* It is Nobel Laureate Day! It is just like Christmas!

Julie:  *calls Amy* Happy Nobel Laureate Day!

Amy and Julie:  *Stream press conference*

Amy:  I cannot wait to see Twitter reactions.

Julie:  I cannot wait to read all of the front page stories.

Amy:  *refreshes Twitter*

Julie:  *refreshes Twitter*

Amy:  *refresh*

Julie:  *refresh*

Amy:  Maybe reporters are busy writing their stories.

Julie:  Yes! There will be 100 front page stories tomorrow.

The Next Day…

Amy:  Where are the front page stories?

Julie:  There are no stories.

Amy:  *cries* The is the worst Nobel Laureate Day ever.

Julie:  I am going to go fight with people on Twitter.

Amy:  I am going to go write passive-aggressive satire about Greenpeace.

The End

In other words, it was just another day in the world of GMO drama. We were naive to think this day would be any different, after all, the National Academy of Sciences came out with a report a few weeks ago that should have put an end to the nonsense coming out of the anti-GMO camps but it didn’t. The usual suspects just followed the same old script:

Most Prestigious Scientific Organization Ever in Existence: GMOs are fine. This argument is stupid. Knock it the fuck off.

Anti-GMO Activists: *rend garments* Seralini! Lumpy Rats! Monoculture!

Scientists: *massive collective sigh*

Anti-GMO Activists:  *foam at mouth* Shills! Monsanto! Bleeaaarrrrgh! *hack up hairballs*

News Organizations: *snore* This again?

Why we thought the Nobel Laureate announcement would be some huge breakthrough is the big mystery. God himself could come down from a mountain holding an ancient tablet carved with the words “GMOs are fine. Knock it the Fuck Off.” and these people would not care. Here’s how the big Nobel laureate announcement basically went:

109 Nobel Laureates: GMOs are fine. Knock it the fuck off. Oh, and this bullshit of yours could be killing people. Love, Literally the Smartest People Alive

Anti-GMO Activists: *yank out eyelashes* Nobel Laureates are stupid! Shills! Monsanto!

Nobel Laureates:  *massive collective sigh*

News Organizations:  109 Nobel laureates? Never heard of ‘em.

Julie and I cried (not really) but there was a silver lining because the only rebuttal that anti-GMO activists had besides the “Monsanto Shill Slow Jam” was a press release which claimed that an academic paper by a known GMO-skeptic had shown that Greenpeace and other GMO opponents had nothing to do with stalling Golden Rice. (It didn’t show that at all but that’s another story.)

Greenpeace:  *whining* This paper proves that our massive, well-funded campaign against Golden Rice was meaningless.

Paper’s Cited Sources: That’s not what we said.

Greenpeace:  Yeah huh. The one gazillion dollars we’ve spent fighting GMOs and Golden Rice have totes been a waste. *sticks out tongue*

At least it’s been amusing to watch these people pass around an article that tells the world how fucking useless they are. So, there’s that.

In spite of our disappointment that this wasn’t nearly as exciting to other people (or news outlets) as it was to us, the laureates did an incredible thing in using their influence to shed light on an important humanitarian issue (Vitamin A Deficiency) and calling out the organizations making it more difficult to address.  It’s still early so maybe this story will get some traction; maybe a breakthrough in the GMO debate will still happen because they took a stand. No matter what, the laureates have our deepest admiration. And we were just kidding, it was actually a pretty great Nobel Laureate Day, even if it didn’t get the parade it deserved..

A Plea to Greenpeace on World Food Day

Note: This started out as an attempt to talk about the benefits of Golden Rice and morphed into a slightly hysterical rant but I’m leaving it as is because being hysterical about hungry and malnourished children isn’t entirely inappropriate, especially on World Food Day.

I have developed a great talent for working GMOs into dinner party conversations. Believe it or not, it’s not that difficult. (Actually, it’s very difficult but I’m queen of the non sequitur.) My husband has developed an even greater talent for making a smooth u-turn away from the group when he hears certain GMO-related keywords and phrases, one of those being ‘Golden Rice’. I love Golden Rice. It’s the reason I became so passionate about the potential of GMOs. I love it so much that if my kids weren’t little, I would fly to Bangladesh to help guard the test fields. I hate long flights, bugs, and dirt so this is a big deal for me. (I don’t do candlelight vigils or hold up posters but I’d throw my body across these rice fields to save them.)

Golden Rice is a white rice which has been genetically modified to produce beta-carotene (Vitamin A). According to the World Health Organization:

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. In pregnant women VAD causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality.

Also from the World Health Organization:

  • An estimated 250 million preschool children are vitamin A deficient and it is likely that in vitamin A deficient areas a substantial proportion of pregnant women is vitamin A deficient.

  • An estimated 250 000 to 500 000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight.

Those are huge numbers – up to a half a million children are blind or dead because their diets don’t contain enough Vitamin A. That would be like losing every kid in my city, every year. (By the way, these are conservative numbers. I’ve seen anywhere from 2 million to 6 million.) It’s almost impossible to wrap your head around those numbers. The reason for this massive problem is that a large part of the world depends on one staple crop, rice, to meet all of its nutritional needs. Modifying rice to produce beta-carotene could potentially save the eyesight and the lives of millions of people each year.

You can read more about the history of Golden Rice here. In summary though, it’s been around for a long time and has had to overcome numerous hurdles, including violence, to see the literal light of day. Hopes are high and fingers are crossed all over the world as the first field tests of Golden Rice are set to begin in November in Bangladesh, where according to the Bangledeshi Rice Research Institute (BRRI):

Consumption of only 150 gram of Golden Rice a day is expected to supply half of the recommended daily intake (RDA) of vitamin A for an adult. People in Bangladesh depend on rice for 70 percent of their daily calorie intakes.

And here is where I go completely off the rails and beg Greenpeace and its associates not to destroy these fields again. I know they think this is some giant multinational corporate conspiracy to control the world’s food supply. I know they think that it’s better to pass out vitamin supplements and encourage home gardens and nobody is saying those aren’t part of the solution but they aren’t enough. I am begging them to be on the right side of history. Their opposition to Golden Rice is understandable because then their anti-GMO house of cards might collapse if people stopped fearing the technology but is that really worth destroying the potential to save millions of lives? Children’s lives? Is winning a manufactured war on a technology worth the lives of millions of babies? (I’m working myself up into a froth.)

Nobody is trying to control the world’s food supply (whatever that even means) with Golden Rice. The Gates Foundation and the rest of the scientists and humanitarians involved in this project aren’t part of some nefarious scheme.

Officials concerned at IRRI and Gates Foundation confirmed that as the Golden Rice inventors and subsequent technology developer Syngenta allowed a royalty-free access to the patents, the new rice when released for commercial farming in Bangladesh will be of the same price as other rice varieties, and farmers will be able to share and replant the seeds as they wish.

I feel like Rumpelstiltskin jumping up and down, ripping my hair out. THERE IS NO CONSPIRACY. It’s about starving, blind human beings.

Greenpeace does great things. I admire their defense of our oceans, especially the work they’ve done on the issues with tuna. I am with them on so much but not on GMOs and especially not on Golden Rice. It’s too important and there are too many lives at stake.  It’s World Food Day. Can we agree at least today that we all have the same goals in eliminating world hunger and malnutrition? Is there any chance Greenpeace would call a truce on GMOs for just a minute to “unite on hunger” and give Golden Rice a shot at succeeding?

I have no idea if petitions do any good but here’s one about condemning any attempts to destroy the field tests if you think they do.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. Maybe take a minute on World Food Day to be grateful for how many food choices we have because most people don’t.