The long read: The oh-so-Instagrammable food movement has been thoroughly debunked but it shows no signs of going away. The real question is why we were so desperate to believe it
In the spring of 2014, Jordan Younger noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps. Not cool was her reaction. At the time, Younger, 23, believed herself to be eating the healthiest of all possible diets. She was a gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan. As The Blonde Vegan, Younger was a wellness blogger in New York City, one of thousands on Instagram (where she had 70,000 followers) rallying under the hashtag #eatclean. Although she had no qualifications as a nutritionist, Younger had sold more than 40,000 copies of her own $25, five-day cleanse programme a formula for an all-raw, plant-based diet majoring on green juice.
But the clean diet that Younger was selling as the route to health was making its creator sick. Far from being super-healthy, she was suffering from a serious eating disorder: orthorexia, an obsession with consuming only foods that are pure and perfect. Youngers raw vegan diet had caused her periods to stop and given her skin an orange tinge from all the sweet potato and carrots she consumed (the only carbohydrates she permitted herself). Eventually, she sought psychological help, and began to slowly widen the repertoire of foods she would allow herself to eat, starting with fish. She recognised that the problem was not her veganism, per se, but the particularly rigid and restrictive diet regime she had imposed on herself.
As Younger slowly recovered from her eating disorder, she faced a new dilemma. What would people think, she agonised, if they knew the Blonde Vegan was eating fish? She levelled with her followers in a blogpost entitled Why Im Transitioning Away from Veganism. Within hours of announcing her new diet, Younger was receiving irate messages from vegans demanding money back from the cleanse programmes and T-shirts they had bought from her site (featuring slogans such as OH KALE YES).
She lost followers by the thousands and received a daily raft of angry messages, including death threats. Some responded to her confession that she was suffering from an eating disorder by accusing her of being a fat piece of lard who didnt have the discipline to be truly clean.
For as long as people have eaten food, there have been diets and quack cures. But previously, these existed, like conspiracy theories, on the fringes of food culture. Clean eating was different, because it established itself as a challenge to mainstream ways of eating, and its wild popularity over the past five years has enabled it to move far beyond the fringes. Powered by social media, it has been more absolutist in its claims and more popular in its reach than any previous school of modern nutrition advice.
At its simplest, clean eating is about ingesting nothing but whole or unprocessed foods (whatever is meant by these deeply ambiguous terms). Some versions of clean eating have been vegan, while others espouse various meats (preferably wild) and something mysteriously called bone broth (stock, to you and me). At first, clean eating sounded modest and even homespun: rather than counting calories, you would eat as many nutritious home-cooked substances as possible.
But it quickly became clear that clean eating was more than a diet; it was a belief system, which propagated the idea that the way most people eat is not simply fattening, but impure. Seemingly out of nowhere, a whole universe of coconut oil, dubious promises and spiralised courgettes has emerged. Back in the distant mists of 2009, James Duigan, owner of The Bodyism gym in London and sometime personal trainer to the model Elle MacPherson, published his first Clean and Lean book. As an early adopter of #eatclean, Duigan notes that he battled with his publisher to include ingredients like kale and quinoa, because no one had ever heard of them. Now quinoa is in every supermarket and kale has become as normal as lettuce. I long for the days when clean eating meant not getting too much down your front, the novelist Susie Boyt joked recently.
We require much better methods of speaking about nature and our relationships with it, composes Guardian writer George Monbiot
I f Moses had assured the Israelites a land streaming with mammary secretions and insect vomit, would they have followed him into Canaan? This indicates milk and honey, I question it would have influenced them.
So why do we utilize such language to explain the natural marvels of the world? There are examples all over, however I will highlight the issue with a couple of from the UK. On land, locations where nature is safeguarded are called websites of unique clinical interest . At sea, they are identified no-take zones or recommendation locations . Had you set out to separate individuals from the living world, you might hardly have actually done much better. When we utilize that word about an individual, #peeee
Even the term reserve is cold and pushing away think of exactly what we imply. The environment is simply as bad: an empty word that produces no images in the mind. Wild plants and animals are referred to as resources or stocks, as if they come from us and their function is to serve us: a concept disastrously extended by the term environment services .
Our attacks on life and charm are likewise sanitised and camouflaged by the words we utilize. When a types is eliminated by individuals, we utilize the term termination. It communicates no sense of our function in the extermination, and blends this elimination with the natural turnover of types. Its like calling murder expiration. Environment modification likewise puzzles natural variation with the devastating interruption we trigger: a confusion intentionally made use of by those who reject our function. (Even this neutral term has actually now been prohibited from usage in the United States Department of Agriculture .) I still see ecologists describing enhanced pasture, suggesting land from which all life has actually been eliminated aside from a number of plant types favoured for grazing or silage. We require a brand-new vocabulary.
Words have an exceptional power to form our understandings . The organisation Common Cause goes over a research study task where individuals were asked to play a video game. One group was informed it was called the Wall Street Game, while another was asked to play the Community Game. It was the very same video game. When it was called the Wall Street Game, the individuals were regularly more self-centered and more most likely to betray the other gamers. There were comparable distinctions in between individuals carrying out a customer response research study and a resident response research study: the concerns were the exact same, however when individuals saw themselves as customers, they were most likely to associate materialistic worths with favorable feelings. When we hear them, #peeee
Words encode worths that are unconsciously set off. When particular expressions are duplicated, they can shape and enhance a worldview , making it difficult for us to see a concern in a different way. Marketers and spin medical professionals comprehend this too well: they understand that they can activate specific actions by utilizing particular language. Numerous of those who look for to safeguard the living world appear invulnerable to this intelligence.
The devastating failure by ecologists to pay attention to exactly what social psychologists and cognitive linguists have actually been informing them has actually caused the worst framing of all: natural capital . This term notifies us that nature is secondary to the human economy, and loses its worth when it can not be determined by loan. It leads nearly inexorably to the claim made by the federal government firm Natural England : The crucial function of an effectively operating natural surroundings is providing financial success.
On the anniversary of Hiroshimas nuclear destruction, a walk through the citys memorial park reveals a complex mix of devastation and rehabilitation
Hiroshima is flourishing. It has a population surpassing 1.19 million, a burgeoning gourmet scene, towering luxury shopping centres, and a trendy night life. It is a city of vibrant green boulevards and open spaces, entangled by the braided tributaries of the ta River. However it is also a city of memorialisation. Over 75 monuments, large and small, sprout like delicate mushrooms in parks and on sidewalks, scattered across the city as if by the wind. Whilst the city grows and evolves, the memory remains of Hiroshima as first place on Earth where nuclear weapons were used in warfare, on 6 August 1945.
The number of fatalities is not known, due wartime population transience and the destruction of records in the blast. Estimates are in the region of 135,000 people, roughly equivalent to the population of Oxford. It is therefore unsurprising that many locals have Hibakusha veterans in their families. The Hibakusha community maintain a living collective memory of the bomb, sharing their atomic folktales similarly to the Kataribe storytellers, as a cautionary modern mythology against nuclear war.
The long read: For 10 years, Nasa has been flying over the ice caps to chart their retreat. This data is an invaluable record of climate change. But does anyone care?
From the window of a Nasa aircraft flying over the Arctic, looking down on the ice sheet that covers most of Greenland, its easy to see why it is so hard to describe climate change. The scale of polar ice, so dramatic and so clear from a plane flying at 450 metres (1,500ft) high enough to appreciate the scope of the ice and low enough to sense its mass is nearly impossible to fathom when you arent sitting at that particular vantage point.
But its different when you are there, cruising over the ice for hours, with Nasas monitors all over the cabin streaming data output, documenting in real time dramatising, in a sense the depth of the ice beneath. You get it, because you can see it all there in front of you, in three dimensions.
Imagine a thousand centuries of heavy snowfall, piled up and compacted into stone-like ice atop the bedrock of Greenland, an Arctic island almost a quarter the size of the US. Imagine all of modern human history, from the Neolithic revolution 12,000 years ago when humans moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from there, eventually, to urban societies until today. All of the snow that fell on the Arctic during that entire history is gathered up in just the top layers of the ice sheet.
Imagine the dimensions of that ice: 1.71m sq km (656,000 sq miles), three times the size of Texas. At its belly from the top layer, yesterdays snowfall, to the bottom layer, which is made of snow that fell out of the sky 115,000-130,000 years ago it reaches 3,200 metres (10,500ft) thick, nearly four times taller than the worlds highest skyscraper.
Imagine the weight of this thing: at the centre of Greenland, the ice is so heavy that it warps the land itself, pushing bedrock 359 metres (1,180ft) below sea level. Under its own immense weight, the ice comes alive, folding and rolling in solid streams, in glaciers that slowly push outward. This is a head-spinningly dynamic system that we still dont fully understand and that we really ought to learn far more about, and quickly. In theory, if this massive thing were fully drained, and melted into the sea, the water contained in it would make the worlds oceans rise by 7 metres (23ft).
When you fly over entire mountain ranges whose tips barely peek out from under the ice and these are just the visible ones its possible to imagine what would happen if even a fraction of this quantity of pent-up freshwater were unleashed. You can plainly see how this thing would flood the coasts of the world, from Brooklyn to Bangladesh.
The crew of Nasas Operation IceBridge have seen this ice from every imaginable angle. IceBridge is an aerial survey of the polar regions that has been underway for nearly a decade the most ambitious of its kind to date. It has yielded a growing dataset that helps researchers document, among other things, how much, and at what rate, ice is disappearing from the poles, contributing to global sea-level rises, and to a variety of other phenomena related to climate change.
Alternating seasonally between the north and south poles, Operation Icebridge mounts months-long campaigns in which it operates eight- to 12-hour daily flights, as often as weather permits. This past spring season, when I joined them in the Arctic, they launched 40 flights, but had 63 detailed flight plans prepared. Operation IceBridge seeks to create a continuous data record of the constantly shifting ice by bridging hence the name data retrieved from a Nasa satellite that ended its service in 2009, called ICESat, and its successor, ICESat-2, which is due to launch next year. The Nasa dataset, which offers a broad overview of the state of polar ice, is publicly available to any researcher anywhere in the world.
In April, I travelled to Kangerlussuaq, in south-west Greenland, and joined the IceBridge field crew a group of about 30 laser, radar, digital mapping, IT and GPS engineers, glaciologists, pilots and mechanics. What I saw there were specialists who have, over the course of almost 10 years on this mission, mastered the art and science of polar data hunting while, at the same time, watching as the very concept of data, of fact-based discourse, has crumbled in their culture at home.
On each flight, I witnessed a remarkable tableau. Even as Arctic glaciers were losing mass right below the speeding plane, and even as raw data gleaned directly from those glaciers was pouring in on their monitors, the Nasa engineers sat next to their fact-recording instruments, sighing and wondering aloud if Americans had lost the eyes to see what they were seeing, to see the facts. What they told me revealed something about what it means to be a US federally funded climate researcher in 2017 and what they didnt, or couldnt, tell me revealed even more.
On my first morning in Greenland, I dropped in on a weather meeting with John Sonntag, mission scientist and de facto field captain for Nasas Operation IceBridge. I stood inside the cosy weather office at Kangerlussuaq airport, surrounded by old Danish-language topographical maps of Greenland, as Sonntag explained to me that the ice sheet, because of its shape, can generate unique weather patterns (the ice isnt flat, its curved, he said, making a little mound shape with his hands).
The fate of the polar ice has occupied the last decade of his life (Im away from home so much its probably why Im not married). But at pre-flight weather meetings, polar ice is mostly of concern to him for the quirky way it might affect that days weather. The figure in Sonntags mind this morning isnt metres of sea rise, but dollars in flight time. The estimated price tag for a flight on Operation IceBridge is about $100,000; a single hour of flight time is said to cost $10-15,000. If Sonntag misreads the weather and the plane has to turn back, he loses flight time, a lot of taxpayers money, and precious data.
I would come to view Sonntag as something of a Zen sage of atmospheric conditions. He checks the weather the moment he wakes in the morning, before he eats or even uses the bathroom. He told me that it wasnt simply about knowing what the weather is. With weather, there is no is. Whats needed is the ability to grasp constant dynamic change.
What Im doing, he said, is correcting my current reading against my previous one which he had made the last possible moment the night before, just before falling asleep. Basically, Im calibrating. The machine that he is calibrating, of course, is himself. This, as I would learn, was a pretty good summary of Sonntags modus operandi as a leader: constantly and carefully adjusting his readings in order to better navigate his expeditions shifting conditions.
Nevertheless, despite the metaphorical implications of his weather-watching, Sonntag was ever focused on the literal. At the weather meeting, I asked him about his concern over some low cloud cover that was developing a situation that could result in scrubbing the flight. Was his concern for the functionality of the aircrafts science equipment, its ice-penetrating radars, its lasers and cameras?
Crispr developer Jennifer Doudna speaks about finding the gene-editing tool, the split with her partner and the complex principles of hereditary control
Jennifer Doudna , 53, is an American biochemist based at the University of California, Berkeley. Together with the French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, she led the discovery of the innovative gene-editing tool, Crispr . The innovation has the possible to get rid of formerly incurable illness, however likewise positions ethical concerns about the possible unexpected effects of overwriting the human genome.
Were you unpopular as a kid? What got you hooked on science?
Yes, I was unpopular. My daddy was a teacher of American literature in Hawaii and he enjoyed books. One day I got back from school and he had actually dropped a copy of The Double Helix on the bed, by Jim Watson. One rainy afternoon I read it and I was simply shocked. I was blown away that you might do experiments about exactly what a particle appears like. I was most likely 12 or 13. I believe that was the start of beginning to believe, Wow, that might be a remarkable thing to deal with.
Youve invested the majority of your profession uncovering the structure of RNA and never ever set out to develop a tool to copy and paste human genes. How did you end up dealing with Crispr?
I believe you can put researchers into 2 containers. One is the type who dives really deeply into one subject for their entire profession and they understand it much better than anyone else worldwide. Theres the other pail, where I would put myself, where its like youre at a buffet table and you see a fascinating thing here and do it for a while, and that links you to another intriguing thing and you take a bit of that. Thats how I became dealing with Crispr it was an overall side-project.
But when you initially began your partnership with Emmanuelle Charpentier, did you have an inkling you were on to something unique?
We fulfilled at a conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and walked around the old town together. She was so enthusiastic, her enjoyment was really transmittable. I still keep in mind strolling down this street with her and she stated: Well Im actually delighted you wish to deal with us on the mystical [Cas9 the enzyme that snips DNA at the picked area in the modifying procedure] It was this sort of electrifying minute. Even then I simply had this suspicion that this was something truly intriguing.
How essential is individual chemistry in science partnerships?
Its vital. Operating in a laboratory is comparable to being in a high-school play: youre practicing long hours, its crowded, there are demanding things that turn up. Its the exact same thing in science. Things never ever work as you believe they will, experiments stop working therefore to have individuals around that truly agree each other is extremely essential. Lots of partnerships do not exercise, normally even if individuals interests aren’t lined up or individuals do not truly like collaborating.
The genuine craze around your work began in 2012, when you revealed that Crispr-Cas9 might be utilized to slice DNA at any website [of the DNA particle] you desired. Did you understand this was a huge offer slowly or instantly?
It wasnt a steady realisation, it was among those OMG minutes where you take a look at each other and state holy moly. This was something we hadnt thought of in the past, today we might see how it worked, we might see it would be such a wonderful method to do gene modifying.
After you showed Crispr might modify bacterial DNA, 2 competing laboratories (Harvard and the Broad Institute) arrived initially in human cells. How come they beat you to it?
They were definitely established to do that type of experiment. They had all the tools, the cells growing, whatever existed. For us, they were difficult experiments to do due to the fact that its not the sort of science we do. What speaks to the ease of the system was that a laboratory like mine might even do it.
The Broad Institute won the current round of a continuous legal fight over patent rights they declare that it wasnt apparent that Crispr might be utilized to modify human cells too. Where do you stand?
Individuals have asked me over and over once again: Did you understand it was going to work? Up until you do an experiment you do not understand thats science. Ive been berated for this in the media, however I need to be real to who I am as a researcher. We definitely had a hypothesis and it definitely appeared like a great guess that it would.
Theres the patent disagreement and you and Emmanuelle Charpentier likewise wound up pursuing competing jobs to commercialise the innovation. Are you all still pals?
Clinically if theres an unhappiness to me about all of this and a lot of its been truly interesting and fantastic its that I wouldve liked to continue working with Emmanuelle. For numerous factors that wasnt preferable to her. Im not blaming her at all she had her factors and I appreciate her a lot.
The media enjoys to own wedges, however we are extremely cordial. I was simply with her in Spain and she was informing me about the obstacles [of developing her brand-new laboratory in Berlin] I hope on her side, definitely on my side, we appreciate each others work and in the end were all in it together.
In your book you explain a headache you had including Hitler using a pig mask, asking to read more about your incredible innovation. Do you still have stress and anxiety dreams about where Crispr might leave the mankind?
I had the Hitler dream and Ive had a few other extremely frightening dreams, practically like problems, which is rather uncommon for a grownup. Not a lot recently, however in the very first number of years after I released my work, the field was moving so quickly. I had this extraordinary sensation that the science was going out method ahead of any factors to consider about principles, social ramifications and whether we ought to be fretting about random individuals in numerous parts of the world utilizing this for dubious functions.
In 2015, you called for a moratorium on the medical usage of gene modifying. Where do you base on utilizing Crispr to modify embryos nowadays?
It shouldnt be utilized medically today, however in the future potentially. Thats a huge modification for me. In the beginning, I simply believed why would you ever do it? I began to hear from individuals with hereditary illness in their household this is now taking place every day for me. A great deal of them send me photos of their kids. There was one that I cant stop considering, simply sent out to me in the last 10 days approximately. A mom who informed me that her infant child was detected with a neurodegenerative illness, triggered by an erratic unusual anomaly. She sent me a photo of this little young boy. He was this charming little infant, he was bald, in his little provider therefore adorable. I have a child and my heart simply broke.
What would you do as a mom? You see your kid and hes gorgeous, hes best and you understand hes going to struggle with this awful illness and theres absolutely nothing you can do about it. Its terrible. Getting exposed to that, being familiar with a few of these individuals, its not abstract anymore, its extremely individual. And you believe, if there were a method to assist these individuals, we must do it. It would be incorrect not to.
What about the spectre of designer infants?
A great deal of it will boil down to whether the innovation is reliable and safe, exist options that would be similarly reliable that we should think about, and exactly what are the wider social ramifications of enabling gene modifying? Are individuals going to begin stating I desire a kid thats 6ft 5in and has blue eyes and so on? Do we truly wish to go there? Would you do things that are not clinically required however are simply nice-to-haves, for some individuals? Its a difficult concern. There are a great deal of grey locations.
Are you fretted about cuts to science financing, consisting of to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spending plan?
I am extremely worried. Science financing is not a political football however in truth a deposit on discovery, the seed cash to money a crucial action towards treating or ending alzheimers cancer.
Researchers presently dealing with jobs targeted at enhancing many elements of our health, farming and environment might be required to desert their work. The result is that individuals will not get the medical treatments they require, our battle to feed our blowing up population will deepen, and our efforts to handle environment modification will collapse.
Over the long term, the really function of essential science as a method to much better our society might enter into concern. When we influence and support our clinical neighborhood we advance our method of life and grow, history and all proof points to the reality that.
Were you interrupted when Trump tweeted, If U.C. Berkeley does not permit complimentary speech and practices violence on innocent individuals with a various perspective NO FEDERAL FUNDS? in reaction to a prepared alt-right speaker being cancelled due to violent demonstrations on school?
Yes. It was a complicated tweet given that the university was plainly dedicated to making sure that the occasion would continue securely and initially modification rights were supported. Couple of anticipated the dreadful actions of a couple of to be consulted with a desire from the greatest workplace to deny more than 38,000 trainees access to an education.
Youve spoken at Davos, shared the $3m 2015 Breakthrough reward , been noted amongst the 100 most prominent individuals worldwide by Time publication. Are you still inspired about heading into the laboratory nowadays?
The other day I was preparing to go to an elegant supper. I remained in a mixed drink dress and had my makeup on and my hair done, however I wished to speak with a postdoc in my laboratory about an experiment he was doing, so I texted him stating can we Skype? It was 8am in California, I was over here [in the UK] in my complete evening dress, discussing the experiment. Thats how unpopular I am.
A Crack in Creation: The New Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer Doudna and Sam Sternberg is released by The Bodley Head (20). To buy a copy for 17 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 03303336846. Free UK p &p over 10, online orders just. Phone orders minutes p &p of 1.99
Dean Charlton’s #FTHM Amazing Photography Competition is still open for entries
Googles billion-dollar belief that it can crack the DNA code to immortality reveals a dangerous mindset
In this world, wrote Benjamin Franklin, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. This proposition doesnt cut much ice in Silicon Valley, where they take a poor view of paying taxes. Whats interesting is that they are also coming to the view that perhaps death is optional too, at least for the very rich.
You think I jest? Well, meet Bill Maris, the founder and former CEO of Google Ventures, the investment arm of Alphabet, Googles owners. Three years ago, Maris decided to create a company that will solve death. He pitched the idea to Googles co-founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page and, according to a lovely piece by Tad Friend in the New Yorker, Brin, who has a gene variant that predisposes him to Parkinsons disease, loved the idea and Page declared that Google should do it.
Thus was born Calico, which is short for the California Life Company, in 2013. It started with a billion dollars in the bank and is extremely secretive. All thats known, Friend writes, is that its tracking 1,000 mice from birth to death to try to determine biomarkers of ageing biochemical substances whose levels predict morbidity; that it has a colony of naked mole rats, which live for 30 years and are amazingly ugly; and that it has invested in drugs that may prove helpful with diabetes and Alzheimers.
Calico is a typical product of the reality distortion field that is Silicon Valley. Its a salutary illustration of how sudden and unimaginable wealth can warp minds. There are people in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Cupertino who truly believe they are living in the Florence of Renaissance 2.0. Their religion is what Neil Postman called Technopoly and their prevailing mindset is what the technology critic Evgeny Morozov describes as solutionism, the belief that all problems have technological solutions.
It turns out that death is now perceived as just such a problem. Friend quotes a hedge-fund manager waxing lyrical on this. I have the idea, he burbles, that ageing is plastic, that its encoded. If something is encoded, you can crack the code. If you can crack the code, you can hack the code! Cue loud applause from the elite audience gathered in a Californian drawing room to discuss the secrets of longevity.
Thats not to say that longevity isnt important or relevant. In most societies, people are living longer and thats now giving rise to acute social, psychological and economic stress. Just ask anyone who works in the NHS. Dementia and Parkinsons disease are laying waste to an increasing number of human minds, while heart disease, cancer and diabetes are making our bodies progressively enfeebled. We live longer but our closing years can be miserable, lonely and largely pointless.
So its worth pouring resources into understanding and eventually curing these diseases. But the point of that is not to abolish death but to make the natural process of ageing more tolerable towards the end. And thats what the majority of scientists and doctors are trying to achieve. They want us to have healthier lives and compressed morbidity, which is a polite term for a quick and painless death at the end.
The Silicon Valley crowd want something else, though: they seek to make death optional. And they think it can be done. After all, as some wag put it decades ago: Death is natures way of telling you youre fired. Once we have mated and brought up some children, evolution regards us as disposable, past our sell-by date. So it has arranged that somewhere in our DNA are genes that will progressively trigger ageing processes, eventually causing our bodies to fail. To computer people, DNA is just code and code can always be hacked. So all we have to do is find the offending genes, edit them using Crispr and bingo! immortality beckons.
You have to marvel at the one-dimensionality of minds that can think like this. Apart from anything else, death is what gives meaning to life. Its also the process that ensures human vitality: young people arrive with ideas that their elders never had and death makes room for them to grow, thrive and die in their turn. Thats why elite US universities, which do not have a retirement age for tenured professors, are increasingly desperate to find ways to incentivise them to quit.
Given that Silicon Valley billionaires are smart, they must know all this. So could it be that what underpins this strange new obsession with ensuring immortality is something more straightforward? Could it be that they all became wealthy at such a young age? So they have these unimaginable riches and have suddenly realised that they dont have an infinite time to enjoy them. Ones heart bleeds for the poor lambs. Not.