Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Retreat of Science from the Place It Began

'Beginning with Scotland’s prohibition on domestic genetically modified crop cultivation on Aug. 9, Europe’s scientists and farmers watched with mounting dismay as other countries followed suit. Following the Scottish decision, signatories from numerous scientific organizations and academic institutions wrote to the Scottish government to express grave concern “about the potential negative effect on science in Scotland.”

The appeal went unheeded.

Without a trace of embarrassment, a spokeswoman for Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, admitted that the first minister’s science adviser had not been consulted because the decision “wasn’t based on scientific evidence.” Instead, the priority was to protect the “clean green image” of the country’s produce, according to the secretary for rural affairs, food and environment.'
NYT Sunday Review Oct 25th p.6 - 'Europe Turns Against Science'

As both a Scot and a former biotechnology entrepreneur it is hard for me to watch the Nationalists who form the current Scottish Government descend to the idiot level. No GMOs, no Trident atomic submarines, nothing tech if the English or Americans find it useful.... These rustics remind me of the "nuclear-free zones" that socialist municipal  councils created in Britain, or the "niqab-free" municipalities Canada now has in rural Quebec.

'The historical irony is that Europe once led in biotech: in 1983, Marc Van Montagu and Jeff Schell at the University of Ghent in Belgium introduced the world to modern plant genetic engineering. Today, however, no rational young scientist interested in molecular techniques of crop breeding would choose a base in Continental Europe.'

The 'must be organic and GMO-free' craze long plaguing European food production has now resulted in nations as stable and scientifically sophisticated as Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Scotland using new European Union rules to announce bans on the cultivation of genetically modified crops. They either see no reason to take senior science advice in agriculture or, like the Scots Nats, choose to forgo it for populist reasons.

It is eerie for one such as I, born in Europe but now a resident of the Developed New World, to see the populations of advanced New World countries like America, Canada and Australia retain a respect for the evidence-based view of technological development we inherited from the European Enlightenment, while much of Old World Europe's present-day leadership slips away from relying on modern science for deciding what to believe when it comes to food production and nutrition.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Five Years Before the Social Masthead


I started in with social media well before I heard the term in use. It was five years ago when, newly retired and both wondering what to do through yet another long dark winter, my movie and coffee shop pal, Wayne, suggested we get into blogging about what we’d each come to believe on our long life journeys. Maybe that big bulge of Boomers coming up right below us seniors would find our thoughts resonated with them? In those not-that-far-off days, Booming was still a big new thing, and its zippier manifestation, Zooming, was just coming into the the world, courtesy of Moses Znaimer’s media empire.

Wayne came up with an appropriately serious-sounding moniker for this blog, ‘Musings of an Aging Boomer’, and I our obscure tag line, ‘A Senior Perspective on the Evolution of Western Values since IBM Selectrics and Rock-and-Roll were young’. Though my partner dropped out of posting when that winter ended, I have soldiered on, shifting the blog onto my own domain to highlight the solo nature of its authorship. 

We are up to 136 posts now and my followership goes up and down, but is never a lot. I began this blog with a view to honing a writing style and to explore content ideas for longer opinion pieces. That is where I presently remain. Ninety-eight percent of blogs attract a tiny readership and, while this is one of the more durable Boomer blogs, commentary on everyday life and times is not easy to monetize with cautious late middle age folk who often have only a dim idea or none at all of how to find good writing of interest on the Web.  Without readership there will be no sponsorship to pay for spending time on developing well-written and satisfying posts.

These days I manage a couple of additional blogs. These are not personal but subject related, and content is at least partly provided by third parties. Their subjects of authorship and heritage attract a wider crowd than my personal musings.

About a year ago, I realised that I had better find out what some of the more recently developed social media options than now-mature blogging were all about. This was so that I could decide where, if at all, they could help my authorial efforts. What to choose?  I had already joined LinkedIn years ago so I just needed to revamp my profile to fit my state in life, and start posting again. I added Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, the last at that point in time still much reviled by many pundits as mindless.

As an older person in an age category where Facebook (FB) use is still low, my very modest number of thirty-two ‘friends’ who are actual people (rather than an organization) are a heterogeneous lot, and largely not representative of my personal friendships. In contrast, my thirty-something-year-old kids have pretty well all their real-life acquaintances in their age group using FB regularly as the primary way they all stay in touch.

In addition to maintaining my own personal Timeline, I monitor ten Facebook groups that reflect my recreational interests. Sad to say that the very substantial memberships of most of these communities (some are well beyond a 1,000 members) are mostly middle-aged. Having hobbies is becoming a dated concept that may never catch on with our youngest adult age cohort, the so-called Millennials.