That Time I Drove A Tesla…

A few months back I had to drive from Anglesey to Edinburgh and back in a day, and I figured that was the perfect opportunity to take the Tesla Model S for a spin.

Tesla vehicles are simply incredible. Ever since their first production contract in 2005, they have been setting new precedents in our expectations of what electric cars can be; from drive experience, to speed, to torque, to acceleration, to battery life and range, to safety, and basically anything else you care to care about. There is nothing on the market currently quite like Teslas.

I picked up a Model S (Tesla’s best-selling Sedan) from Manchester Airport, courtesy of White Cars (credit where it’s due), and instantly fell in love. Everything about the car aesthetically takes your breath away, from the sleek design, double-take-worthy lack of radiator grill, suave interior, very sexy driver HUD and flipping massive touch-screen multimedia system in the middle of the dash board.

It’s weird when you accelerate in a Tesla – as the above video will attest – because you hear absolutely nothing; for a *very* short time you feel the umph of acceleration press you into your seat, and then you’ve reached the speed limit and you should probably get a hold of yourself. It’s like it doesn’t bother to tell you, it just goes right ahead and is awesome.

Range is one of those big concerns with electric cars in general. By the time I’d driven the ~140 miles from Manchester Airport to Gretna Green, the Model S was telling me that if I wanted to get to Edinburgh at any enjoyable speed I should probably top up the charge, which would take roughly 16 minutes. More importantly, from my own biological perspective, I was ready for a wee and a coffee. I pulled up at one of the free(!) Tesla Superchargers, and by the time I was back at the car it was pretty much ready to go.

There’s the ‘review’ stuff out of the way, but here’s what I really love about Tesla.

A decade or so ago, when talk about this ‘climate change’ thing was starting to pick up, and we were starting to accept that we should probably start emitting less, there was a large-scale sulky reluctance to do anything. By and large the response of *most people* was to groan, kick their feet and get skeptical, mostly because we knew that we really liked most things powered by fossil fuels, and being told that we had to cut down on the fossil fuels was immediately equated with having to give up *all* those things that make our lives enjoyable.

TopGear was just getting good for crying out loud! Clarkson, Hammond and May were accelerating the public’s interest in driving like lunatics, bigger more epic [internal combustion] engines, blowing things up, laughing at caravans and environmentalists in almost equal measure, and steering firmly into perpetuating what I’m going to coin the ’20th-century dream’.

Meanwhile the call for an alternative to fossil-fuel burning automobiles had been quietly made, and while most motor-heads turned up their noses, Elon Musk (and a few partners) cooly asked “How hard can it be?” And unlike the TopGear trio, Tesla made something that worked. Really damn well.

And with that spark of mad ambition, Tesla began setting the bar on what the future is actually going to be like. Now we’ve got real-life Tony Stark, Elon Musk actually moving out of Tesla because he’s done all he can to revolutionise the world of motor vehicles, and is taking on world-saving challenges one after another, very cooly doing what no others have the ambition (or know-how) to do.

But throughout, Teslas are this incredible mark of what’s possible, and they don’t even make it look difficult. Environmentalism is still sullied by prejudice that it’s about sacrifice, strife and challenge. We environmental communicators struggle to connect with a large audience because to many, endangered lemurs stuggle to compete – in many ways – with the thrill of supercars. But Teslas have managed to embody how saving the world should feel.

And there’s the big difference: between having to change and wanting to change.

If the world carries on business-as-usual, we will have to change or we will die.
Tesla, Musk, and others are giving us ways to want to change, and that concept is a hell of a lot more appealing.

For those who are just reluctant to change and averse to progress, I proffer an analogy.
A few decades ago something came along that demanded change, and moved people powerfully to become something new. This something looked at the establishment and said ‘No More’, and in sticking-it-to-the-man gave people a feeling to aspire to and to embody. It was about breaking free of business-as-usual, it was about becoming something new, and feeling awesome.

That something was Rock N Roll. And while the music and the means evolve, the song remains the same. To hell with the nay-sayers. Stick it to the man. Be awesome.
A bad-ass new world awaits.

Saving the world should feel awesome.

Saving the world should feel awesome. Like the Tesla Model S.

 

 

[Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored, I’m just a raving fan of ambitiously making the world a better place.]

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A Phone That Redefines “Smart”: INTERVIEW with FairPhone

Now thanks to PokémonGo, fewer people then ever are managing to prize themselves away from thier smartphones for any length of time – even when out in the great outdoors. Technology, and smartphones in particular, have become deeply integrated into our lives. They are for work and for play. They open up a universe of information, and eons of hapless distraction. Ask most people now if they could function without their smartphone either for work or for their general lives, and most will concede that it’d be an awful lot harder if not impossible.

[I would like to suggest here that, at some point, you get off to a jungle and leave your phone in the rest of the ‘real world’. It is a gloriously freeing experience. Then return to society refreshed, work with the system to make it better, and look forward to your next opportunity to get out in nature.]

But where do these miracles of technology come from? What is the cost of something that enables and provides so much? A fundamental component in most technological goods is heavy metals – particularly things like gold, tungsten and tin – and if you look at where these metals generally come from things start to look a little darker than even your favourite Instagram filter could brighten up. The smart phone industry is an incredibly wealthy one, though one still very tied into market forces and all too-often cheap raw materials come with some sombre hidden costs. The fact is that almost all smart phones are currently produced with non-fairly traded raw materials. That might not sound like the worst thing in the world, until you realise that for many people around that world, that is a distinction between life and death at the hands of industry.

This injustice has not gone unnoticed, and the call to produce tech that has a positive impact on the world has been enthusiastically answered by a great bunch of people from Amsterdam; the team behind FairPhone.

FairPhone, “the smartphone with social values”, tackles four major issues in standard product development and distribution; the mining of raw materials, the way a product is designed (they don’t really agree with the concept of “inbuilt obsolescence“), the manufacturing of the product, and the overall lifecycle of the product. The result is a fantastic smartphone that is responsibly and fairly sourced from the moment it’s components leave the ground, is built to last and also built to evolve – you’re in control of your FairPhone, as it’s modular design makes for easy repairs and upgrades as technology develops. And there’s a kick-ass recycling scheme built in there too.

FairPhone

The FairPhone is as transparent and integrous as they come.

I recently received my very own FairPhone2, and I must say that I love it. Habitual iPhone users may sneer that the camera’s not yet as clear as theirs, or that there’s no virtual butler to dictate text messages to, or that it doesn’t automatically sync up with your new Apple Watch;  but frankly, if we can’t produce Apple level of slick-ness without ignoring human rights and the environment, then I’m not interested.

I dropped the team a line and asked if I could get to know a bit more about them as – and I’m sure you’ll agree – they deserve some praise for taking on the challenges faced by modern society in such entrepreneurial and altruistic ways. When I got in touch, Daria from Fairphone was more than happy to chat:


You’ve just launched Fairphone 2, how’s it been received? (I should point out at this point that I’m a big fan of mine, so as far as I’m concerned it’s been received very well).

 Over 40,000 have already bought the Fairphone 2, around 17,000 of them crowdfunded the phone last summer to kick-start the production and had to wait for their device for around half a year (now we finally have the phone in stock and for the new customers the delivery takes place within a week). We are very thankful to all these people for joining the community of 60,000 Fairphone 1 users who enabled us to take this next step towards fairer electronics and invest in the Fairphone 2.

The phone has also been received well by many technology and sustainability experts. For example, the Fairphone 2 has been the first smartphone ever to receive 10 out of 10 reparability score from iFixit. We’ve also received the highest rank among electronics manufacturers assessed by Rank a brand recently.

But we’re just getting started. In 2016, our goal is to focus on growth in order to create even more impact in our supply chain (with higher volumes we can become a more interesting and important partner for suppliers). We aim to sell 100,000 phones this year. This is a very ambitious target and in order to reach it we need to appeal to a more general public as well as to corporate clients and expand our distribution network. It is challenging but we’re working hard on it. This is why this year the support of our community and buyers is by no means less important than previously, but perhaps even more important than ever before.

 What kind of impacts have you already achieved through your design, and what are you hoping to tackle in the near future?

 We designed the Fairphone 2 ourselves (as opposed to the licensed design used for the Fairphone 2) in order to gain more transparency in our supply chain, build deeper relationships with suppliers and be able to choose materials and influence the production processes. It has enabled us to work closely with partners such as Fairphone 2 PCB manufacturer AT&S (second-tier supplier) and, for the first time in consumer electronics, we managed to integrate Fairtrade gold in our supply chain. Furthermore, recently we’ve announced that we’ve established a supply chain for conflict-free tungsten from Rwanda – again, thanks to working together with our suppliers (such as the mine and the smelter) behind the first tier. However, these are just the first steps and in the future we want to engage with more suppliers to increase our impact.

From the product perspective, with the Fairphone 2 we have managed to increase the reparability of the phone – users can replace the most commonly broken parts of the phone easily, without any technical knowledge. We sell spare parts that are needed to replace broken ones. Modular architecture also allows interesting upgradeability possibilities. We’re going to continuously improve the device doing incremental upgrades so that the product lives longer in the market commercially. As the first step, we are going to refresh the camera module as it’s one of the most utilised features of the phone.

In addition, we included an expansion port in the back of the transceiver. This expansion port gives us the option to build alternative back covers with integrated additional functionality.

 The big thing that I really want to ask, is Why is Fairphone special? By which I mean – why are more devices not like Fairphone? It’s great that Fairphone is special because it is fair, but obviously it’d be great if everything was fair, so why is it not? Why is it not just the expectation that we operate fairly?

 It’s a philosophical question. I think that one of the key reasons is that there is not enough visible demand for more ethical and long-lasting products, especially in electronics. Why is there not enough demand? There is a lack of awareness: people just don’t know where their stuff comes from, who makes it and in which conditions.

And this is exactly why we created the Fairphone – as a means to build the movement for fairer electronics and inspire the entire industry to tackle issues across the value chain: from mining to design and from manufacturing to life cycle. The Fairphone is a storytelling object. By making it we can open up the supply chain and bring its stories all the way to the consumer. By using it users can spread these stories further. Together we can show that there are people who care, that there is a market for more ethical products. This can motivate the industry to act more responsibly.

 Along such lines, what do you think that we could all do to improve our practise? Both on the large scale of corporate social responsibility, and on a personal level in the things we buy and our approach to the world.

Apart from what I’ve described so far, there are many actions that we as consumers can take to push towards a fairer economic models.


My sincere thanks to Daria and the rest of the FairPhone team for all that they’re doing to make the world a better place. Everyone else, get yourself a FairPhone and make some positive changes to global industrial practise.

Now if I could only catch that Snorlax

Your Search To Save The Planet Is Over: INTERVIEW with Ecosia.

Even in Your Save-The-World Starter Pack, most world-saving actions do actually require you to do something, to donate or give something up. Very very few initiatives out there just fit so seamlessly into your daily lives that you can save the planet without noticing. But there is a search engine out there that is beautifully bucking these trends and doing something great. I would like to introduce you to Ecosia; the way for you to save the world while you search.

EcoHow

Click here to install Ecosia as your default search engine from their homepage now.

It’s wonderfully simple. You search the web with Ecosia, and the revenue generated from advertising plants trees! It even keeps track of how many trees you’ve helped plant! What I love about this most is that Ecosia are beautifully and simply facilitating greatness, with no imposition whatsoever to the user. You don’t have to think about it, but it’s brilliant, and I’m going to tell you their story.

It was a trip around the world that highlighted the issue of global deforestation for the founder & CEO, Christian Kroll, and inspired him to take action. But he and his team didn’t just set out planting trees anywhere; they had vision.
The Great Green Wall is a heartfully ambitious movement of local communities to plant 8,000km of green across northern Africa to combat deforestation and the expansion of the Sahara – think Jadav Payeng but on a continental scale – and that is where Ecosia have set to make their impact.

And what an impact it is! Such a mass of trees will have a huge impact on the climate – not just globally but, thanks to evapotranspiration, on the local environment as well.
In supporting the Great Green Wall, Ecosia (and you, by searching with them) are not only directly combating climate change in one of the harshest environments on earth; they’re proving food and jobs to hungry communities. They’re bonding communities together, promoting healthier lives, cleaning air and water. This is striving to increase environmental, social and economic prosperity. And, in the words of The Great Green Wall, they are “Growing a World Wonder“.

In November 2014, Ecosia planted their one millionth tree. To date, at time of writing, they have planted 3,523,742 trees (14 of which I’ve been responsible for, and I’ve only been searching with them for 24 hours), and they’re currently on track to reach their target of 1 Billion trees planted by 2020. Upon discovering their awesome, world-saving initiative, I was dying to speak to them. I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to have such a lovely interview with Jacey Bingler of the Ecosia team:


 

You mention online that Ecosia was formed after a trip around the world, which brought to light the problem of deforestation. How did you decide where to begin in tackling this issue, and what lead you to focus on the great green wall?

As Christian first learnt about reforestation when staying in Argentina, a reforestation/rainforest protection program in the Atlantic Rainforest (spreading across Argentina and Brazil) seemed a good starting point for his efforts in late 2009. A couple of years and two tree planting organisations later, the Ecosia team came across the planting program in Burkina Faso. We are fascinated by the idea of keeping the Sahel and Sahara desert from spreading by planting a wall of trees. Those trees don’t only absorb CO2, they also have the power to nourish communities, they can restart water cycles and stabilize economic and political situations in the region.

So how does this actually work? Who’s planting the trees? What trees are they? Who owns the land?

The land is owned and treated by the communities. The communities are also the ones executing the tree planting program with the help of WeForest, who organize the tree planting program in general and OZG, a Belgian NGO, operating with the local people on the ground. The communities do receive “sustainability training” and they must agree to certain standards in order to participate in the program, like granting women their own income from tree planting. But apart from that the program is about empowering people to help themselves and to create as little dependancies as possible. The local communities know best what trees to plant when and where and thanks to a very efficient planting technique the survival rate of the new trees and shrubs is at an astonishing 70%. We are very happy that the feedback from the communities has been very positive so far.

 10911259_10152617584126611_6524060338408198916_o

Your next target is one billion trees planted by 2020. Will that be focussed along the great green wall? What will be the greater impacts of this?

We initially set ourselves this goal of planting 1 billion trees because we determined that as a number that would significantly help mitigate climate change and do a lot for the biodiversity and stability of ecosystems in the planting regions. It is a very ambitious goal but it reminds us of where we are going and what we want to achieve. It motivates us to improve our product and spread the word about this great tree planting search engine every day. Where all these trees will be planted is yet to be determined. The Great Green Wall is an amazing project we are glad to be part of, but there are surely uncountable regions all over the world that are in bitter need of reforestation.

You’re taking on Google; how do you feel about that, and how’s that been received?

Google offers great search results and user experience, otherwise it wouldn’t have become such a popular, omnipresent product. But this omnipresence and monopolist status is what troubles us. Rather than telling people what not to use, we want to show them that there are alternatives and that no one has to use a search engine or product in general just because it is preinstalled in most browsers or on most devices. Lately more and more people seem to be driven away from Google and towards us, probably largely due to the latest tax affair. This shows us that the future belongs to businesses who offer a product that benefits the user and supports a greater cause at the same time.

Ecosia seems set to be able to make a big difference, not just to the environment, but to the whole concept of corporate social responsibility. What element of Ecosia are you most proud of?

We believe that Ecosia is a great tool that empowers everyone to do good, without any additional cost or effort for the user. It capitalizes on a daily habit and turns something as abstract but also lucrative as search advertising into something as nurturing and tangible as trees. But as you already indicated, the product and the good cause it supports could really be anything. The fact that this system works in general, gives us hope, and we celebrate every new social business who joins the movement. Something that is very important to us on the way is being transparent and offering our users as much insight as possible. This is why we publish all our monthly donation receipts and business reports and are happy to answer any kind of question regarding the mechanics that keep Ecosia going.

Do you have any other advice for people wanting to save the world with something as simple as a click?

Don’t underestimate how much more you’ll be able to achieve, if you allow yourself to scale. We used to donate almost all of our total income to tree planting. This never really allowed us to employ additional team members who could help us improve our product and spread the word. Hadn’t it been for our community members who usually are so excited about Ecosia that they share us with their networks, we would have had a very hard time growing and even being able to keep Ecosia running. A little over a year ago we decided to get additional team members on board and invest in new features and product improvements. We started paying our monthly costs first and then donating at least 80% of our profits. This has helped us scale our product so much, that we are now in fact able to donate more money than before. There’s a very interesting TED talk by Dan Parlotta on how social businesses often have a very hard time explaining why and how they invest money. Christian introduced me to it a while ago and I think it’s incredibly insightful.

 


So get to it! You can install Ecosia as your default browser right now by simply clicking the link on their homepage here, and you can also download the Ecosia app for android or iPhone. It takes seconds to do, and every day you’ll be able to make huge impacts with them. Think of it – you can be proud that you’re making the world a better place, every time you fire up the internet!

clickhere

Click here to search with Ecosia. Original image courtesy of http://www.beeldkas.be

My sincere thanks again to Jacey from Ecosia, to the whole Ecosia team for their phenomenal work, and to all of you future Ecosia users 🙂

What’s the Difference Between David Mitchell & Hoverboards?

David Mitchell is brilliant. He’s a very clever chap, eminently likeable & damn entertaining too, which is a great thing in every way – particularly from the perspective of being a great communicator. So when he released a new Soap Box recently likening the future of our planet to compulsory tidying up, I couldn’t decide if I thought it was profoundly brilliant or a complete, soul-crushing undermining of my very being. See for yourself:

And yes, honestly, given the choice, I’d rather go driving to the North pole drinking Gin than go on a Bat Survey tonight – though I do still quite enjoy cutting about in the wilderness chasing bats. But the future isn’t as David says – or as he says environmentalists say; it’s not a case of “tidying up” or trying to make that fun.

What we’ve come across is a necessary leap in our industrial revolution & progress. We’ve come a long way in the pursuit of making things easier & having more fun – basically everything that burns fossil fuels. But we’re reaching the limits of that technology because we’re reaching the limits of the fuel itself – or at least of how much of it the planet can take. We’ve set ourselves a great baseline in ability & fun, and we want more of it.

The invention of the wheel has been pivotal in our evolution, as has the development of things for wheels to go on and things to go on wheels. Wheels allowed us to discover taking more stuff to places further away, and rolling really fast down hills. And what did we do with those newly discovered abilities? We thought “Hey, you know what would make this even better – no wheels!” And hence we invented planes to do those things even better.

Hover-boards are the perfect example. We’ve had skateboards for ages, but we’ve always had that dream – mostly inspired by Back To The Future – of Hover-boards. Well… we’ve gone & made them (and they’re catching on, even Lexus is getting in there).

Throughout out past we’ve had a lifestyle we covet, and something’s got in the way & we’ve had to technologically overcome it. Wars, despite being the vessels of gross global atrocities, continue to facilitate the desperate need to develop new technologies to do things better, faster, harder, more secretly, or with more of a bang. It’s our technological version of The Red Queen Hypothesis.

Back to the Mitchell/Clarkson example of driving to the North pole drinking gin being brilliant fun. We can all agree that we’d like to do that. But it’d be nice to be able to without destroying the world (though its’ a close-call I know). Back when we relied on steam engines to get around that was all fine but it didn’t fulfil our needs perfectly, so we got the internal combustion engine in it’s stead. Now that’s letting us down, so we need to find another kind of fuel to use to get around.

How about Salt Water?

This is an electric sports car powered by salt water. Click for awesomeness.

Yep, that’s a thing now, and it’s freaking awesome. What’s better than driving around really fast and destroying the world? Driving around really fast and NOT destroying the world! The fossil-fuel-free future is not a drab case of a nicely tidied room. It’s touchable holograms, hover-boards, and SOLAR. FREAKIN’. ROADWAYS.

It’s no parent-y notion that ‘tidying up can be fun’ – we just need to drop the adolescent winge that something fun becomes work the second someone tells you to do it. If we resent it, we’ll all die. If we step-up and get involved, we’ll all get shiny hover-boards. This is globalised Having-your-cake-AND-eating-it. You wouldn’t buy that Lemon Drizzle cake from Tesco because of the potassium sorbate preservatives and palm oil that’s in it – you’d buy it because it tastes nice. Similarly you wouldn’t buy an almost-identical competing cake from a vegan farm shop purely because it didn’t have those things in it – well maybe some people would – no, you’d buy it because it tastes nice. And if you don’t think these world-saving efforts like solar-freakin’-roadways and ocean-powered sports cars are awesome – who cares? You’ll still get cake, just carry on not thinking about what goes into it.

 

What if we could have everything?

The evolutionary & technological arms race is as alive as ever, and we’ve never been in a better position to make awesome.

And ironically, of course, we wouldn’t have these awesome lifestyles to aspire to if it weren’t for fossil fuels.

PANDA 2.0: Setting The GM Record Straight

 

Right. This post is spawned by my recent stumbling-across of an article that’s almost a year old, but it’s apparently a straw that’s broken a camel’s back. Said article, published in the Telegraph in May 2014, is titled “Don’t Vote Green Until They Drop The Anti-Science Zealotry“. “Damn!” I thought, “I thought I liked the Greens!” so I read on.

Before I continue, I’d like to ask you how much you know about GMO’s, and if you actually know what GMO stands for. I’m not on a high-horse, this is an important exercise before we take any stance on an issue, as Jimmy Kimmel so nicely illustrates here:

If you did know that GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, well done; you’re more informed than some Americans. But seriously, ask yourself, why do people feel so strongly about GMOs, and should they?

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a complicated issue and that’s largely why there can be so much mis-informed, ill-informed and (sometimes) informed debate around it. But really I feel the big problem with it is that the animosity is currently wrongly directed.

Initially it can be a knee-jerk reaction to the concept of Genetic Engineering, in a similar way to the term Radioactive. Most-people’s first introduction to the concept of genetic engineering, mutation, radiation and such like has come in the form of the X-Men sagas, or Peter Parker’s enviable interactions with a Radioactive, Genetically Modified Spider. So there’s that fear that, if you change something’s genes, it becomes The Hulk. Thanks, Stan Lee.

We’re getting increasingly better at understanding the workings of the genome – the beautifully complicated instruction manual that codes for all life. That means that we can work out what gene in an aphid makes said aphid produce a pheromone (smell) that tells other aphids to stay away from a danger. We can take that gene out of the aphid’s DNA and put it into the DNA of a plant that will mean that that plant will inherently smell bad to aphids. That, in itself, is incredible! But, to be fair, we don’t yet know everything, or don’t give it adequate time, and this can lead to some quite reasoned fears of the whole GM thing. For example, on this page titled Frankenfood=Genetically Modified Foods (it’s actually quite good), they talk about fears of un-predicted health-problems when, say, we make a plant toxic to aphids and then we eat that plant. Well, scientists do a lot to work out that we’ll definitely be fine eating this thing that kills aphids, cos we’re not aphids (essentially). But it still pisses people off that scientists can take genes from nuts, put them in things that aren’t nuts, and make people with nut allergies go into anaphylaxis.

BUT GM, in this case, ISN’T THE PROBLEM. The problem here is that the researchers have not investigated a toxin thoroughly enough, or simply made a school-boy error. It’s like building a new car and putting asbestos seat-covers in it. The problem there isn’t that you made a car… it’s that you put asbestos seat-covers in it.

Unnecessary panic over impossible mutations…

Another perceived problem is that the GMO’s might ‘get out’ and wreak havoc in the natural ecosystem. It is very true that novel species can spread voraciously through a population – please see my earlier post on Chinese Mitten Crabs – and some of the worst for this are naturally-occuring plant hybrids that no-one ever suspected of being able to inter-breed and GM-themselves. But this is phenomenally unlikely and can be precautioned against – one of the first things we understood about genetic engineering was how to make things sterile, and that’s very often used as a primary measure in GM experiments to prevent things spreading, or there are even cooler ways to doing it. Let’s assume that we’re working on a new form of pest-resistant wheat, for example, and we’ve not sterilised it, and it gets out into the wider ecosystem. Now, wheat in general isn’t competitive, and we won’t have interfered with the genes that code for it not being a good competitor with other plants. But still, it’s got out and is growing in some places we hadn’t planned. What’s the big deal? Oh No, we’ve gone and made too much food? When most of our GM ambitions are focused on more efficient agriculture to combat global hunger??

GM here isn’t the problem, it’s what we create with it.

Unnecessary lack of panic over natural mutant invader.

But here’s a real problem. I’ve mentioned that often GM crops are purposefully made sterile, and one of the reasons for that is to prevent uncontrolled spread & reproduction, hybridisation with wild species etc. It’s also aesthetic – you know seedless grapes or strawberries, or any seedless fruit you buy really, has been treated with something called Auxins to prevent seed formation? Auxins are naturally made by the plant (there’s certain genes that code for it, and for seed formation), and they tell other parts of the plant what to do. The plant has the ability to make seeds the whole time, but the genes to make seeds aren’t doing anything (they’re ‘turned off’) until they get a chemical cue that the time is right (at which point they ‘turn on’, or are ‘expressed’). Auxins manipulate the expression of those genes to get the desired result – that you don’t get seeds stuck in your teeth and, by proxy, that grape will never be able to grow into a new vine.

But if a crop can’t produce fertile seeds… where do the farmers get next year’s crops from…? Yep, they have to buy them all over again from the manufacturer of the aphid-resistent wheat, or whatever. Now this raises serious legal and (far more importantly) ethical issues. What if we have a miracle-crop that will grow anywhere and end world hunger, but the guys with the seeds won’t let them go for cheap… or will take serious legal action against anyone who grows their seeds (even accidentally) without buying. The big guilty one for this is Monsanto, who are far more driven by the moolah than the helping-humanity feed itself. What if GMO’s could mean that some company could directly control the world’s food supply?

But the problem here isn’t GM; the problem is Multi-National Arseholes.

GM should not be the focus of your animosity; it should be who does what with it.

There is huge potential in the field of Genetic Modification – we could feed the freaking world and do the planet less damage in the process – that’s a pretty freaking tantalising proposition! Also fish night-lights will be cool. What we need is to focus all our interests into what is definitely best for us all – to the point that it’s indisputable, like that breathing clean air is better for you than not breathing clean air. And researchers – step up your game a bit. You’ve got a bunch of frightened people here thinking that you’re maniacally twisting nature into producing vegetables of mass destruction; do everything in your power to reassure them and just make the world a better freakin place.

So, The Green Party, right, a year ago, expressed desires to not GMO – on the grounds that we don’t understand it well enough! That, oh Green Party, is actually a reason to do it more, whilst striving to do it perpetually better.

Oh, and as if this post weren’t already controversial enough; if we carry on as we are in our knowledge of how genes work, maybe one day we’ll be able to breed a new Panda 2.0 that isn’t fundamentally doomed.