July 2, 2013

Part I: “How can science drive solutions that better use the planet’s resources?”

Tuesday Morning, 2 July 2013

On my way to breakfast at seven in the morning – “The Science Breakfast: How can science drive solutions that better use the planet’s resources?” – I cross paths with Mahmoud, a presenter from yesterday’s Master Class. It was a bright, warm, blue skied morning; our little group, with three other Americans, clap-clopped our way along the cobblestone roads to the Forum am See hotel on Lindau Harbor. Mahmoud kindly shared some helpful hints about synthesizing and optimizing nanoparticle functionality to serve as vehicles for drug delivery. Apparently, his synthesis method is quite robust in the test tube and the high yielding products rather tolerable in the body.

We arrive with a few minutes to spare, finding ourselves on the second floor of the hotel amongst a bouquet of fellow young researchers perfuming the air with the sound of science and the smell of coffee. Mahmoud and I find a window open to a masterpiece – Lindau Harbor in the morning – and settle our breakfast plates on its sill. Perhaps we chatted only lightly for those five or so minutes because we both understood that words would never do justice to the scene and the sentiment rocking us at that moment: We have been carefully selected from tens of thousands of candidates to help scientific and social elite to help fix the ills of our world. We have been carefully selected to be a part of the dialogue of the future, to help engage the motivations of those whose motivations matter most, and to do all of this here in Lindau.

Nobel Laureate Steven Chu; Chief Agricultural Officer of Mars, Incorporated Howard-Yana Shapiro; Young Researcher Christina Heroven, a Master’s student in biochemistry at Berlin Free University; and, Moderator Adam Smith Editorial Director, Nobel Media AB, performed a most engaging and enriching discussion that was right on topic.

The main topic was that the public, and even some major economists, do not realize higher profits come with using less and thinking more. For example, Steven Chu discussed the massive costs of using much more fertilizer by farmers than is actually needed. Fertilizers are very toxic. Furthermore, fertilizers runoff crop fields and into the rivers and lakes, propagating their toxic impact on ecosystems for thousands of miles. One farmer in North Dakota can have a detectable impact on fisheries in the Gulf. Now imagine how many farmers there actually are in US and how much excess fertilizer, and wasted US taxpayer money, is essentially getting flushed down the river. The counter argument is that it is better to overestimate the amount of fertilizer one needs and see a full yield of crops, then to guess too low and produce too little crops. There is logic in that argument, but the fault is the uncalculated cost on the environment and the inability of such farmers (not all of them of course!) to use science and technology to use fertilizers more effectively, more efficiently, and thus save money!

How large of an impact on our ways of life, as citizens of this little blue planet, and the ways of life for all of nature, will it be if we don’t better develop and deploy science and technology, starting right now?

As other topics were explored by this incredible panel discussion, the theme of intelligent moderation began to boil up. Integrating an intelligent, healthy, moderated lifestyle is key to our future on this little blue planet, from the way we eat to the way we produce food, from the way we produce energy to the way we use it. I cannot completely comprehend, no less explain, how privileged and honored I am to have attended the Science Breakfast panel discussion this morning. Not only to be a part of the discussion, but to know that our generation of burgeoning scientists and chemists are dauntless in the face of climate change, sustainable food and energy production and consumption, and ethical and economical endeavors to drive such change.

We will solve these issues. More coffee, please!

…kevin eduard hauser

Photo caption: Kevin with Mahmoud