Breakthrough Does the Impossible

First Taste of the Meatless "Burger that Bleeds"

On an otherwise ordinary fall Monday, the staff of Breakthrough Institute did the impossible. Impossible Burger, that is.

The Silicon Valley startup Impossible Foods has started a limited release of its Impossible Burger, the meatless burger that "bleeds," at select restaurants in New York, L.A., and San Francisco. One hundred percent plant-based with ingredients including wheat, soy, and coconut oil, the Impossible Burger’s “magic ingredient” that gives it its unique meat-like quality is a protein molecule called “heme.” Heme is especially abundant in animal muscle and “is what makes meat smell, sizzle, bleed, and taste gloriously meaty,” but the team at Impossible Foods was able to extract and ferment it from plant ingredients.

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Britain’s Civilian Nuclear Program Is Not a Stealth Military Program

Lack of Evidence of a Conspiracy is Not Evidence of a Deeper Conspiracy

Last week, the New York Times published an Op-Ed by Peter Wynn Kirby, a social anthropologist at Oxford, alleging that the United Kingdom promoted the Hinkley Point C project as “a stealth initiative to bolster Britain’s nuclear deterrent.” The author’s argument is entirely dependent on a “painstaking study” authored by the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex.

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Can Industrial Food Be Part of the Food Movement?

Earlier this month, Jayson Lusk, a professor of agricultural economics at Oklahoma State University, made the audacious case that “Industrial Farms Are Good for the Environment.”

Lusk explains that operating at a large scale gives farmers the opportunity to invest in technologies that both improve productivity and reduce environmental impacts, like advanced machinery that can precisely track crop yields or water use. These tools and the precision they enable is something farmers a few decades ago could only dream about. He presents statistics showing American farm productivity has risen in recent decades while environmental impacts like land use and soil erosion have decreased.

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The Pope and Climate Change

Can Laudato Si Help Modernize the Catholic Church?

The following is an introduction to the recent Breakthrough Journal essay "Modern Pope" by Sally Vance-Trembath. To read the Journal piece, click here.


This month, Pope Francis again referred to climate change as a “sin.”

Recalling last year’s landmark encyclical Laudato Si (Our Common Home), Francis spoke of climate change as an unacceptable trashing of God’s creation, and as an unjust imposition of environmental devastation against the world’s most vulnerable poor populations. 

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Democracy in the Anthropocene

Ecomodern Dispatches

This week, Breakthrough announced that its seventh annual Breakthrough Dialogue will be themed “Democracy in the Anthropocene,” a topic that serves as a challenge in many ways to its participants of varying ecomodernist stripes. “If it turns out,” as the Dialogue’s description concludes, “that we’re not very good at being gods, is it possible to get better at it?”

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Science and Politics

Ecomodern Dispatches

Starting this week, Cornell University is offering a Massive Open Online Course that attempts to address the complex intersection of science and politics as it pertains to the touchy subject of GMOs. According to the MOOC, the course is intended “not to influence how people feel about GMOs, but to give them the critical thinking and scientific literacy tools necessary to make informed decisions — and to understand the broader impacts of those decisions.”

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Responses to the Problem of Nuclear Waste Management

The University of Pennsylvania’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy has recently published a report, entitled “Nuclear Decommissioning: Paying More For Greater, Uncompensated Risks,” that aims to address the enhanced risks and costs associated with waste disposal as nuclear plants face premature retirement. While the author, Christina Simeone, is correct in pointing out the federal government’s failure to permanently dispose of spent nuclear fuel, the report’s recommendations fall short of providing any viable alternatives. In addition, Simeone ignores all the progress—albeit slow—that has been made with regard to spent fuel management, both through traditional geologic repositories and advanced reactors.

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Do High Agricultural Yields Spare Land for Conservation?

New Data and Perspectives in the Organic vs. Conventional Debate

Last week, the open-access journal PLoS ONE published a paper by Andrew Kniss, Steven Savage, and Randa Jabbour measuring the difference in crop yields between organic and conventional farms in the US. But, in line with the author’s express hopes, this paper is “not just another organic yield vs conventional comparison for partisans to throw at each other in debates.”

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Voice of the Founder