2018 Breakthrough Senior Fellows Announced

Four Esteemed Scholars Join Breakthrough

A world-renowned psychologist committed to communicating the story of global progress. A geographer bridging science and policy to the benefit of local communities. A plant scientist with a passion for agricultural innovation in the developing world. A leading expert in carbon capture and sequestration.

The Breakthrough Institute is proud to announce Steven Pinker, Ariane de Bremond, Sarah Evanega, and Julio Friedmann as our 2018 Senior Fellows.

This is the tenth year that Breakthrough has conferred Senior Fellowships to leading scholars who have shaped our research and vision. This class of Senior Fellows will join the ranks of the 45 prominent experts who have joined our network of global thought leaders committed to building a future that is good for both humans and nature. We are grateful to be able to count upon their expertise, counsel, and inspiration.

We anticipate many years of fruitful collaboration with these four newest members of the Breakthrough community.

Ariane de Bremond

As we grapple with the challenge of a creating a good—and democratic—Anthropocene, Ariane de Bremond’s voice is one we return to often. An expert in socio-ecological systems, land governance, and stakeholder engagement, de Bremond brings her unique understanding of the intersection of science and policy to bear on decision-making processes surrounding land tenure, use, and change. The executive officer of the Global Land Programme’s International Programme Office in Bern, Switzerland, de Bremond holds appointments as a senior scientist at the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern and as an assistant research professor in geographical sciences at the University of Maryland, College Park. In her recent work, de Bremond has turned to the role of “telecouplings,” or the long-distance connections formed by global crop production and conservation programs, in shaping the way land is used and governed.

De Bremond has a decade of field experience in Central America, in addition to experience in West and Central Africa. Most recently, she has launched a NASA-funded project at the University of Maryland on the global “land rush” taking place in the developing world, as international governments and investors increasingly turn to the global South for crops, biofuels, and other commodities.

Sarah Evanega

As controversy surrounding agricultural biotechnology has escalated, Sarah Evanega has brought her passion for science communication to the advocacy of agricultural innovation and evidence-based decision-making. The director of the Cornell Alliance for Science, Evanega has devoted her career to communicating the role of agricultural innovation in improving yields, food security, livelihoods, and environmental outcomes in the developing world. Launched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Alliance has developed an impressive global network under Evanega’s leadership, dedicated to putting public research and development of cutting-edge biotechnology in service of the needs of smallholder farmers.

The senior associate director of International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University, Evanega also serves as an adjunct international professor of plant breeding and genetics in the Integrative School of Plant Sciences, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on plant biotechnology and scientific writing. Also at Cornell, Evanega has led such initiatives as the Durable Rust Resistance in Wheat Project, the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, AWARE (Advancing Women in Agriculture through Research and Education), and a CornellX MOOC (massive open online course) on “The Science and Politics of the GMO.” It is certainly fitting that Evanega's “superpower of choice would be Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth.”

Julio Friedmann

A widely respected scientist with decades of industry and government experience, Julio Friedmann is one of the country’s foremost experts on carbon capture and sequestration. He has held appointments as the Chief Energy Technologist for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy at the Department of Energy, and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Clean Coal and Carbon Management at the Department of Energy.

Friedmann has been published in the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and the Financial Times and has co-authored a number of influential reports, including MIT’s The Future of Coal, the National Petroleum Council’s Facing the Hard Truths about Energy, and the World Resources Institute’s CCS Guidelines. As a research scientist, he has worked at ExxonMobil, the University of Maryland, and the Colorado Energy Research Institute; as a technical expert, he has led the development of large-scale CCS projects in North America, Europe, Africa, and China.

Friedmann has been a vocal advocate for a more expansive, more pragmatic approach to climate mitigation. “Anybody who does the climate math knows we’re not going to hit the climate targets,” he has said. “We really need everything. We need efficiency, we need renewables, we need nuclear—but even then, we’re not out of the woods. We need carbon capture, too.”

Steven Pinker

A vociferous advocate for science, reason, and open democratic discourse, Steven Pinker needs little introduction. Pinker’s 2011 best-selling The Better Angels of Our Nature documented the remarkable decline of violence in human societies over recent centuries. His latest book Enlightenment Now, makes the case that we can thank Enlightenment values for the remarkable progress that human societies have experienced across virtually every metric of human well-being over the last several hundred years. Pinker takes aim at right-wing traditionalism, left-wing primitivism, and the catastrophist narratives that gird attacks upon cosmopolitan modernity from both ends of the political spectrum. Pinker, notably if unsurprisingly, is a strong advocate for ecomodernism, viewing it as a pragmatic approach to environmental problems, grounded in the Enlightenment commitment to science, technology, progress, and democracy.

Pinker is a cognitive scientist by training and is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Among his many titles and accolades include membership in the National Academy of Sciences, Time magazine’s 100 most influential thinkers, and Foreign Policy’s top 100 public intellectuals.