Episode #57: Make Food Great Again (transcript)
Quinn: Welcome to Important, Not Important. My name is Quinn Emmett.
Brian: And my name is Brian Colbert Kennedy.
Quinn: And this is the podcast where we dive into a specific topic or question effecting everyone like you on the planet right now or in the next 10 years or so. If it can kill us Brian, or turn us into superhuman CRISPR robots, we're in. Our guests are scientists, doctors, engineers, politicians, astronauts, professors, even the reverend. And we work together every conversation towards action steps our listeners can take with their voice, their vote, and their dollar.
Brian: And this is your friendly reminder that you can send questions, thoughts, and feedback to us on Twitter @importantnotimp or email us at email@example.com.
Quinn: This week's episode we talk about ... Brian, it turns out more food does not necessarily mean more nutritious food. And guess what? That's bad news.
Brian: Our guests are Professors Kristie Ebi and Irakli Loladze.
Quinn: Nicely done. Dr Ebi is the Rohm and Haas Endowed Professorship in Public Health Scientist at the University of Washington and she's been conducting research and practice on the health risks of climate variability and change for over 20 years. And boy do we dig into that. Her research focuses on the impacts of and adaptation to climate variability and change, including on extreme events, thermal stress, foodborne safety and security, and vectorborne diseases, all of which sound lovely. She's got like 12 letters after her name. She's got M.S. in toxicology and a PhD and a Masters of Public Health in epidemiology and two years of postgraduate research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She's edited four books on aspects of climate change and has more than 180 publications.
Brian: And Dr. Loladze is a Professor of Health Sciences at the Bryan Medical Center. The Bryan Medical Center!
Brian: ... At Bryan College in Nebraska where he applies mathematical, computational and statistical methods to life sciences. He's taught all over, including Princeton, is an open science advocate and his research into the quality of human nutrition has been published basically everywhere and cited almost a thousand times.
Quinn: Yeah. Word of yours do you feel like has been cited a thousand times?
Brian: Probably like something [inaudible 00:02:26] might say on Facebook one time.
Quinn: But that's the future, isn't it now? It's like you could have said those words when we were in college-
Quinn: ... and it would've made sense. But now like excited. Someone in college, this is a different conversation. This might be fun talk, but like someone now can take Instagram live video of anything you're doing and the whole world can see it live. Yeah, things have changed.
Brian: Well just a little bit.
Quinn: Yeah. And turns out our food has changed too.
Brian: A lot.
Quinn: Turns out, it's not great.
Quinn: But people are working on it.
Brian: At least two and for no money.
Quinn: At least two. Anyways, all right, let's go talk about food.
Quinn: Our guests today are Professor, Kristie Ebi and Irakli Loladze and together we're going to talk about ... Brian, it turns out more food doesn't necessarily equal nutritious food. And that might not be great. Kristy and Irakli, welcome.
Irakli Loladze: Thank you.
Kristie Ebi: Thank you for having me on.
Quinn: For sure.
Brian: We're very excited to have you and thank you for all that you've had to get through this morning to be here. So real quick, if we can go just one by one, maybe we can start with Kristie and just tell us who you are and what you do.
Kristie Ebi: I am the Director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington. I've been working on various aspects of climate change and health for more than 20 years.
Quinn: Wow. So you were one of those first people who were like, "Hey listen, this is not great."
Brian: We might need this for paying attention.
Quinn: And everybody else took 20 years. That's great.
Kristie Ebi: That's a fairly accurate representation, although there were definitely people along the way who picked it up, but it's been pretty slow in-
Quinn: I'm sure that hasn't been frustrating at all.
Kristie Ebi: It's been lots of very energizing moments as particularly ministries of health, realize the challenges they're facing. And it's been a real privilege working with ministries of health around the world to help them better prepare for a changing climate.
Quinn: Sure. And you said you were actually testifying to Congress yesterday, is that correct?
Kristie Ebi: That's correct.
Quinn: So you were able to get the car out of the driveway yesterday then?
Kristie Ebi: I live in Seattle. The testifying was in Washington DC.
Quinn: So good, you didn't drive there.
Kristie Ebi: No.
Quinn: Good, good. That's right. And what was yesterday all about?
Kristie Ebi: Yesterday was the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. And it's the first of a series of hearings about climate science and why it matters. There were five experts who testified at various aspects about climate change. I spoke specifically about health issues.
Brian: Yeah, wow.
Quinn: I imagine that's the first time we've had one of those committee meetings in quite a while.
Kristie Ebi: That's true. There's also a House Committee on Environment and Energy and I believe they just also held a hearing and they're also scheduling more hearings. So you'll be hearing certainly from the House of Representatives about climate science over the coming months.
Brian: Thank God.
Quinn: We'll take it. It's nice to know that it's going down. Well thank you for making your way all the way there and doing that. That's pretty exciting stuff.
Brian: I'm sure I was meant to be invited. I'll make the next one.
Quinn: No, it's fine Brian. It's fine. Things get lost in the mail all the time.
Brian: Excellent Kristie and Irakli.
Irakli Loladze: All right. I'm an Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences at Bryan College of Health Sciences and Bryan Medical Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. And I'm formally trained as a mathematician and apply mathematics to biology. And I've been working on this issue of impact Rising CO2 on the quality of crops and wild plants and human nutrition since 2000.
Quinn: Wow. So a while as well.
Quinn: Same thing, firing up [crosstalk 00:06:24], and people are just happy to not pay attention.
Brian: Oh God, thank you so much.
Quinn: Irakli, where are you from originally?
Irakli Loladze: I'm from Georgia, but not Atlanta. I don't have a southern accent so-
Irakli Loladze: ... I have a Georgia.
Quinn: There's wonderful places, different reasons.
Brian: Thank you for clarifying.
Quinn: How did you find your way to Nebraska?
Irakli Loladze: Well, I came to grad school to Arizona State University, 1994 and there now and then I had a postdoc position on the East Coast and then ended up in Nebraska for my faculty positions.
Quinn: That's cool. Where on the East Coast were you?
Irakli Loladze: Princeton, New Jersey.
Quinn: Okay, nice.
Brian: Wouldn't it be great if you ended up in Georgia? From Georgia to Georgia?
Irakli Loladze: I visited this
Brian: You just-
Irakli Loladze: ... yeah, Atlanta dynamic city.
Brian: I'm easily entertained.
Kristie Ebi: Can I suggest you ask Irakli how he first got interested in this topic.
Quinn: Hey Irakli, can I ask you a question?
Brian: Just in love with it.
Quinn: How did you first get interested in this topic?
Irakli Loladze: Well, it's a nuclear weapons in cows that in-
Quinn: I'm sorry, what was that?
Irakli Loladze: It involves nuclear weapons and cows. There was mandatory service to military service begging the former USSR and I was sent to Lithuania and we were supposed to guard this nuclear warheads underground and part of the air force. And so I didn't really like the job, but there were cows, 53 cows grazing above and I don't know what the purpose was of cows, but somebody had to take care of them. And so I got the job of a cow taker. And the irony of the Soviet-
Brian: Cow taker.
Irakli Loladze: ... irony of the Soviet Union is that we had this sophisticated military technology, but they didn't have a single milking machine. So I had to milk them twice a day with my hands. And that allowed me to really closely literally see what type of milk and how much milk I get. And I noticed that as cows grazed different places, they would eat different grass, and the quality of grass affected the amount of milk. So that registered in my mind that there was this connection between quality of plants and the output of [inaudible 00:08:59] animals give. And so that then developed into my PhD thesis where it was a mathematical model that tracked how the food quality affects the consumers.
Quinn: Holy Shit. That's-
Quinn: ... super cool. Kristie, I have to say thank you for suggesting we get there. Usually we don't do too much backstory, but now I feel like, because we don't want to take, we want to move into forward looking and action-
Quinn: ... but it does feel like occasionally, boy, there's some gems out there.
Quinn: That is amazing. Well, listen, we have to say thank you to those cows.
Irakli Loladze: Yes.
Quinn: Because without those cows, we wouldn't be here today.
Irakli Loladze: I love them really, they're wonderful creatures indeed.
Brian: That's wild.
Quinn: That is fantastic.
Brian: [Groovy 00:09:51]. So, we're going to giggle on here as a reminder to everyone. Our goal always on this podcast is to provide some context for the topic we're going to talk about and then dig into action oriented questions so that we can come away from this thing with some steps to take to help you and support you and save the world if that sounds okay.
Kristie Ebi: Sounds great.
Irakli Loladze: Great.
Quinn: Awesome. And don't worry, we're going to keep feeding Brian coffee because clearly it hasn't kicked in on that side yet.
Brian: I have two.
Quinn: He does have two in his ... he has two-
Brian: Oh yeah.
Quinn: ... in his hands. Okay. So listen, Kristie, Irakli, we usually start with one important question, something to set the tone here. I encourage you to be bold, to be honest, so instead of actually saying, tell us your entire life story, I don't know how we beat nuclear cows. We'd like to ask our guests, why are you vital to the survival of the species? And Kristie, I'd say let's start with you.
Kristie Ebi: That's a very interesting question. I'm not sure I'm vital to the survival of the species. I can help facilitate the science to policy interface, I spend a lot of time on that. And so I can help bring science to policy makers, help them understand challenges, opportunities, options for action. And I've also done quite a bit of work on helping design and implement research agendas. I've had opportunities to work in many countries around the world and I can synthesize that information and bring forward to funding agencies, for example, what kind of research needs to be done. I of course have led some of that research, but also have helped facilitate research led by many others. So more a facilitator than vital to survival.
Quinn: Well, that sounds pretty important to me.
Brian: Sounds pretty important.
Quinn: Yeah, absolutely. I love it. And Irakli?
Irakli Loladze: I think good Kris is really modest and she's a pioneer in a field of global and planetary health and I do think that she's vital for our survival. Well, I am as a scientist, what we do is we generate knowledge. I am not an activist or policy maker. And I think it's very noble profession where we essentially what we do is we expanded that circle that represents the knowledge of the humanity. Maybe it's a little progress, but it's nevertheless this addition to that expansion of that circle, and in that sense as part of being a scientist, I think we are definitely a vital for the survival of our species.
Kristie Ebi: And I would add to that Irakli, we always say, we stand on the shoulders of others, which is absolutely true. And you'll never know if someone was missing from that.
Irakli Loladze: Right.
Kristie Ebi: How things would look differently.
Irakli Loladze: Yes. Good point.
Quinn: Sure. Absolutely. And I am sure there's a multitude of young scientists and activists who look at you folks the same way. If you hadn't been fighting for this the past 20 years, if those cows hadn't been milked, then we might not be here and things might be a lot worse. So awesome. I love it. All right. So listen, we are going to just set up a quick little context here for the question at hand, just so everybody's on the page. So we've talked about agriculture and food and water and climate and things like that sometimes in different silos, sometimes mixed together here. Obviously there is a big interaction among all those things.
Quinn: But we are barreling towards 10 billion tightly packed humans on this little Pale blue dot of ours, and somehow we're going to have to feed each one of them. As a reminder to our listeners, we already actually make more than enough food for everyone on the planet. The problems are many of the calories are empty. We waste an immeasurable amount of food and it's nowhere near evenly distributed. There's actually a new diet that came out in the past couple of weeks by a bunch of different scientists prescribed that could theoretically drastically reduce agricultural emissions, which would be great and also help our nutritional health as well. But that's all just to set the table, which is just an awful pun.
Quinn: Here's the thing. Plants eat sunlight and carbon dioxide. And as everyone knows, our atmosphere is just now brimming with carbon dioxide, thanks to 200 years of industry and agriculture and things like that. But we know what happens to temperatures and things of that nature if the atmosphere gets too much carbon dioxide, but the question that we're going to talk about today and that these two have been working on so diligently for 20 years is, what happens if plants get too much carbon dioxide? So that is sort of our focus today, which is turns out we've been making more and more food, but it's not necessarily becoming more nutritious. In fact, it might be going the other way and that is not great. So Kristie and your partner in crime here Irakli, what is this big revelation that we've come to about the food that everyone's eating today?
Kristie Ebi: I'll briefly summarize it and then I'd really appreciate Irakli to come in because he's worked much more on the plant physiology side and why-
Kristie Ebi: ... this is a concern. But the bottom line is that there are essentially two main mechanisms by which plants take the carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and turn it into the carbon that forms the plant. And one group includes rice, wheat, potatoes, major staple crops around the world. And the insight from experiments that Irakli and others have been involved in is that as the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increase, then for rice, wheat and these other staple crops, there's less protein, there's less iron, there's less zinc, there's less of the other major micronutrients. And we were part of a study that showed specifically for rice, there's fewer of the essential B vitamins. And so as you mentioned, overall the nutritional quality of the food is quite a bit less as CO2 concentrations continued to increase.
Quinn: How much less are we talking?
Kristie Ebi: Irakli, do you want to explain a little bit more, then go into the details of the experiment?
Irakli Loladze: All right. So imagine that you are stuck in one place. Right? And then you can't move, and then you have all weather that unpredictable in many ways, anything like trodden and freezing and heat, and also you don't have any food. You have to make your own food, and all you can use is sunlight, water and dirt. And because most of us would die. Right? But plants are able to flourish in these conditions and because they make their own food, right? And because they make their own food, and if we think logically, right, as any factory that produces anything, you need to have something where you store your product. Right? As you cannot immediately use it.
Irakli Loladze: And indeed, if you look at plant cells, they have these two distinct features that animal cells lack. And that is; one is the central Vacuole and it's huge. It could take the most of the cell volume. And the Plastids. And plastids are most well known as Chloroplast. But there are also other plastids that are specifically for storing nutrients, and one of those is Amyloplasts, that they're for storing starch. And so, because of the storage components in plants, essentially what we eat when you eat a fruit or vegetable, you actually eat the content of those central vacuoles and the plastids to a large degree.
Irakli Loladze: And they allow plants to have very flexible chemical composition, and which animal cells really don't have such chemical variability in their content, but plants do. And the second thing is, if you live in such unpredictable world, you become opportunists. So plants, if they see excess of any nutrient, they're going to take it, they're going to store it. It's like in a good homemaker if it produced too much of cake or cookies going to store it for future use. And that is important to understand why plants should change their quality. And that's what original thinking led me going, beginning early 2000s.
Irakli Loladze: So because we increase CO2 globally, right, plants then start to synthesize more starches and sugars, and they start to store more of those starches in their tissues. And that doesn't really hurt them. They like it just in case they want to have it. The problem is that the plants really don't care about our nutrition. Right? We eat plants. We're their enemies. So, there is this global shift where all plants, almost all plants around the world start to pack more starches and sugars, and because their chemical composition allows that, the central vacuole and plastids allow them to do that, we end up eating more of that and less of other nutrients.
Quinn: So it's a finite amount of space within the plant. And again, I'm coming ... Couldn't be further from a botanist of any sort here. I have a garden and it grows okay. But, so there's a ... I'm imagining a finite amount of space in this plant, the storage facility of sorts, and right now, because of the increased carbon dioxide, it's storing more starches and sugars and less of zinc and the B vitamins and things like that. Is that way off base?
Irakli Loladze: Exactly. Per unit of biomass. Right? So the density of starches and sugars overall increases and the density of protein and the minerals decreases. Now, there are other physiological mechanisms that also contribute to different quality. So the change in quality is not uniform. Some minerals like, for example, manganese I found doesn't really change much, but say magnesium or iron or zinc or nitrogen, those drop considerably.
Brian: That's so wild. [crosstalk 00:21:09].
Quinn: The things we need.
Irakli Loladze: So-
Kristie Ebi: Could I add something-
Quinn: Oh yeah. Go ahead.
Kristie Ebi: ... at the moment? A question that we get a lot is people will come back and say, “Doesn't it have to do with the soils?” But the experiments that Irakli was referring to are done where you have several plots. So the soil is the same. The air temperature is the same. The precipitation is the same. But on some of the plots you blow carbon dioxide across them. So they're growing under higher CO2. So this is not just the soil, this is a change in the plant physiology.
Quinn: Which is a different, and we've talked on other podcasts and something I keep wanting to dig into because America's soil from, however I understand it isn't a very bad place.
Quinn: So that is a different discussion. But your saying, with all of that controlled and we waft some more CO2 over it, that is having this specific effect.
Kristie Ebi: Correct.
Irakli Loladze: Well yeah-
Irakli Loladze: ... and Kris-
Quinn: ... great.
Irakli Loladze: ... makes this point, it delineates that thing because when you start to talk about declining food quality, people bring other valid issues such as depletion of soils and degradation of soils on really a massive scale and we have known about that. And now, the issue is the chase for higher yields where we deliberately breed for higher and higher yields and that's the single minded kind of a focus. And so there is a fundamental trade off between quality and quantity. And if you only focus on quantity, then quality gets lost in the process. This has been known for decades, but the issue of rising CO2 causing global declines in food quality and contributing to them is relatively unknown.
Quinn: Which is not great.
Irakli Loladze: Not Great.
Kristie Ebi: And to make-
Quinn: Yeah, I was just-
Kristie Ebi: ... sorry to interrupt again-
Brian: No, [crosstalk 00:23:17] please do.
Kristie Ebi: ... And to make the conversation-
Quinn: ... you should always interrupt please.
Kristie Ebi: ... slightly more complicated-
Kristie Ebi: ... which will go back to Irakli, we're not the only one that eats plants.
Quinn: Right. It's easy to stay human focused, but, in fact humans don't eat enough plants.
Quinn: We prefer Burgers, but everybody else eats plants.
Irakli Loladze: Right.
Kristie Ebi: And the burgers come from cows.
Brian: Cavity plants.
Kristie Ebi: That eat plants.
Quinn: Right. That eat-
Brian: It all starts-
Quinn: ... plants.
Brian: ... from plants.
Quinn: [Oh guts 00:23:44] it's always back to the cows.
Brian: Hey, so you guys, when did this revelation come to be? When was this all ... did somebody go, “Oh hey, I think something's going on here.” Was it something that we stumbled upon or did somebody think, "Well, we should start looking into this?"
Irakli Loladze: Well then, because of the CO2, we knew the CO2 is increasing. The biologists-
Irakli Loladze: ... and agronomists started to run these experiments where that, as Kris described, the only difference was CO2 concentrations. And they would look at many aspects of plant physiology such as plant growth, and amount nitrogen they use, and they notice that plants use less nitrogen. They truly need less nitrogen. And the reason why is because when CO2 concentrations go up, plants have easier time capturing CO2 molecules and they capture them with RuBisCo enzyme, which is very rich nitrogen, essentially it's a protein. Some say it's one of the most abundant proteins on earth. And so the plants say, “Hey, you know, we can be more efficient.” And so this was considered-
Irakli Loladze: ... like a good thing, higher nitrogen use efficiency for plants. They started to look at minerals and there was this disarray, really. Some cases they declined, in some cases they increased. It's like you're trying to measure weather temperature in certain city, if you do it five, 10 times, you are not going to notice global warming. Right? You need massive amount of data.
Irakli Loladze: So, when I started to look at it, I saw that there was consistency with respect to nitrogen, but the large inconsistency with respect to minerals. But the minerals are the ones that humans are most deficient in their diet, specifically iron and zinc and calcium and magnesium as well. And so that's where my concern was that if minerals decline, then that could affect human nutrition. And then I started to make logical argument why minerals should decline. In other words, there should be some signal amid all that noise.
Quinn: And that is one of those problems that you stumble upon in the lab I imagined and go like, “Oh shit, this is something I should probably pursue.” Not like, “Oh this is a little interesting thing.” Is the rate of our food ... is the nutritional rate declining precipitously? So Kristie, how did you find your way into this?
Kristie Ebi: I was asked to. Irakli and I work with just a fantastic scientist at USPA that I've known for a long time, Dr. Lewis Ziska. And Lewis and I have collaborated on a number of projects and Lewis collaborated extensively with Irakli on others. And as his work was ongoing, the question of course was the human health piece. And to put the numbers that Irakli just mentioned into perspective. Right now around the world there's about 815 million people who are food insecure. That is, they don't get enough to eat. There is more than 2 billion people who have micronutrient deficiencies. So the micronutrient deficiencies are a much larger problem overall than just food and security.
Kristie Ebi: And so Lewis brought me in to the project to say, “So what? What does this mean for our health?”
Quinn: Sure. And this is the thing, and we really try not to be fear mongers here, but we do try to be objective about everything that's going on and expose what is really going on because people aren't getting all of the most important news. And that's as much as writers like Steven Pinker and guys like that talk about how much, statistically how much better so many different parts of the world, in ways of the world, and people in the world and things like that have gotten better over the past century, which are absolutely true. We are not measuring these things in a vacuum, which is to say that like the numbers you just talked about, 800 million and 2 billion, those are now.
Quinn: That's before immigration gets out of control due to climate. That's while people still think for a variety of reasons, it's very controversial, whether GMOs are good or not. All of these things before we've figured out a perennial week, et cetera, et cetera. So, you look at that and go, “Those numbers could be the tip of the iceberg.” Again, try not to be fear monger, but going, “Yes, a lot of things have gotten better. However, we have some enormous things that we have look at.”
Brian: Does this increase in carbon dioxide affect all plants the same, or are there any plants that are not affected?
Irakli Loladze: Like Kris mentioned our wonderful colleague Lewis Ziska, and he worked on this CO2 effects on plants for a long time. And not just quality, he looked at, for example, that some wheats that might benefit from CO2 concentrations. The majority of plants on earth are called C3 plants, and such as-
Quinn: What does that mean?
Irakli Loladze: That means that when they synthesize this CO2 into starches, that one of the products contains three carbons. And unlike C4 plants that would have four carbons. So C4 plants like maize and many grasses, they are able to concentrate CO2 concentrations internally. And so they really don't benefit as much from higher C2 concentrations in a sense of increasing photosynthesis. Right? And so we have this dichotomy between C3 and C4, and there will be different responses.
Irakli Loladze: Both plants, however, start to lose less water because again, the way these plants gets CO2 is that they get it from little openings called stomata, it's like their mouths. And when CO2 goes is higher, they say, "Hey, you know what? We don't have to keep our mouth so wide open." They partially close those stomata, and as a result they lose less water. So there's less transpiration that brings all this water from roots towards shoots. And as water flow decreases, it also decreases the flow of minerals, some minerals towards roots. That's another effect that results in lower crop quality in both C3, in C4 plants.
Quinn: That's crazy.
Brian: Are there parts of the world in general that are more affected than others?
Irakli Loladze: That's a good question. So we know, thanks to all these researches that were generating the data on four continents. And when I encountered a lot of doubt that this is happening, including from plant experts, and this has been going on for many years, I said, “Okay, let me collect everything that had ever been published.” Right? As I could not get grants to actually generate data. So the data collected is from four continents, Australia, Europe, Asia, and North America. There are no data from South America or Africa, unfortunately. But the effect is very progressive geographically. It's on all attitudes that we have data for, whether temperate forests, or subtropical regions or tropical regions in, it affects both edible tissues, and phloem tissues. So it's pretty systemic effect throughout plant tissues.
Kristie Ebi: And the second part-
Quinn: [Gut 00:32:00], it's no good answer, great. Kristie, please.
Kristie Ebi: So the second part of that question was, what does it mean for those of us who are human centric? And it really depends on our diet. And so,-
Kristie Ebi: ... the regions that are most vulnerable are places where people rely heavily on cereal crops. So today in Bangladesh, even as its economy grows, three or four calories comes from rice.
Quinn: Sure, sure. And those of course are the areas of the world that are growing the quickest.
Kristie Ebi: Well, there's also the poor in our own country-
Kristie Ebi: ... who rely heavily on starches.
Kristie Ebi: So it's the poor everywhere that are the most affected because they typically have diets that are high in starch.
Quinn: Sure. It's interesting though we've tried to really delve a lot into climate justice, environmental justice here because like you said, big surprise, the poor are being affected the worst. And sometimes in America that's by design because that's the system we've built, which is terrible and sometimes that's just the nature of how a country or region has developed no matter how it's going. But I am curious with, if you guys have thoughts on this new diet and I am 99% vegan and eat plants all day long and whole foods, and that's what I feed my children and things like that.
Quinn: And that's a lot of what this new diet that's been proposed by all these doctors, nutritionists have said is we have to, especially in North America, cut red meat down drastically and increase legumes and things like that and increase grains. I'm curious how those two things intersect their proposal which could theoretically the math adds up, reduce agricultural missions greatly and make people healthier but at the same time, like you said, those foods that are being proposed are inherently turns out a lot less nutritious than either we thought or people know of. I think Kristie, I remember seeing a quote with you, that you had that said something along the lines of like, “Why the hell would I know that my bread is less nutritious than I thought it was?"
Quinn: ... Why would that occur to a person? So I'm curious on your guys' thoughts on how we make this transition to a new diet that can benefit the world, but at the same time it's not as fantastic as we thought nutrition wise?
Kristie Ebi: That is a good and complicated question. Of course a good diet is not just the cereal crops, it's also fruits, vegetables, there is a range of sources of food from which we get the nutrients that we need. And as Irakli very clearly pointed out, the plants are producing those needs because we need them. It's just the way the plants work and they're doing the best they can with they've got. And so number one, as you've pointed out repeatedly, this is a new area, and so it sounds always awkward for a scientist to say this, we need a lot more research because there is this fundamental understanding of the mechanism and Irakli was key to laying that out and other people that we work with.
Kristie Ebi: But there's also what does it mean in the context of a diverse diet? And are there ways to understand how we can get the kind of nutrition we need from other sources? Understanding that those other sources also may be affected by rising CO2, by changing temperature, changing precipitation, and if the overall quality of our food is declining, then what are our options? You mentioned GMOs and I will point out that essentially everything we eat is already genetically modified.
Quinn: Yeah, It's an argument I have more or less everyday with people.
Kristie Ebi: We choose certain things because we like them. They're more robust to the weather patterns. People find them more attractive, they're easier to ship to market. So we're already selecting for all kinds of characteristics and can we select for some characteristics that would be beneficial for our health and support the health of the plants?
Quinn: Sure. I'm curious and you've talked about how we need a whole hell of a lot more research and we just mentioned GMOs, I'm excited because we are working our way towards action here and the ways we can dig ourselves out of this hole. So talking about needing a lot more research, do you feel like there are enough people working on this across the related disciplines? And do you feel like the folks that are working on this are asking the right questions? Do we know the right questions to ask yet? This is what I love about science like you said, it's awkward as a scientist to say we need more research, but that's what's beautiful about sciences, we're constantly finding out things that we don't know and trying to approve ourselves wrong and things like that. So I'm curious if you feel like we're starting to head down the right path or paths with this.
Kristie Ebi: Well, I'll provide my perspective and I'd really like to hear Irakli's as well. Are we asking the right questions? Yes. We have enough understanding of these basic mechanisms to start asking the right questions. There is a deep understanding within certainly the climate community that we need to have multiple disciplines at the table. We need to work together and collaborate in ways that historically were relatively rare. The major challenge at the moment is there is pretty much no funding, so this issue is gotten enormous media attention. I've given a number of interviews, I know Irakli's given quite a few interviews, no funders contacted me to say, “Gee, this is really important.”
Quinn: So where are you guys getting your funding for the research currently?
Kristie Ebi: I volunteered all my time on the paper.
Irakli Loladze: Yeah, I worked on it without funding since 2001, all my grants got rejected. And then I actually found that grant writing is a waste for me. When I said, “Okay, what can I do with my just laptop and internet connection?” That actually made a faster progress. With regard to these specific questions that we ask is ... Kris pointed out, we ask right questions and one interesting question in particular is that, can we have two problems with nutrition is that on one hand we have obesity and too much calories for some people and then we have not enough nutrients for others. So mineral undernutrition or micronutrient malnutrition in obesity are two largest problems in nutrition today. And what the rising CO2 does, it exacerbates both.
Irakli Loladze: So on one hand it adds these carbs that many people already get in excess. I believe it contributes to obesity and we don't have a proof for that yet. On the other hand, it decreases all these nutrients globally, essentially almost in all plants, so it intensifies micronutrient deficiencies. And the question is and we want to know is what would be effects on as precise in obesity when you end up with empty calories? I think you referred to EAT-Lancet Commission recent report where they want to shift human diets toward more plants and less meat consumption. In one recommendation they like is that they say reduce the consumption of refined sugars and starches, right? So this is kind of empty calories and if you shift toward more nutrient dense foods, then everybody would benefit, right?
Irakli Loladze: But, they recommend eating less meat and recommendations are ... I have doubts that people will actually switch toward less meats and let me explain why. I think subconsciously or consciously, people notice that plants become crappier for whatever the reason, soil depletion, rising C02, chase for higher yields. And their bodies just say, “Hey, you know what? I don't want to eat lettuce. I want to some meat.” And we see that as soon as people have access to higher income, the meat consumption increases. So while the commission recommends doing one thing, I think people will be doing and it's majority of people will be doing another thing.
Irakli Loladze: If we really want to reduce the consumption of meat which will be really beneficial for the environment, we really to make the plants more nutrient dense and right now, no farmer is paid by the amount of zinc or potassium in grains. They are all paid by the amount of yield, so they absolutely have no incentive adding any zinc to soil unless it boosts yields, and what boost yields is adding nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. That's it. And that's why all the fields in the world are sprayed by these nutrients, only those three nutrients essentially and there is enormous imbalance in the soil that is further exacerbated by increases in CO2.
Quinn: And there was news this week about all those small farmers in America who effectively cannot make money anymore. I believe they said the average revenue among ... I'm going to mingle this and we'll put in the show notes somewhere and I'll correct it at some point, but, average revenue among small farmers in America this year was something like negative $1,000.
Quinn: We were just like, “Oh, well this doesn't work anymore.” So inherently it's these huge industrial crops and of course in America we're really only grow all these mono crops, which only a small percentage are used for food anyways, but like you said, it's yield, yield, yield, yield. Again, we do have to grow more food for all of these people, but the incentive seemed to be all wrong in light of what we know, what you have. So diligently both worked on for free for 20 years. So we're going to work towards what our listeners can do here, but, I guess more.
Irakli Loladze: I would love to hear Kris response on this as she's an expert on global health. I only see, from my perspective is incentives, you got to change the incentives. Unless you change those incentives, farmers will keep chasing yields and you can't really blame them. As you said, the profits decline, but the profits of big Ag and big food industry are increasing and farmers just become little rejects and they know they're essentially forced to dump those chemicals and pesticides and herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. Maybe it's regulations where you start actually pay farmers for higher quality crops, maybe then things will change, but I would love to hear Kris enhance on this.
Kristie Ebi: I had a slightly different perspective I'd like to add, I fully agree with everything that Irakli said. We were part of a paper published last year that looked specifically at rice and concentrations of CO2 you'd expect later in the century if we don't keep emissions under control. And it looked at 18 of the most popular rice lines in Japan and in China. And essentially there were declines for all of the nutrients we're talking about across all of the rice lines. Some declined less, some declined a lot more, some of the declines were quite large, as I recall in one of the rice lines, for example, Folic, a lack of Folic is associated with birth defects of up to 30%.
Kristie Ebi: When you're thinking about whether it's possible to genetically modify, if they all decline, that's not going to be an option. So this is one of the research questions of, "Are there other rice lines where you don't see such a large decline? Are there other ways that you can try and take what you've got with that genetic code and find ways that you can increase or even just maintain the concentrations of these critical nutrients for our health, even as CO2 rises?" So the challenge is difficult. And Irakli is right. There has to be incentives, there has to be ways to think about how to ensure that what is brought to our grocery store is as nutritious as possible, and you don't want to do that at the expense of yield.
Quinn: Right. It's not just take the foot off the pedal with yield that is imperative, however we're just producing more and more of less nutritious food. And again, like you said, the least we can do is try to maintain the nutrition we've got because the year is only going to get worse for a little while as far as we can tell. All right. As we said at the beginning, and what we always try to do is to point our listeners towards actions they can take with their voice, their vote, and their dollars so they can get out there and help kick some ass because it sounds like you guys are not getting really any support-
Irakli Loladze: Yeah.
Quinn: ... despite all the publicity, which is great. So-
Kristie Ebi: That's great we're not getting support?
Quinn: ... No, I think.
Brian: Please, please sense the sarcasm.
Quinn: Heavy, heavy sarcasm.
Brian: Heavy sarcasm.
Quinn: Heavy sarcasm. Usually by this point in this kind of conversation, that's where I [inaudible 00:47:23]
Brian: It's either that or we're just going to start yelling in frustration.
Quinn: Yeah, or I just start crying on the microphone.
Brian: Or crying, yeah.
Quinn: So I chose sarcasm. All right. Their voice, one of the overarching goals is really to shine a light on where we need to go as a people. So what are the big actionable questions, specific questions our listeners should be asking of our current representatives?
Kristie Ebi: The basic question is what do we know about the nutritional quality of our food in the United States? And how that could be affected both by rising carbon dioxide concentrations and also by climate change itself? Because climate change is going to affect where you can grow certain crops. There's been a lot of publicity around chocolate being affected. I live in the state of Washington and there's lots of discussion here on how hops are going to be affected. We grow 75% of all the hops that are used in beer in the United States and so understand-
Brian: Okay. If the chocolate and the beer are getting fucked with them[inaudible 00:48:29].
Quinn: And coffee too.
Brian: And coffee-
Quinn: Half the coffee crops in the world-
Brian: The three things I put in my body.
Quinn: You don't eat anything else.
Kristie Ebi: Eat pasta, you forgot to add the pasta.
Brian: [crosstalk 00:48:39]. Oh God, it's just getting worse and worse.
Quinn: And you wonder why I'm sarcastic.
Brian: Sorry to interrupt just-
Kristie Ebi: Right.
Brian: ... biased am I there.
Kristie Ebi: That's why I mentioned it. It’s important for people to realize this is a broad based issue and we don't have the fundamental answers to that question.
Quinn: So I'm curious because again, I really want to get specific so in areas like Washington where you're growing 75% of the hops or in the Central Valley in California where we're growing most of the nations fruits and vegetables where we're currently also out of water, different discussion. So those are places where listeners can get really specific with their representatives and say, take different takes, it seems like and say things like, “Hey, we're growing 75% of the hops and craft beer is exploding in all of these things. Is it less nutritious? Is the crop as fortified as it once was? How's that going to affect our economy? How is that going to affect our revenues? Is it going to have to be grown somewhere else?” Does that make sense? I'm trying to pull in people in right direction.
Irakli Loladze: Yeah, definitely. And in fact what we're talking about, it's not in the future, it's already happening. The two studies, one by Davis that show that vegetables and fruits in the United States the quality declined in the last several decades. The similar study was done in Britain by Anne-Marie Mayer, and then we have a very recent study by Craine that analyzed data from again it's a cow poop. They had this data about the quality of fecal samples going back to 1994, and because of sample size was huge, it was 36,000 this fecal samples data.
Irakli Loladze: They detected a decline in forage quality to the point that cows are protein stressed. So just over the last 22 years and CO2 concentrations increased over the time from 360 parts per million to 410. It's like increase, I don't know like 14%. So this is something ongoing and definitely we need to ask our representatives what is going on with our food and what's essential is a large sample sizes because there's a lot of noise in the system and if you use a typical sample size of three, you are not going to see that signal, but that signal is there, it's pervasive and it's global, and we need of course funding for that.
Kristie Ebi: And it's large sample sizes over time that this is not a one off, we do it this year and then we're done. We've got to see how changes happen as our weather changes, as our CO2 changes.
Irakli Loladze: Exactly. As longitudinal light trends, and there's continuous paucity of data that really out of many studies, just few produce data on the quality nutrient content. So there's tremendous gaps in our knowledge that can be addressed with existing tools. It just requires a little bit of funding.
Quinn: All right. So I guess that moves into the next two pieces the question.
Brian: Right, right. Also their vote, right? What can our listeners do with their vote? Who are your most reliable allies, elected allies out there today? If there are any at all.
Kristie Ebi: Well, as we mentioned at the beginning, I did testify yesterday to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology voting matters. As you noted, it's one of the first hearings on climate science in quite a while and there's real enthusiasm for talking about climate change, and thinking about what needs to be done. So reinforcing that, getting out and making sure you vote if this is important to you really helps. One of the things that you'll see in the various [inaudible 00:52:55] write ups that are coming across my desks is that in the hearing, essentially every single member, Republican member started out his statement where something about how he agreed with the science and climate change, which is good.
Quinn: That's surprising.
Kristie Ebi: There's more enthusiasm from the Democrats as you would expect, but basically the entire committee is to committee on science and we're going to talk about the science and climate change and what needs to be done. Taking into account there's going to be winners and losers and that's going to be a difficult issue to manage and how to do that efficiently and effectively were parts of the questions that arose. And we've got a group of people in the House of Representatives now that want to have those discussions.
Quinn: Well, that is a perfectly tangible result of voting folks is that we get people who've been working.
Quinn: Somewhat in a vacuum, frustratingly for decades on this to actually be able to come and like you said, be a facilitator to hopefully pass some of that knowledge and hopefully spur some action into people who actually have the power to do something about it, and now we're actually seeing that. I think I did see somewhere, literally was the first committee meeting in like eight years, which is insane.
Brian: Yes, now they just need to get people to vote.
Quinn: Yeah. So what about with their dollar? We talked about incentives, hopefully that's something again we can start to work with on things like the farm bill, but what about literally on a day to day basis, certain ways to spend their money? I guess in two ways. One is commercially, are there any opportunities to spend their money in the right way? And again, I would love to get specific on that. And two, similarly with regard to research or foundation supporting work like yours since it sounds like grants are more or less non-existent, where can we point people?
Kristie Ebi: I honestly don't know. Irakli, do you know where people can be pointed to?
Irakli Loladze: In terms of funding, I don't really know because scientists usually go to the government like NSF and NIH for the grants. With respect to how they can spend their dollars. I have this lawn, right? And I see my neighbors using synthetic fertilizers and putting all these herbicides and pesticides and they take proud if their lawn looks like golf field. And so there's no this little awareness that kills a diversity, that there're no flowers there, it's just the grass and that reduces the source of food for pollinators, and we know that bees are declining. So on this local level, why not to have more natural lawns. Right?
Irakli Loladze: Stop supporting this bigger chemical industry that essentially promotes using the synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. Supporting organic foods would help as well, and there's already movement to where people start to grow more local foods and some restaurants start to cater toward that, toward more sustainably raised products. So these day to day decisions, I think they do have an effect.
Kristie Ebi: I read yesterday that there is more acreage in the United States devoted to lawns than to any single crop.
Brian: That is shocking.
Quinn: I read that same thing. It's like an insane amount of acreage.
Kristie Ebi: Yes.
Quinn: More than any crop in the world. That was a wild step.
Irakli Loladze: And the amount of chemicals they dump into it, and then these lawn machines, and they take proud in that. Somehow they identified some way at least, and mind their neighborhood, the goodness with how good your lawn looks and really nobody plays soccer on that or golf, so this is some decision that everybody can make. So that's a good point, Kris.
Kristie Ebi: And stepping back a bit, the fundamental issue that we're talking about is rising CO2 in the atmosphere. And if we can't stop that rise, keep that rise from going much too quickly, we will see a benefit for our nutrition in the long run, because we won't have such severe changes in the nutrition quality of our food like we've been talking about. So a fundamental issue is thinking about how to reduce your own greenhouse gas emissions. Everything from being more efficient when you do errands, go out and do them all at once, instead of going out back, planning how you're using those greenhouse gases you're going to burn.
Irakli Loladze: Right. And I want to point one thing as Kris mentioned, this rising CO2 levels and what we can do about them. Very often, critics of this view of declining crop quality say, “Look, we increase CO2 in greenhouses deliberately and we get these ... Last time I ate food from the greenhouse, nothing happened to me, so stop all of miss crap. Little drop of a nutrient doesn't make big difference.” And what they're really missing, and I'm frustrated that even the experts in these areas in terms of plants they're missing is the scale, okay. So yes, you can raise plants in higher CO2 in controlled environments such as greenhouses where you are also enrich soil. There's no problem with it. I love food from greenhouses, but the problem is that all around the world we're increasing CO2 only. We don't add zinc, potassium, magnesium to our soils, and the issue is the scale.
Irakli Loladze: It's not something that eight time drop one time in my bowl of cereal, I would not give a damn about it. The thing is that it's every day with every plant cereal that you eat for the rest of your life. Doesn't matter what plant you eat, you switch from a salad to something else, to different crops. It's everywhere almost all minerals are declining, and what is cumulative effect that is scaring me, and it's really the issue of scale just like with weather, right? If the temperature today is three degrees higher, I don't care, but if the temperature is three degrees higher all around the globe, we have a problem.
Quinn: There's a wonderful writer for the New York Times who wrote when everyone was getting angry about the polar vortex and things like this and our just incredible President was tweeting about how if the weather is so cold, how could there be climate change and she made a wonderful analogy too again, weather is not climate effectively saying, and I'm going to mangle it, but we'll put in the show notes. “Weather is what you wear every day and climate is what you keep in your closet.” And saying, “There aren't a lot of Floridians, they might have to wear coats today, but they don't have a closet full of coats.”
Irakli Loladze: Right.
Quinn: Because that's how climate works. So let me ask one last question before we get to the end here and I can't thank you guys enough for your time. So like you said, you're having a hard time coming up with places where they can really focus their money because most of the grants come from National Science and things like that. What does a typical, let's say you were to go out for a grant for this research, how much are we talking about? What are you guys looking for? What would enable this research? Not obviously the biggest number in the world or the smallest, but what would get this going? Just so people have an idea.
Kristie Ebi: Irakli and I worked on a proposal that was unsuccessful. All of our proposals have been unsuccessful. And we were asking over several years for several million dollars. Irakli, I don't recall the total at the moment.
Irakli Loladze: Right, Wellcome Trust proposal was running, yes somewhere like in a million or two, but I did some work without money at all. So in this case even a little bit money, just going to conferences would have helped and does spread the word. But, for example, we specifically, one of the proposals we applied was to generate new data in a very efficient way, high throughput way. And that was costing, renting greenhouses and so on. It was only costing several hundred thousand dollars for like two years, right?
Quinn: That's just not a lot of money.
Kristie Ebi: But let me step back. There was or more than a decade ago, there was concern when the first nanoparticles emerged, and there was concern about their health issues. And the National Academy of Sciences put together some expert panel to take a look at, “What kind of investments should we make?” And I don't recall the exact number, but it was somewhere around the range of, at the level of the federal government for extramural research of 150 to 200 million dollars per year. And those are the kinds of numbers that are typical when you see an issue that's important in which you need to make investment. And yes, it is-
Kristie Ebi: ... a big number,-
Quinn: ... the food we eat.
Kristie Ebi: ... but it's a really big problem as well.
Brian: When researchers on four continents are saying, “Hey, for all of the food in the whole fucking world, is not as good for you as it should be anymore.” How does nobody give you any money?
Kristie Ebi: Because that's the way it is right now. I don't even know how it is,-
Brian: I just don't get it.
Kristie Ebi: ...but it's the fact.
Brian: Just my mind is blown.
Kristie Ebi: It's the reality. But when you think of the level of ambition in the National Institutes of Health, when we had the outbreak of Zika, they came forward and said, we're going to invest a couple hundred million dollars into developing a vaccine.
Quinn: Right. Which is necessary. However, again, hey Brian, what are the two things we can't live without? Food and water?
Brian: Pretty huge deal.
Quinn: Okay. Well that ... Okay. All right. We're going to continue to work and talk to you guys-
Quinn: ... about that on our end, not saying anyone can move mountains, but there's got to be fixes to this. Okay. We're getting close to that time here. Brian is just sieving on the couch over here.
Brian: I just don't-
Quinn: I cannot-
Brian: ... [crosstalk 01:04:32].
Quinn: ... thank you both enough for your time today and everything else you have done in the past-
Brian: In the past 20 years-
Quinn: ... 20 years.
Brian: ... for the community.
Quinn: Is there anyone else you can think of that we should talk to on this subject or other subjects that are again pertinent to the survival of everybody? Anybody you recommend, we can mention them now or we can talk about it offline, but we always love recommendations from our guests.
Irakli Loladze: Definitely I think as Kris mentioned Lewis Ziska did amazing work, and as a government employer, I'm not sure if he will be allowed, but if he's, that would be really great to talk to him. And then, also [Max Tawau 01:05:12] who did some work in Texas. He did the work of showing that the protein declines in edible parts of crops.
Kristie Ebi: And Irakli, who's doing the work with the cows?
Irakli Loladze: Right, so Joseph Craine does it and he's an interesting guy, I think he made money on something related to genetics. He has his own company, and so I think he funds his own research which is admirable-
Brian: Oh, well.
Irakli Loladze: ... really admirable. So all right, Joseph Craine, and I think he's venture is called Jonah Ventures and it's in Manhattan, Kansas.
Kristie Ebi: And when-
Quinn: All right,-
Kristie Ebi: ... you do talk-
Quinn: ... we'll do.
Kristie Ebi: ... to Lewis, Lewis can talk to you as a federal employee. He's also done really interesting work on issues like ragweed and how that's getting worse with climate change, poison ivy, which is also getting worse with climate change, and [crosstalk 01:06:15] the issue-
Irakli Loladze: Decline in pollen quality also, Lewis showed that protein in pollen declines by 30% because of rising CO2 specifically, and so that could affect bees. So Dr. Ziska says this is comprehensive view of what CO2 does to plants.
Quinn: That's a good one. I would love to dig into bees.
Brian: Oh yeah.
Quinn: All right. Well, those are helpful. And again-
Brian: Thank you guys.
Quinn: ... if you have anybody else, please send them all our way. Brian, you want to bring it home here?
Brian: Yeah. Kristie and Irakli, it's time for the lightning round, which is not a lightning round. But Quinn's going to ask you some questions and the answers are going to be wonderful.
Quinn: And then we'll let you guys get out of here. When was the first time in your life when you realized you had the power of change or the power to do something meaningful?
Kristie Ebi: I've had the privilege of being involved in national and international assessments for 20 years and as a participant in those of assessing the body of literature to come up with policy relevant recommendations. And then certainly in the international sphere, I've seen governments actually take some of those recommendations up, seriously discussing them, talking about what they could do. It's a lot of work, it's all volunteer work, and it's really rewarding to see that governments then consider that in their policies and their programs.
Irakli Loladze: For me, when I was writing this paper on linking CO2 to human nutrition, I was concerned about that might potentially affect everybody. So really hoping to publish that paper and feel that, that way could affect. That was one of the most meaningful things back in 2002 when I did.
Quinn: Sounds pretty good to me.
Quinn: You guys are making change. For each of you, who is someone in your life that has positively impacted your work in the past six months?
Irakli Loladze: Well, I would mention both Kris and Dr. Ziska, really because as my grants were rejected and I really got depressed about the whole situation that it wasn't really getting traction. Some ecologists were publishing papers saying that, that is actually quality's not dropping, which later were withdrawn those papers. So yeah, and then, Lewis reached to me and asked me to help on this governmental report and then it took from there. So I really treasure that collaboration.
Kristie Ebi: I fully agree.
Quinn: I love it. Boy, I'm so glad we were able to get both of you on the line.
Quinn: This is so great.
Brian: What do you to do when you feel overwhelmed?
Quinn: Things can be overwhelming these days. What specifically do you do for some self care?
Kristie Ebi: Work too hard.
Brian: No, no.
Quinn: No. Come on.
Kristie Ebi: I'm privileged to work with a broad group of people like Irakli that are so inspiring. And so I look to my colleagues, look at the work they're doing, look at how much effort they're putting into trying to get the word out about a variety of risks with climate change, and I get inspired by everything that they're doing and think, I can go do some more.
Irakli Loladze: Yes-
Quinn: That is awesome.
Irakli Loladze: ... this is collaboration really that internet allows it to collaborate. So this project we've been working really inspiring. Another thing, what I do is I have this Pomodoro Technique, which is I think very popular, where I just-
Quinn: I love the Pomodoro Technique.
Irakli Loladze: ... put 25 minutes. Right? Very focused work. You can't write interruption breaks it. And so your Pomodoro is voided. So that makes you keep going. So, and I see how many Pomodoros I can do a day.
Quinn: I love the Pomodoro Technique. It changed my writing forever. That's amazing.
Irakli Loladze: Exactly, right. So yes. And how many Pomodoros? What's your record in terms of Pomodoros?
Quinn: Look, we don't need to shame me on this podcast. We've had such a nice time.
Brian: I bet Irakli has got more.
Quinn: I'm working on ... Yeah, I would think so.
Irakli Loladze: Not really, no. As sustainably, I can do more than four per day sustainably, but, and some days even some deadline is in might be 12, maybe was 16 that I-
Quinn: 12? All right, I'm out here. That's enough.
Quinn: That's enough.
Brian: That's wild. Hey guys, how do you consume the news?
Irakli Loladze: News?
Kristie Ebi: How?
Irakli Loladze: Yeah.
Brian: How, yes.
Brian: Where do you get your news from?
Quinn: Is it paper? Is it Twitter? Is it do you ignore it? Radio, podcasts? Google-
Kristie Ebi: I subscribe to more newspapers than I want to admit online. And so I read newspapers online, and sometimes I look at Twitter. And if I can, if I'm at home, I've got the time, I'll watch the national news in the evening from one of the big broadcasting houses.
Irakli Loladze: I see. I really just use my, like Google News set gives this source and you can indicate specific interests, and supplemented with Twitter when it comes specifically to science.
Irakli Loladze: So maybe I just spent too much time reading news. So ... And in many ways they're depressing, so it's better to do Pomodoros I think.
Quinn: Yes. And now, whenever I'm writing and doing my Pomodoro, I'm going to think somewhere Irakli is working on something that's so much important, but he's doing the same thing.
Brian: How short are the breaks in between the 25-
Quinn: Five minutes.
Brian: ... minutes segments [crosstalk 01:12:29]?
Irakli Loladze: Right? About five minutes and then technically after 40, you should do a longer break, but for me the primary thing is that you can't break the Pomodoros. So it's those 25 minutes whether it's internal interruption or external, you are not going to take it because you'll-
Irakli Loladze: ... lose Pomodoro. There's actually online program where people will record all Pomodoros, I think called tomato.es, and so I'm there too. So I'm not near at all near top people. Some people do consistently 16, 18 Pomodoros a day.
Quinn: These people clearly don't have children.
Brian: Wow. So many Pomodoros.
Quinn: Yeah, look, I'll be happy with what I got. I can always do better. You're an inspiration. Last one.
Brian: Last one. If you could Amazon Prime one book to Donald Trump, what would that book be?
Quinn: And we've gotten everything from coloring books to the constitution, to the little prince, you name it.
Kristie Ebi: I guess the question is why do that when he's very proudly pronounced that he does not read.
Quinn: Let's say someone-
Brian: We're trying to change the world here.
Quinn: ... was going to tie him down and read it to him? You're going to have to suspend reality [crosstalk 01:13:42]. So I'm just saying if you could flood one thing. So basically the context is, we have an Amazon wishlist, all of our guests recommend something, we put it on there and then our listeners can go on there and they do click on these things and it sends it to the White House. So it's a small act of defiance despite the fact that, he probably can't even handle a coloring book, but should he be able to, I'd be curious to hear what you got.
Kristie Ebi: Yesterday, Michael Mann was one of two people who won the Tyler Awards. And Michael ... The other was Warren Washington, both remarkable scientists. And Michael's got some very good books explaining climate change.
Brian: Yeah, he's a pretty smart kid.
Kristie Ebi: And he's a brilliant communicator.
Quinn: We actually interviewed, he wrote ... Co-wrote a children's book with one of our prior guests and we had her on, boy early on.
Quinn: I'll put that in the show notes, but-
Brian: I think it's her birthday today.
Brian: I'm just letting you know that I believe it's-
Brian: ... maybe her birthday today, what's the problem?
Quinn: ... he is incredible, what he's done for the category over the past 20 years is amazing.
Brian: So anything by Michael Mann.
Brian: Irakli, anything in mind?
Irakli Loladze: Well, that will be an excellent choice yes, but for whatever the reason, the first that came to my mind is Einstein in Love. That's a book by Dennis Overbye. And I think if Mr. Trump read it, he would have this appreciation for science and that single minded focus on this abstract thinking, but at the same time so profound, that really changed our understanding of reality and there's a love story there too, so I really love that book.
Quinn: Awesome. I love it. Guys, where can our listeners follow you on the internet if at all?
Kristie Ebi: I'm on Twitter and Irakli is on Twitter. I direct the Center for Health and the Global Environment and we've got a webpage that people can follow.
Irakli Loladze: Yeah, just Twitter, or just google my name. But, usually there is some sites with the inflow, but Twitter, my handle is @loladze, my last name, L-O-L-A-D-Z-E.
Brian: I love it.
Irakli Loladze: Excellent.
Quinn: Awesome. Well, listen guys, we're going to let you get out of here. I'm sure the snow is accumulating in both of your locations, which is not helpful. We cannot thank you enough for obviously your time today. And again, as Brian alluded to, everything you went through to make it to this little conversation, but also obviously for everything you have done and continue to do for science, for food and climate and also obviously for the rest of us. And we're going to try to do a weekend to help make it a little more little easier for you guys, get the word out as much as we possibly can. Mobilize the army behind you.
Kristie Ebi: We really appreciate that. Thank you.
Irakli Loladze: Yeah. Thank you very-
Irakli Loladze: ... much. Spreading awareness of this issue is really important. So we are really grateful to you to reaching out to us.
Quinn: Absolutely. Well guys, we will talk to you soon and thank you so much again. Thanks to our incredible guests today and thanks to all of you for tuning in. We hope this episode has made your commute or awesome workout or dishwashing or fucking dog walking late at night that much more pleasant. As a reminder, please subscribe to our free email newsletter at importantnotimportant.com. It is all the news, most vital to our survival as a species.
Brian: And you can follow us all over the internet. You can find us on Twitter @Importantnotimp.
Quinn: Just so weird.
Brian: Also on Facebook and Instagram @importantnotimportant. Pinterest and Tumblr, the same thing. So check us out, follow us, share us, like us, you know the deal. And please subscribe to our show wherever you listen to things like this. And if you're really fucking awesome, rate us on apple podcasts to keep the lights on. Thanks.
Brian: And you can find the show notes from today right in your little podcast player and at our website, importantnotimportant.com.
Quinn: Thanks to the very awesome Tim Blane for our jamming music, to all of you for listening and finally, most importantly to our moms for making us. Have a great day.
Brian: Thanks guys.