The year 2013 was a year of renewal for me and my family. We welcomed two grandchildren: Arlo, born to Eyal and Beth in Boston, who is now 7 months and Adelaide, a New Yorker born to Aytan and Davina, who is now 3+ months and next year we are expecting another grandchild of Shie and Leigh in Seattle.
With parents and sisters in Israel, and kids all over the US, we will be traveling a lot. This year, I became a ‘million-miler’ and with the expansion of the family, the second million is not that far off. Being a grandparent is, as advertised, a lot of fun with little headaches and Leorah and I are happy to reach this status (although we have to pay for this pleasure once in a while). Leorah continues with her enjoyable retirement, now she has a built-in clientele for her creations and new models for her clothing arts.
We also continue to enjoy going to Warriors Games together, hopeful that the championship will occur in our lifetime and looking forward to taking our grandchildren to the games.
My professional life integrated new initiatives and continuing ones. I went twice to Africa – once on a ‘Mars-ian’ expedition about the future of cocoa in the Ivory Coast and the other to a food security workshop to Ethiopia.
Africa presents both a challenge and hope. The exploding population, the hundreds of unemployed young people filling the streets, the corruption that you recognize immediately when you land, may make you despair. But then you work with talented and eager young people, who are highly skilled with computers and other modern technologies, you meet young students that are 1st generation to go beyond grammar school that run complex models and are ambitious, capable and hardworking. Cellphones and bicycles allow even the poor to be mobile and connected. Even without access to electricity, people are worldly because of access to television. There is a desire for better governance and quality of life. I find that the African situation provides great context to my work on technology and agriculture, as well as towards the efforts of the MDP and the ELP. After visiting Brazil last year and my initial introduction to Africa, this year I am more convinced than ever that with smart technologies and institutions, we can maintain biodiversity and produce food, and even fuel, in a sustainable and equitable manner.
These are my motivations as I continue to host our biotechnology conference in Berkeley and contribute to the ICABR in Ravello, Italy. This year both were wonderful and I look forward to ICABR conference in Nairiobi. It would be great to speak about biotechnology and biofuel in Africa, which can really benefit a lot from both. June is the busiest month of the year for me. After Ravello, this year I went to Gratz, Austria to a workshop, where we dreamed about a future with solar energy is fueling Europe and solar and bioenergy replaced fossil fuels.
From Gratz then I rushed back to Berkeley to our 13th Annual Beahrs Environmental Leadership Program [ELP]. Anita and Andy did a wonderful job preparing the program for the ~40 participants. We had our first participant from Libya and a great session on post-conflict countries and another 3 day trip to San Luis Obispo, which combined learning firsthand about farming and the environment in California and the recreation that the Golden State provides.
This is the second year of the MDP, I was really worried about our first year of internships. Unlike other universities, our students create their own opportunities and they did very well. The second cohort is a bit larger (23 students), and our curriculum is improved. Cohorts are much like children, everyone has their own personality, but we love them all. In 2014, our first cohort will go to the job market, and this will be our test. I am confident we will do it. All of my career I learned that the key is to build a good team. The secret for the excellence of ARE was that people appreciated one another and got along. I am very fortunate to have George and Eunice, as well as many faculty and the Dean, working together to build this promising program.
I will be 67 in the coming year. I thought that I would be retired (or worse) at this age, and I am looking forward to continue to contribute and pursue a full agenda. When I look at myself, I am really thankful for science and society that allows us to have a better, fuller life than expected. But I am also thankful for my family and friends that allow me to flourish.
Happy New Year Everyone.