Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Miami and Man-Made Meat

This post could probably go a number of ways.

NPR's Morning Edition has a story today about Jorge Perez, the condo king of Miami. The story credits Perez with a condo boom along the city's waterfront and helping to create a livable downtown.

"We try to do the urban buildings — buildings that have restaurants and shops, and they're on the street and make walking a much more pleasurable experience like it is in Paris or New York or London," Perez is quoted as saying.

Interestingly, the billionaire developer started as a bureaucrat with Miami's planning department. But in Miami, as in Memphis, there is now a glut of condos and a troubled real estate market. Perez, like any smart billionaire, is now turning his attention to building condos in Latin America, but says that any money he's lost in Miami is worth it:

"I feel responsible that I contributed to making Miami a true, great urban center.' If the outcome of that is I drop some money in doing it, then so be it. That's not the important part. The important part is that we really are creating a great city."

Must be nice to be a billionaire.

But what does that have to do with man-made meat, you ask?

Not a hell of a whole lot. But, as I was looking at the condo stuff, this story about man-made meat was right next to it. Or, as it was captioned on NPR's website, "semi-living steak." Meat grown in a lab, from a tissue sample, without having to kill an animal to get it. And what kind of futurist would I be if I didn't mention it?

"Technology, I think, is doable," says one of the scientists culturing meat from animal tissue, "and if you have reasonable investment it can be done. But ... you can't create [a] product which nobody wants to buy or is too expensive to buy. So the right timing ... is everything."

NPR asks, "So is this the right time? One unlikely nonprofit thinks so: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA recently announced a $1 million contest to create commercially viable chicken meat, sacrificing neither chicken nor egg. The deadline is 2012, the contest rules Herculean and the prize money paltry. But the thinking is pragmatic: If people must have meat, and factory farming is an animal nightmare, why not find a high-tech alternative?"

I would like to be all for this, but man, does it look repulsive. And, frankly, it kind of reminds me of Soylent Green.

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