Fréderic Thomas’ “L’abominable secret du cancer” offers a new way of looking at cancer: through evolutionary biology. Born half a billion years ago when life moved from unicellular to multicellular organisms, cancer has always lived in and evolved with us. This is only problematic when biological errors occur – ie when somatic cells meant to serve our organism by acting collectively go rogue, act alone, and replicate themselves endlessly (metastasis). From an evolutionary point of view, we are programmed for reproduction. So such errors are highly controlled during our reproductive years. But as our non-reproductive life and exposure to DNA-deteriorating pollutants grow, so do chances of errors. And cancer is also programmed to reproduce itself including through mutation and resistance; it evolves. Looking at cancer through this lens helps us understand why traditional treatments focusing on eradicating one form of cancer at a given time are not adapted. Thomas argues that treatments assisting humans to live with a cancer that evolves over time would be more appropriate. He also reviews the latest research on such treatments. This book gives hope. I only wish it were in English for a broader reach.
I typically read books (eg Anand Giridharadas’ “Winners take all”) and essays (eg Tariq Fancy’s “The secret diary of a sustainable investor”) criticizing corporate and philanthropic attempts at saving the world. The well-argued cynic is often entertaining. Arguments made are often valid. These reads keep me on my toes. But I am always disappointed when their recommendations are limited to arguing that only government and intergovernmental organizations can save the world. To be sure, I will never dispute that their roles are key. But those of us who spent time working for either or both, know that politics, self-interest, big egos, amateurism, abuse etc also exist in public institutions. The grass is not greener. So while i enjoy those reads, I do not find them particularly constructive. And I am always amazed at the lasting attention and press coverage they get.
My graph this week is from the Peterson Institute for International Economics’ ”Globalization is in retreat from the first time since the Second World War” which I actually found in Lyn Alden’s excellent “Supply chains woes” showing that the current price inflation is not only due to COVID-stressed supply chains but also to fiscal and monetary policies as well as deglobalization patterns which are very similar to those of the 1940ies.
My quote this week is from Angela Merkel: “For me the word feminism is indeed also connected with a certain movement that has fought very hard to put these things on the social agenda. And that’s why I mentioned praise which I did not want to claim for myself. Queen Maxima of the Netherlands opened the door for me by saying: in principle it’s about men and women being equal in the sense of participating in social life, in life as a whole. And in this sense, today I can affirmatively say: I am a feminist […] yes we should all be feminists.”
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