21 October 2010

Exclusive interview with Joanne Colan, correspondent for 'Dean of Invention'

Planet Green’s new series Dean of Invention will follow “globally renowned inventor” Dean Kamen—the mastermind behind the Segway, the insulin pump and the robotic prosthetic called the “Luke Arm”—on his pursuit to unveil cutting edge technological advances around the world.

Accompanying Kamen will be correspondent Joanne Colan, former host of the daily vlog Rocketbom and more importantly to us here at TDIV, a longtime vegetarian.  Recently we caught up with Ms. Colan for a Q&A session.

TDIV: What is it like working with Dean Kamen?

Joanne Colan: In short, it’s a blast. Dean is a great teacher. He’s a gifted storyteller. He’s an inspiring philanthropist. He is very down to earth and super easy to get along with. He’ll have you completely on board and in full support of FIRST in no time at all - and so he should. And he had the patience to put up with the sometimes laborious process of making a TV series which can get a little repetitive at times.

TDIV: There are definitely some amazing innovations featured on “Dean of Invention” so far what has been your favorite?

JC: It’s near impossible to select a favourite. Making the series has been a journey of discovery for me both in learning about new inventions as well as meeting the people behind them. So rather than a favourite, I have encountered a remarkable set of technologists and innovators along with their new technologies and applications which I intend to follow and continue learning more about.

That said, I’m excited to hear which inventions become the viewers’ favourites.

TDIV: Which invention do you believe will have the greatest impact on society?

JC: I don’t know! Collective intelligence?!

We can’t truly know what technologies will end up being the mainstream but we do know there are real problems and challenges ahead and the solutions are not straightforward. Where we don’t yet have answers, we do have a lot of people looking for them. What will perhaps impact us is the degree to which a whole suite of technologies can work together in concert. Take a sample of the themes we cover in Dean of Invention for example - mobility, waste management, medical applications, robotics, energy alternatives - in each area it’s not necessarily about finding one technology or one leading idea but exploring many, developing and testing working prototypes, refining ideas and coming to terms with possible compromises. We surely don’t have the opportunity to produce single solutions in enough quantity to tackle tomorrow’s issues.

As for a specific invention? I’m looking forward to seeing where Dean’s Slingshot is headed.

TDIV: When and why did you become a vegan?

JC: I’m afraid to say I don’t actually consider myself vegan. I do on occasion eat honey for example.

Here’s a word about that. Because her mother kept bees, my Mum (who lives in sw France) also kept bees for a little while. They were all “rescue bees” encouraged to relocate to a hive from someone’s windowsill or chimney and avoid extermination. Anyway that’s another story altogether. To harvest the honey, my mum would spin the frames in an extractor. I learned this apparently doesn’t filter the honey much. When spreading the cloudy golden elixir on her homemade bread, I’d occasionally come across the odd wing or bit of black and yellow fuzz. I never actually ate any bee body parts. I would carefully put them back into the jar from whence they came. You tend to earn an enormous amount of respect for bees when you see them to-ing and fro-ing from the hive toiling day and night. Putting your ear to a hive and hearing a low almost inaudible hum is quite something. And so eating their honey fills you with awe and admiration. But vegan does it make you not.

I’d say I eat a mainly uncooked plant based diet sourced locally and organically where feasible. I cut out dairy before age 10 due to allergies. Gluten, eggs and sugar followed suit. I then remember a distinct moment when, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, it dawned on me my body was done with meat. I wasn’t yet a teenager. I haven’t eaten animals since.

TDIV: A vegan/vegetarian who travels frequently can find it difficult to find good nutritious food. What types of foods do you eat while on the road?

JC: Indeed! Do you know a company called Greens Plus? I try to always pack their Greens + bars on the road. I don’t particularly favor concentrated foods in wrappers as a rule but these bars are a very handy stopgap.

TDIV: Have you discovered any noteworthy vegan/vegetarian restaurants while on assignment?

JC: Yes! In Manchester NH near Dean’s home we (Radical Media production crew) discovered a restaurant with vegetarian options on the menu called Republic CafĂ© and grew very fond of it’s homey atmosphere, farm-to-table initiatives and tasty small plates. You can read about them here.

In Ireland I highly recommend Cafe Paradiso in Cork. Check out their books and blog on the website.

Everywhere, I find there are always pretty adequate salads and side vegetables on menus. On assignment I was in the good company of my Radical Media colleagues who not only did all the true hard work on this series (they did!) but were constant delightful dinner company. For me, in the presence of good people, there’s no such thing as a bad meal.

TDIV: In addition to “Dean of Invention” what other projects are you currently working on?

JC: My work as a Nutritionist is ongoing. I work alongside medical doctors and their patients integrating nutrition in the treatment of metabolic syndrome related disorders and other diet health issues reducing and in some cases eliminating the need for prescription medication. I also am involved in various farm-to-table initiatives and parents/kids nutritional garden organizations. I love it. I write for an online magazine called Sloane. And a current “pet project” or inquiry of mine is looking into and supporting the viability of a homegrown industrialized hemp economy in the US.

Dean of Invention premiers Friday, October 22 on Planet Green.

Eric Fortney | @elfortney
Eric is the co-founder & executive editor of This Dish Is Veg. In addition to his TDIV work, Eric is a father of three, runner, and lover of the outdoors.

Photo credit: Planet Green