Calorie restriction (CR) advocates have made great strides in the past few years - all the way from the fringe and mainstream media ignorance to a much higher profile, sensible, sympathetic articles in the popular press and a well-regarded yearly conference. These advocates are just as right today as they were back in 2000; the message hasn't changed, and neither has the extensive body of science demonstrating the health and longevity benefits of CR in almost all animals. So why success now rather than from, say, 1995 to 2000?
I think it's no coincidence that the rising profile for the practice of calorie restriction has come about at the same time as greater investment in research and the first mainstream scientific results for human CR studies. Mainstream science - the body of knowledge and culture built around sifting truth and understanding through the scientific method - is still the accepted arbiter of truth in most modern societies, for all the seemingly endless, ongoing attempts to change this state of affairs. Fads of ignorance come and go, but the scientific method is demonstrable, powerful, and quite simply right: all modern technology has mainstream science as its source, and people know it.
The lesson to take away here is that even an incremental advance in proven science makes advocacy far more effective. Suddenly your truth and correctness are corroborated by a source vastly more trusted in the public eye. The mass media become more engaged and easily accessed; people are less instinctively skeptical. This is a portion of a positive feedback loop: raising funding for research requires advocacy and the public support generated by advocacy. Further advocacy for further funding is made easier and more effective by tangible scientific results. Getting your cause and the associated research programs off the ground is the hardest thing that advocates will have to accomplish; after that, it's a matter of more and better of the same medicine.
None of this is rocket science. It's all been accomplished a hundred times over in the past decades for causes large and small; the methods are well established and time-tested. We advocates for serious anti-aging research should take note and learn from the calorie restriction experience: what are the near-term scientific advances we should put forward as confirmation of progress towards meaningful extension of the healthy human life span? How can we better leverage the ongoing incidental healthy life extension research presently taking place? Are there modest projects that can be effectively funded by private donations with a comparatively rapid payoff?
The more science behind us, the faster we go.