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David Johnson

Remote Emergency Medical Responder, Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir

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Science is developing the tools towards de-extinction of species on the planet that have become extinct. The question becomes; Should we?

Stewart Brand and his colleagues are at the biotech precipice of reviving extinct species. The Revive and Restore project plans to not only bring species back but restore them to the wild, as well as protect currently endangered species.

I don't think any of us will have a problem with the latter, this discussion is focused on the primary goal; reintroduction of extinct species. We are not talking about dinosaurs here, but the Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, Heath Hen, European Aurochs, Bucardo, The Taz Tiger, etc.

Up for debate here: Should we?

Where we can all appreciate the science being developed, we must discuss the implications of initiating projects like this. I submit we need to discuss this on behalf of the existing species that we have, as well as for the animals that are lost.

Some questions to consider:

Do we value the argument that we should 'undo the harm' that humans have caused in the past, due to over-hunting or destruction of habitat? Should we rewrite or undo history?

Many of these species have not been in the natural environment for 100 years. It is fair to say that the natural predators or prey of these species, the plants or insect life they feed on, the environments they roam through ... have altered in their absence. Has the cycle of the earth, moved on without them?

We have a long history of experiencing what can happen when biodiversity is altered by introducing a species not indigenous to the area in question. Cane Toads in Australia, Grey Squirrel in Europe or the Gypsy Moth.

Is this project actually an introduction of a species back into an environment that may not be able to sustain it as it once did?

Even though we can grieve the lost of the Dodo, should we bring it back at all costs?

Or as Daniel Chan asks below;

how can we effectively simulate the effects of introducing pre-existing species to the environment before actually doing so?

What other Questions should we ask?

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  • Mar 15 2013: Not necessarily.
    We have fucked things up so badly, why in the world, or rather, how in the world do we
    rationally and honestly think we can "fix" things, "heal the damage we have done"?
    We can't. It is nothing more that human hubris believing we are more than we are
    and can do more than we have done.
    Haven't we done enough damage?
    Is that the game? Damage, destroy, make extinct and then see if we can fix it, reverse the effects or change the past
    somehow into the future?

    Based on how and what we have done, I would say the human species is basically a destructive, cruel,
    uncaring species that is totally self-centered to the degree it cannot and will not look at itself and arrive at the truth
    of itself, accepting that truth and simply stopping whatever they are doing.

    I mean, the truth is all around us. It is now global and moving in such a way that we cannot stop it nor reverse it and to
    think we can reveals just how mentally ill we are. We are still, and willingly so, disconnected from our connection to the earth, nature and our place here. Thinking we are somehow better is so foolish.
    If all the insects of the world passed from existence, all life would perish soon after.
    If all humans passed from existence, all life would thrive.
    That says it all and this won't work because it continues to pick at the wound we have inflicted on the planet and all it supports.

    "What a great idea!" Only an insane species would think so in light of the obvious footprints of destruction that clearly show what we have brought to the earth.
    It's like being out in nature on a wonderful path and seeing litter and garbage scattered everywhere.
    We can only clean it up. We can only stop all the shit we do.
    We cannot heal anything. We only make things worse.
    As long as we think we can, that is as long as we intentionally maintain our disconnect from nature, each other and life itself. We are destructive plain and simple.

    If we do this, we should then eliminate ourselves from earth.
    • Mar 15 2013: The argument itself is impeccable, but according to your logic we should all shoot ourselves in the head right this moment, but we are not. Why? Because we are not rational beings to begin with. This is a common mistake for many environmental extremists to claim that we are the cancer of this earth, i mean you're right, but that's only point out problems, not solutions, and solutions are what we need right now.
      Yes we have done so much damage to this world but that doesn't mean we can ONLY do damage to this world. It doesn't serve as a justification of not doing anything simply because we "fucked things up so bad". Reviving already extinct animals are definitely benefiting to the environment if it actually works out, and the emphasis is, if it actually works out. There are so many variable involved with the environment and even more so when dealing with delicate bio-technologies such as this one. The main concern for this topic should be how can we effectively simulate the effects of introducing pre-existing species to the environment before actually doing that.
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        Mar 15 2013: Hey thanks Daniel, you final question is great. I would like to add your question to the topic above, let me know if that's not ok.
      • Mar 15 2013: Daniel Chan,
        No where did I say we should all shoot ourselves in the head nor allude to that.
        We should stop what we are doing. What are we doing particularly Americans? Polluting, wasting resources, warring, invading, starving others, stealing the resources of other countries and so on.
        Well, maybe you're right. Maybe all Americans should all shoot themselves. They produce more damage, pollution, use more resources along with wasting more resources than any other country.
        Your comments are not something you know. You don't know what will benefit the ecologies of the world. We do know what damages them, ruins them, destroys them and so by that alone, you think we haughtily know what will fix everything?
        How prideful of you. Just stop. Stop. Why the fuck hasn't that been tried?
        You say, " The main concern for this topic should be how can we effectively simulate the effects of introducing pre-existing species to the environment before actually doing that."

        Just leave it alone! We can't effectively do any of that. Doing good at this time would only be in stopping what we are doing.
        But no, let's do this, let's see if we can figure that out, let's try this but never try stopping.
        That is hubris and nothing less and it is ruining everything.
        • Mar 15 2013: Random,
          The reason why we haven't stopped is because it's simply impossible. Our life is a motion, we breath, we eat, and we make babies. All those are essential living conditions for us and all those have an environmental impact by themselves.
          If you are talking about the modern society, then a lot more needs to be done in order to survive, the entire society is based on polluting the environment, actually the better wording would be that the entire society is based on "affecting" the environment, whether it is for the good, or for the worse, that is for us to decide.
          Yes I'm not denying that we messed up, of course we did, but I mean that doesn't mean we should all just give up on humanity and conclude that we are all evil masterminds that can't do no shit but mess things up further, at least for optimists like me? i believe that the world can at least still change for the better......to some degree :P
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      Mar 15 2013: Wow thanks Random, that would be one very certain vote against

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