Reasons To Employ De-Extinction
This essay seeks to show the reasons why de-extinction should be employed to tackle some of the loss of species and changing habitats through climate change through the ability to research the newly reintroduced species in a real way. The essay seeks to show how different aspects of the subject of de-extinction has contributed to the greater understanding of species. While the essay does not seek to purport that reintroducing species such as woolly mammoths onto the open plains is a direct possibility, it adheres to the idea that much research and understanding can be gained if limited species numbers were reintroduced into areas such as zoos, in the outset, for research purposes.
In line with the May 19th article in the New York Times, it is a known issue that as species become extinct, the climate changes. There is an argument coming from the conservationist sector of society that states the world should now be taking steps to stop the extinctions that we have caused over many generations before they happen, taking steps to ensure that extinction caused by human hands no longer happens. With the advent of cloning, a possibility came to fruition that was never on offer before, the ability to bring species back after they have been lost. Cases such as the ibex and the woolly mammoth are examples where such methods have been attempted.
Cloning has become more mainstream since the first early attempts to undertake it; many people would not have realized that the first attempts at cloning took place over 100 years ago in the way of dividing the embryos of sea urchins and salamanders. By 1996, Dolly the sheep became the most well known use of cloning and was the first mammal that had ever been cloned from the cell of an adult animal. This led to the first extinct animal being cloned in 2009 in the form of a subspecies of the Ibex. This species would have died out in 2000 and had some cells taken from that last existing animal, which led to the creation of 285 embryos, 54 of which were inserted into mountain goats due to their similarity.
There were no successful births from this trial; however, when the cloning was attempted again it resulted in seven pregnancies. One live birth resulted, but the animal died after a few minutes due to having deformed lungs. This was the same with the first sheep cloning before the well- known Dolly the sheep resulted. These trials and errors have been cited by critics as showing that there is no viability in de-extinction, but one could argue that with any scientific research there will always be trial and error before success is gained. For this reason of failure before success, my thesis sentence is thus, “De-extinction plays a direct role in addressing the trend of negative climate change”.
When justifying the use of de-extinction for gaining an end result of boosting biodiversity, there is more than one way to look at the issue. If unit diversity is considered, the various species that exist would be counted and the more that existed would be the best result. When feature diversity is considered, the different characteristics of the species that are considered as beneficial for de-extinction can be viewed for their benefit to either the current climate, or in gaining a better current knowledge base over such organisms, and how they interact with the climate. Points have been made by philosophers such as Gyngell and Savulescu (2017) that wherever conservation is considered, those who are concerned with biodiversity should also support de-extinction, as they directly relate. Regardless of which method a group takes to conserve the environment by increasing bio-diversity, the end result of enhanced biodiversity results. As such, it can be seen that any link with de-extinction and conservation must be a positive link.
There are animals such as the woolly mammoth, that offer opportunities for learning by cloning that are not possible to be gained at present without a living animal to research and analyze. That does not mean that those who wish to clone animals that are extinct believe they should be roaming free once they have been recreated. It would be inaccurate to assume that those who support de-extinction want all the species which were brought back to life actually immediately integrated back into the environment. It does mean however, that more opportunities could exist that become possible by the de-extinction. Through having a chance to have species under study in zoos and equivalent nature reserves, modern day society can learn whether, or indeed whether not, the reintroduction of any species into the full environment could have a positive overall result.
The area of de-extinction has encompassed two different aspects of society, that of environmentalism, and that of scientific advancement. Where one area has a group of supporters that also support the other group, that cannot be said for all groups or people when they consider whether or not they believe de-extinction is ethically acceptable or even an intelligent move. There are several reasons for this: one key factor in the determination of the plausibility or accepted morality of employing de-extinction is the idea that cloning as a concept has been seen broadly as a divergent field, with many supporters and just as many critics who believe morality is at stake when such science is allowed. When added to the fact that gene editing is a subtopic onto its own which has garnered much outcry internationally, there are many people who cannot differentiate between whether something is good or bad under different circumstances. Indeed, the fact that there are critics of de-extinction from the conservation and environmental movement shows that there is a complication of facts which all do not agree to.
Separate from the scientific aspect of the subject, the area of conservation has gained considerable international attention. It is seen by most as something that is a necessary part of ensuring that current generations and global populations do not ‘go without’, many different aspects of life that we have taken for granted. A great example of this is the movement to ensure bees to not go extinct, as their importance to global populations has been accepted. With the assurance that bees have an environment in which they can thrive into the future, the need to ensure broad swaths of various environmental factors are considered becomes very important. Not only do the bees need to have an environment, i.e. greenfield spaces that they can thrive in which are not the same as the asphalt jungles of the city, they must also have sufficient numbers of flowers in which to gain pollen from.
In this sense it can be seen that on one hand, there is a total understanding that society cannot lose any more of the natural environment than they already have. It is clear that the reason this is even being considered is because something happened in the past which allows society to see that loss has been a result of improper conservation attempts in the past. While there is a collective outcry among conservationist, environmentalists, philosophers, and the general public, relating to different extinct animals, there is disagreement about whether or why we should consider bringing those species back to life. This conflict could be the result of different things but is most likely the result of people viewing things against different measurements, such as viewing from a purely environmental rather than a scientific context.
In combining all aspects of the factors which have an impact on whether de-extinction is the way forward, one must consider the benefits that doing so can bring and recognize that we cannot know all the benefits that we might gain without going through the process. By recognizing that de-extinction is a viable addition to the list of individual methods that are currently used by environmentalists for conservation purposes, it should be allowed to be a path which is followed. Any future determination as to the levels of de-extinction that should take place, in what locations and in what capacity, are all aspects that should be left for a future conversation after viability of same has been confirmed through research.
Dauvergne noted that “environmentalism has increasingly come to reflect the interests and comforts of those with the most money and the most power” (p. 141). This suggests that there is a small proportion of people deciding what is right and what is wrong in terms of environmental movements, which is something far removed from representing whether such movements are comprehensive of the needs that are created through the current and future climate crisis.
It should also be recognized that the reason why this topic is at the forefront now and wasn’t as much in the past, is because it runs parallel to the effects which the globe has underwent in terms of climate change. None of these effects have been good, most are changing the landscape and the way of life as we know it, at some rate, and it is a one way slope through degradation. This is the main reason why researchers have looked to the past to piece together what we have lost in total and compare the environment we have now to what human society used to have at different points in time. If researchers should come across information that leads them to believe the reintroduction of certain species could lead to a positive impact for society at large, they should of course be supported in doing so.
Dauvergne was able to discern that the area of environmentalism and those who pursue its ends particularly have not done enough to address all the broadly encompassing aspects of the subject which have an impact on the environment, areas that could be changed through intervention. Among Dauvergne’s main areas of contention is the lack of dealing with carbon emissions and thus lowering the level of significance placed on the environmental crisis. In this context, by searching for possible solutions, society is better off. This is inclusive of incorporating de-extinction.
In recognizing that de-extinction is a scientific advancement which is now a valid consideration and juxtaposing it against the reasons for and against what might happen if society were to support de-extinction, one can see that the benefits outweigh any negative aspects. All negative aspects of de-extinction can be negated by having controlled research environments for the studies to take place within, so the idea that simply by doing so, we change the face of the environment immediately as a result, is shown to be false. What it does give is the ability to see through time and research whether the reintroduction of any certain species, or set of various species, into the environment could be considered both possible and beneficial.
There is much research to do before society is at a position where the successful reintroduction of species through de-extinction can take place. Indeed, without furthering the body of research at large, society will never be at such a place. The ibex and woolly mammoth cloning attempts show that we are not yet at a stage where such is viable, but we as a society are getting closer to it. Through the allowance of further research into the area we have no idea what benefits we might gain by trying, but we know that no benefits are gained without trying. Due to the status-quo of the have’s and have not’s in the overall environmental movement, what might be seen as some and promoted at large by a sector body as best opportunity might not be seen by society at large as the best. By keeping our options open and pursuing all avenues possible until such are at a stage to be viably considered, we could lose opportunities that might otherwise have proved to save us.