Changing Planet

Should We Reverse Animal Extinction?

That’s the question we’ve been asking lately at National Geographic. Our April cover story dives deeply into the question, pointing to new research that might help us bring back animals like passenger pigeon and the woolly mammoth.

It’s easy to see both sides of the argument. Centuries of human civilization have taken a serious toll on  wildlife, driving many species toward extinction at a faster pace than at any point in the planet’s history. What better way to apologize than to give them new life? To, essentially, render them un-extinct?

Our April cover.
Our April cover.

On the other hand, having the power to bring back species we’ve driven off the planet means that efforts to protect species that are currently imperiled like the polar bear or rare amphibians ring hollow. “Save the Leatherback sea turtle or we’ll never have another one!” doesn’t mean anything if we can, in fact, create another one.

It’s a fascinating story. But don’t take my word for it. The April edition will be on newsstands next week. Or check back here tomorrow for the link. (A third option, of course, would be to subscribe.)

In the meantime, we’ve got more planned. Tomorrow at Nat Geo headquarters, some top scientists, ethicists and activists will be hosting a TEDx conference on de-extinction. They’ll be speaking about the science, plus the implications. No one has all the answers, but they’re hoping to start a broader conversation about scientific innovation and its role in conservation.

I’ll be live-tweeting much of the conference. So as always with issues of environmental technology, come on back to Change Reaction. Or follow me at @NatGeoDan.

  • alice hughes

    In an era when we lose species not just every day, but in all probablility every hour-many as yet undescribed, it is wrong to waste vast sums of capital in resurrecting “the dead”. Most of these species could at best have a limited gene pool, little if any habitat, reduced availability of food-and would need to be implanted in a different species…. For every one individual the sum of thousands to millions would need to be spent-when that same capital could restore large amounts of habitat for existing species. The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” exists for a reason, lets try to protect what we still have rather than bringing back things we have already lost at the cost of existing species and their habitats.

  • smileyjoshua

    They should do it if for no other reason then just because they can.

  • Lazarus Espinosa

    Just make sure they don’t start bringing back dinosaurs or else we’ll have a real-life Jurassic Park scandal on our hands.

  • Kenzie

    Did we learn NOTHING from Jurassic Park?!

  • Alec

    Absolutely, but in limited numbers. We don’t want wooly mammoth running around in Siberia wild, but it would be nice to have a small community in a controlled environment

  • jonathan waldron

    Let’s stop this Guilt — we didn’t do in the wooly mammoths, the polar bears are not going extinct; and, humans didn’t melt the 2000 feet of ice that was on top of New York City 500 generations ago. We have a very dynamic planet that is subject on variations in the suns output, orbit and tilt cycles over thousands of years, volcanism. The main problem, besides the guilt, is that you can’t get a grant to study the problem unless you embrace the latter.

  • LeonardoV59

    I know where you are going with this!
    you want our permission to revive the Neanderthals, don’t you.
    well, don’t even think about it., the answer is no way, don’t do it, it will come back to bite every body in the but and then you won’t be able to get rid of them, no, no, no,no,no,no…..noooo.

  • Babu Ranganathan

    HOW DO EGG YOLKS BECOME CHICKENS? (Internet Article) When you divide a cake, the parts are smaller than the original cake and the cake never gets bigger. When we were a single cell and that cell divided, the new cells were the same size as the original cell and we got bigger. New material had to come from somewhere. That new material came from food. The sequence in our DNA directed our mother’s food, we received in the womb, to become new cells forming all the tissues and organs of our body. Understand how DNA works. Read my Internet article: HOW DO EGG YOLKS BECOME CHICKENS? Just google the title to access the article.

    This article explains how DNA and cloning work.

    Babu G. Ranganathan
    (B.A. Bible/Biology)

    Author of the popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

  • Jordan

    I say they will die right away anyways. Not just because the food and climate is different now than before, but because our air and air pressure is different now than before. Enough said, it is just another thing to become a waste of money for the tax payer. Oh well, who cares if the scientist is driving around a new Tesla X or Bugati to his vacation spot in, “wherever,” and you the tax payer keeps getting poorer.

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