Forget about Mars and the mammoths, we have problems here and now. – Space Bollyinside – BollyInside

Posted: September 27, 2021 at 5:30 pm

Two at play are the corporate race to space (which pits Amazon founder Jeff Bezos against Tesla founder Elon Musk) and efforts by a startup company called Colossal (among others!) to bring back the woolly mammoth, which became extinct more than 4,000 years ago. Both initiatives have been framed as potentially bettering the world.

According to the Washington Post, Both Bezos and Musk portray their space ambitions as a way to help humanity by creating a city on Mars, as Musk would like, or building colonies in Earths orbit, as Bezos envisions. Elephants are highly social and sensitive animals. Is it ethical to keep them in captivity, experiment on impregnation and/or gestation techniques, and play around with their genes in the hopes of merging current species with unfrozen DNA from the past just because one has the resources to do so?

Yet ethical issues abound with both projects. Further, who would be responsible for them once released? What if they dont adapt to the current environment and starve? What they freeze because their hair isnt thick enough? What if they destroy the tundra and dont create grasslands?

Ben Lamm, founder of a Texas artificial intelligence company and a key Colossal financial backer, called the mammoth project a proof of concept for Colossals technology, which could be used for thoughtful, disruptive conservation, according to Global News. George Church, the biologist leading the team of geneticists at Colossal working to re-create the mammoth, believes that if a population can successfully be established, it could help mitigate climate change by converting, through their waste and foraging impacts (and with the assistance of a warming climate) the northern tundra to grasslands that sequester and store more carbon. (In a recent interview on Canadian radio, he said his team is having ongoing conversations with the Indigenous people who call the tundra home, and who have not yet weighed in on the project.)

Nature is resilient, but of its own accord and time scale. Whos to say how likely it is for adaptations to succeed in the highly unnatural circumstance of plopping a species into a landscape it hasnt occupied for millennia, if ever? London School of Economics philosopher Heather Bushman identifies issues of concern for human-created woolly mammoth calves in the New York Times: You dont have a mother for a species that if they are anything like elephants has extraordinarily strong mother-infant bonds that last for a very long time. Once there is a little mammoth or two on the ground, who is making sure that theyre being looked after?

What if, instead of looking back 4,000 years, or out to space and planets, the clever thinkers behind these projects were to focus their sights on whats in front of us: a world much in need of attention and repair, and species that are not yet extinct but could be, if we dont act quickly to recover them and the habitats they rely on. Some ethicists have spoken about the risks of bio-contamination in space travel, as humans could unwittingly upend a sensitive ecosystem on Mars by bringing unwanted contaminants. But a far more central ethical issue with these initiatives exits: the state of our home planet here and now.

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Forget about Mars and the mammoths, we have problems here and now. - Space Bollyinside - BollyInside

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