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Prevention and Reversal of Species Extinction The must-read summary of “Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things,” by M. R. O’Connor. Many species are threatened with extinction because of anthropogenic global warming, degraded habitats, overexploitation, disease, and invasive species. In Resurrection Science, journalist M. R. O’Connor introduces us to renowned scientists who try to use expensive, high-tech, and often controversial efforts to save endangered and even extinct species. Each chapter focuses on a unique species like the northern white rhinoceros, the passenger pigeons, and the Tanzanian rainforest spray toads, incorporating their natural history and evolutionary biology and raising many ethical, environmental, and philosophical issues on this new science. This guide includes: Book Summary—The summary helps you understand the key ideas and recommendations. Online Videos—On-demand replay of public lectures, and seminars on the topics covered in the c, hapter. Value-added of this guide: Save time Understand key concepts Expand your knowledge Read this book to understand the science and ethics of the prevention and reversal of species extinction. tags: de-extinction, dna, endangered species, neanderthal, genome, selective breeding, unextinct species, cloning, stem cells, embryonic cells, genetic engineering, genetic modification, gene editing, CRISPR, synthetic genomes, mass extinctions, anthropocene, reintroduction, climate change, passenger pigeons, biotechnology, american chestnut, Sixth Extinction, frozen zoo, captive breeding, spray toad, puma. panthers, genetic restoration, hybrid, White Sands pupfish, Lost River, Contemporary evolutions, whales, Bay of Fundy, Basques, Hawaiian crow, ʻalalā, rhinos, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Allee Effect, chimera, Global Seed Vault
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Summary &Study Guide
Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things
Title: Summary & Study Guide - Resurrection Science
Subtitle: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things
Author: Lee Tang
Publisher: LMT Press (lmtpress.wordpress.com)
Copyright © 2018 by Lee Tang
All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.
First Edition: June 2018
Issued in print and electronic formats.
ISBN: 9781988970103 (ebook)
ISBN-13: 9781720361336 (paperback)
ISBN-10: 1720361339 (paperback)
Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: The publisher and author make no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of these contents and disclaim all warranties such as warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. The website addresses in the book were correct at the time going to print. However, the publisher and author are not responsible for the content of third-party websites, which are subject to change.
To my wife, Lillian, who is the source of energy and love for everything I do, and to Andrew and Amanda: watching you grow up has been a privilege.
For a complete list of books by Lee Tang and information about the author, visit Lee Tang’s site.
Books by Lee Tang
1. An Ark of Toads
2. Tracking Chimeras in the Fakahatchee Strand
3. Exuberant Evolution in a Desert Fish
4. Mysteries of the Whale Called 1334
5. Freezing Crows
6. Metaphysical Rhinos
7. Regenesis of the Passenger Pigeon
8. Nice to Meet You Neanderthal
About the Author
Plea from the Author
“Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things,” by M. R. O’Connor.
The book introduces us to renowned scientists who try to use expensive, high-tech, and often controversial efforts to save endangered and even extinct species. Each chapter focuses on a unique species like the northern white rhinoceros, the passenger pigeons, and the Tanzanian rainforest spray toads, incorporating their natural history and evolutionary biology and raising many ethical, environmental, and philosophical issues on this new science.
Maura R. O’Connor is a freelance foreign correspondent and a graduate of Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her reporting has appeared in Foreign Policy, Slate, The Atlantic, Salon, Nautilus and The New Yorker. She was awarded a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT in 2016.
This guide is a summary and not a critique/review of the book. The summary may not be organized chapter-wise but summarizes the book’s main ideas, viewpoints, and arguments. It is NOT meant to be a replacement, but a supplement to help you understand the book’s key ideas and recommendations.
There have been five mass extinction events in Earth’s history. In the Fifth Extinction 66 million years ago, 76 percent of all species died. It took millions of years to recover.
In the early 1990s. scientists predicted that we’re on track for a human-caused mass extinction called the Sixth Extinction. They estimated 27,000 species would become extinct every year and 50 percent of all species would become extinct in the twenty-first century.
The good news is that the scientist had overestimated these extinction rates. The actual extinctions have been fewer than expected. But the forces driving extinction remain—anthropogenic global warming, degraded habitats, overexploitation, disease, and invasive species. For those species that can’t adapt fast enough to changing environments, their survival depends on human intervention, from captive breeding and preserving their DNA to frozen zoos to de-extinction. Scientists have not only cloned endangered animals, they are also working to resurrect animals that are already extinct such as mammoths and passenger pigeons.
But the actions we take can affect the evolution of species. The ethical question is whether humans, knowing their evolutionary impact on species, should engineer evolution in the direction they want. This might include imbuing the species with characteristics to help it survive environmental impacts, translocating the species, and creating new, more resilient hybrids.
Sixth Mass Extinction (Full Documentary)
De-Extinction: Resurrecting the Past
AN ARK OF TOADS
At the back of the reptile house In Bronx Zoo, New York is a room full of terrariums. Each terrarium contains dozens of yellow frogs climbing over green moss. The only people allowed inside this room are the care-taking herpetologists. The frogs inside this biosecure room are rare, one of two populations left in the world. They had come from a waterfall in the Tanzanian rainforest, now the site of a hydroelectric dam. The species is confined to these terrariums, kept hydrated with an artificial misting system and fed specially bred insects.
TANZANIA HAD BEEN underinvested in modern energy. Only 39 percent of people in urban areas and 2 percent in rural areas have electricity. Power outages were frequent, occurring without notice multiple times a week, disrupting business and school activities. The lack of electricity is the root of poverty because reliable power is important for education, productivity, and job creation.
The Kihansi River in the Udzungwa Mountains doesn’t shrink during the dry season. The waterfall inside the gorge is so powerful year-round that the Tanzanian government considered it a site for a hydropower project in 1984.
In 1990, the World Bank planned a development aid package for the Kihansi hydropower project. They had commissioned an environmental impact assessment (EIA) in 1991, but the assessment was determined to be inadequate by a group of European donors. In 1994, they hired a team of biologists to conduct a new EIA. The biologists lived in tents around the gorge, close to the thousands of workers from around the world hired to work on the dam.
In December 1995, the EIA team issued their assessment, reporting no new or endemic species in the forests. But they put in a caveat that they couldn’t reach the spray zone of the waterfalls because of the steep terrain. The team would continue to monitor Kihansi during the dam construction.
In December 1996, the team discovered a new path to get up the waterfall. The spray zone of the waterfall had a sloping grassland meadow and sunshine out in the open. Within minutes, a biologist named Kim Howell pulled out a yellow frog. It was a new species. This species would become extinct because of the hydropower project.
UNTIL RECENTLY, NO one believed species could go extinct, so humans never cared much about whether species disappeared. It wasn’t until the early twentieth century that an environmental ethic emerged, leading to the United States passing the Endangered Species Act in 1973. But the logic of the emerging environmental movement and the species protection legislation was flawed because they believed the value of nature was its usefulness to humans. A philosopher and environmentalist named Richard Sylvan pointed out the flaw in his paper called “Is There a Need for a New, and Environmental, Ethic?” by presenting a thought experiment. Imagine you are the only human on earth, and you destroy every living thing before you die. Would you be acting immorally? If you believe the value of nature is its usefulness to humans, the answer is no. But we feel destroying the world would be wrong. So usefulness to humans is not a satisfactory basis for deciding on what is environmentally desirable. Nature must have its own value that merited our moral concerns. This concept of “intrinsic value” formed the basis of environmental ethics.
Despite the efforts of the environmental pragmatists, many moral puzzles remain unsolved. Should species conservation take priority over the needs of humans? When Kim Howell pull the spray toad from the waterfall, he opened the Pandora’s box.
Credit: (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) ©2013 John P. Clare
HOWELL CALLED THE spray toad Nectophrynoides asperginis
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