Episode 15: In episode 15, Doug Parsons speaks with M.R. O’Connor, author of the book, “Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things.” De-extinction is exactly what you think it is: bringing back extinct species using modern technology. Think Jurassic Park, but looking at more recent extinctions like the Passenger Pigeon, Wooly Mammoth and the Tasmanian Tiger. Our conversation, much like the book, is more than that though, we talk about environmental justice, ethics and the history of conservation biology. Each chapter in the book covers a different species and the massive efforts we take to ensure their survival: these include a Tanzanian Spray Toad, the Florida Panther, Southwest pupfish, all the way to efforts to resurrect the Passenger Pigeon. We talk about the amazing and tragic history of the Passenger Pigeon and one scientist’s efforts at bringing this species back into our lives. Is it Frankenstein meets conservation? We dig into many of the topics from the book but we also talk about their relevance to climate change and adaptation. Is it any more or less ethical to translocate a living species, impacted by climate change, than it is to bring back an extinct species. In addition, Maura talks about how journalism can and should be about covering ideas, not just historic events. We discuss the pitfalls of conservationists emphasizing the intrinsic value of biodiversity, versus its cultural or even utilitarian value. We also discuss the legal implications of de-extinction: what if a resurrected species preyed upon an existing endangered species? What would this mean for the Endangered Species Act? Maura also talks about what inspired her to write this story and the amazing journey learning about these species and the fascinating cast of characters that she included in the book. We also talk about climate change adaptation having the ability to frame conservation in a new light, to tackle old problems like habitat destruction, invasive species and air and water pollution. Our conversation will give you a sampling of the many topics covered in the book and how de-extinction will challenge us to think about conservation, adaptation and environmentalism in new and provocative ways. Maura was a fantastic guest, explaining incredibly complex topics in an engaging and hopeful way. Please listen in!
M.R. O’Connor is a graduate of Columbia’s Journalism School, she has reported from Africa, Afghanistan and Haiti, and her work has appeared in such publications as: The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Salon, New York Times, and Slate, to name just a few. Yes, that is an amazing list and her book reflects her profound journalistic experiences.
M.R. O’Connor’s Website
Resurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things on Amazon.
M.R. O’Connor on Twitter
Revive and Restore (mentioned in podcast, advocates resurrection science)
In the podcast, M.R. O’Connor referenced a graphic that showed threats to threatened bird species. Here’s the graphic.
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