The image of the woolly mammoth, saber-toothed cat and dodo bird stepping out of a beaker on the cover of National Geographic’s April issue says it all. Science has found a way to bring back some long-extinct species — or at least, facsimiles of them.
In truth, the goat-like bucardo, or Pyrenean ibex, is the only extinct animal scientists have actually revived. In 2003, biologists managed to clone an offspring from frozen skin cells from the last survivor, which died in 2000. The clone, however, lived for only a few minutes after its birth. Since then, advances in cloning technology have made it possible to bring back any species if there is a remnant of DNA.
But with so many habitat pressures on the wild species that are already here and with so many on the brink of extinction, is bringing back those we’ve already lost a good idea?
We could be on the brink of a mass extinction — the Earth’s sixth — according to a paper published last year in the journal Nature. First author Anthony Barnosky, an integrative biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, says Earth has experienced five mass extinctions during the past 540 million years, and another extinction could be around the corner. During each of the five previous events, three-quarters or more of the world’s animal species died out. One of the mass extinctions — which occurred 65 million years ago — ended the dinosaurs.
Some say, however, that this isn’t much cause for alarm. Species have always come and gone over long periods of time; and given the five mass extinctions we’ve already had, it’s a natural event. But will this sixth one be a “different animal”?
Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecologist, and activist. Despite her deep awareness of the world’s environmental and social justice crises, she is filled with hope.
Hope, in this age of cynicism masquerading as science, is a scarce resource. We often treat it poorly — as if hope is the hallmark of New Age lunatics or wide-eyed children. As if it’s naïve. Passive. A longing … without any intention of rolling up its sleeves.
It’s particularly tough to be an optimistic environmentalist with such a steady accumulation of bad news: birds dropping from the sky from starvation because wetlands that served as avian drive-thrus during migration have been replaced with houses; renowned climate scientist James Hanson’s prediction of “game over” if the Tar Sands are developed; oil spills; nuclear meltdowns …
Shiva knows all this. Yet she’s hopeful.
With a world increasingly under environmental threat and corporations and lobbyists that peddle misinformation, hope isn’t a luxury. It’s all we have.
Do vitamins kill people?
How many people have died from taking vitamins?
Should you stop your vitamins?
It depends. To be exact, it depends on the quality of the science, and the very nature of scientific research. It is very hard to know things exactly through science. The waste bin of science is full of fallen heroes like Premarin, Vioxx and Avandia (which alone was responsible for 47,000 excess cardiac deaths since it was introduced in 1999).
That brings us to the latest apparent casualty: vitamins. The recent media hype around vitamins is a classic case of drawing the wrong conclusions from good science.
We’re all programmed to like sugar, but new research shows that some people are genetically much more prone to sugar addiction than others.
As I noted in my previous blog on food addiction, science demonstrates that people can be biologically addicted to sugar and other foods in the same way people can be addicted to heroin, cocaine or nicotine. Bingeing and addictive behaviors are eerily similar in alcoholics and sugar addicts. In fact, many recovering alcoholics switch to another easily available drug: sugar.
The fictional Ace Ventura may be tops when it comes to pet detectives, but the real animal gumshoes may be of the nonhuman sort — at least when it comes to environmental issues. More and more, we are recognizing the incredible powers of observation and deduction our fellow creatures possess, and we are using them to help us uncover the “bad guys” in our air, homes and workplaces.
Every winter, I yearn for a vacation. Surprisingly, ice and snow, the post-holiday blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder are not the chief motivators. What drives me is the chance to stop routines, habits and patterns — even the healthy ones: the dietary habits I’ll resume, the exercise routines I worked hard to put into place. Ever since I took my first meditation retreat over the week between Christmas and New Year’s, vacation has meant more to me than just fun and sun. It has meant permission: permission to relax, to reconnect inner body and outer body, and, most of all, to stop talking.
One day, vitamin D seems like the cure for everything, and the next, we are inundated with warnings about dangers and lack of science. Confusion is rampant about the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Calcium and Vitamin D recently released from the Institute of Medicine.
“Eating soy will kill you!” Scan the media reports and surf the Internet, and you’re bound to come across scary claims that would lead you to believe this is true. Some you may have heard:
• Soy will give you breast cancer.
• Soy formula is dangerous to babies.
• Genetically modified soy foods may modify you.
• Soy foods block your thyroid function.
• Soy prevents the absorption of minerals and interferes with digestion.
• Tofu causes Alzheimer’s Disease.
Every week we highlight the best articles, blogs, news, videos and interesting Web tidbits to help you live green, be healthy, and connect with your sense of spirituality. Read our roundup for info that just helps you live better.
Scientists Would Turn Greenhouse Gas Into Gasoline