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Earth Science

Ask Stewart Brand About Protecting Resources and Reviving Extinct Species 59

samzenpus (5) writes "Stewart Brand trained as a biologist at Stanford, was associated with Ken Kesey and the "Merry Pranksters", and served as an Infantry officer in the U.S. Army. His books include Whole Earth Discipline: The Rise of Ecopragmatism, The Clock of the Long Now, How Buildings Learn, and The Media Lab. He is the founder/editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, the co-founder of The Long Now Foundation, The WELL, and the Global Business Network. His latest project, Revive & Restore, may be his most ambitious yet. Revive and Restore aims to bring back extinct species and provide genetic rescue for endangered species that are spiraling down with inbreeding problems. Mr. Brand has agreed to answer any questions you may have but please limit yourself to one question per post."
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Ask Stewart Brand About Protecting Resources and Reviving Extinct Species

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  • LSD and technology (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Monday May 05, 2014 @11:54AM (#46919639) Homepage
    How have your experiences with LSD affected your later work? (For those unaware, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters went around turning people onto the substance, as documented in Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test [] ). Many participants in the counterculture speak of having new spiritual perspectives after taking LSD, but has it given you any special insights into working with new computer technology?
    • Second this--I think this is a good question and merits consideration.
    • by doom ( 14564 )

      Brand has mentioned that the original idea that it would be important to see a picture of the "whole earth" from space came to him via an acid trip. In one of his earliest projects, he was going around handing out buttons asking the question of why we hadn't seen such a photo yet.

      More recently, he's mentioned that clearly the problem with LSD isn't brain damage, but "personality damage". He's also commented on how you can rely on enthusiastic freaks to push ideas too far and find out where the limits a

  • by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @11:58AM (#46919685) Homepage Journal
    Shouldn't we first try to transplant elephants and rhinos to Texas, and Siberian tigers to Canada, and Rwandan gorillas to central America? It has been politically incorrect to risk "invasive species", and in the 1970s we thought this would backfire. But if we are going to revive extinct species, it seems we've given up on the habitat specialization anyway, and perhaps should save species while they still have genetic diversity by relocating them to stable and law enforced environments.
    • What if we took certain species and domesticated them for the North American continent? Like elephants for agricultural work in the South and Southeast? Yeah, they'd cost a lot to maintain in terms of feed, but if we did away with corn subsidies and instead subsidized ag to produce more livestock feed for exotic species, I could see how it'd be a win-win. There'd be problems, and there'd have to be creative solutions, and it wouldn't be perfect, but saving an elephant plus giving them important work to do (
      • I don't think that anybody uses beasts of burden anymore for farming. I guess in some places they do, but not in the industrialized nations. A tractor makes way more economical sense than an elephant for plowing your field. And even the people who are into organic food and free range farms wouldn't like it because they'd see it as cruelty to animals.
        • I now have a mental image of Amish using elephants to farm and clear land.

        • Good points. I would counter-argue that elephants would become feasible if the price of fuel for tractors, plus maintenance ever rose to the point where it's more cost effective to use elephants, including feed and veterinary costs. We're clearly not at that point yet, but I wouldn't mind seeing some experimentation.
          • I have an acquaintance who just bought a horse. Based on a conversation I had with him on the subject, I don't think that the price of using live animals for work will ever be cheaper than using machines. Even if petrochemicals became very expensive, they'd just move to other fuel sources for the tractors. Maintenance and purchase price isn't something that's likely to go really high. Don't forget there's plenty of maintenance costs on livestock as well. Vet bills, feeding, shelter, it all adds up.
            • "Tack Store" is ancient Native American phrase for "black hole that takes all your money". As someone who comes from horse culture, I can see your point, and will concede the debate. Won't give up the dream though, because it's just too cool to imagine Elephants working in North America :)
  • by Serenissima ( 1210562 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @12:01PM (#46919725)
    If particular species have gone extinct, then I would assume their environment could no longer support them. If we manage to bring back those species, and introduce them into environments that could support them, it seems that we have the potential to unbalance that ecosystem by introducing an invasive species which has no natural predator there. How would you manage this risk?
  • There are always issues of invasive species. Kudzu in the US's south is one. Will reviving extinct species contribute to another ecological disaster like "killer bees", "crazy ants", or fire ants?

  • How has your life in one of the most mid-western of mid-western towns (Rockford, IL) shaped how your view, perceive, and address the issues of today's world? How has it helped? Hindered?'

    Full disclosure, a Rocfordite myself.

  • What can be done to reclaim lost habitat, as it is a large factor in loss of species?

  • by fibonacci8 ( 260615 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @12:29PM (#46919995)
    How long is a revived creature going to last in an environment full of toxins and biological hazards against which it has dubious amounts of defense?
  • We are currently having problems preserving species with populations of only a few hundred members, (Ridley sea turtles, Right Whales, etc). What will happen when we develop a species with only 1 or 2 members? Will these deextincted species have priority over the existing near extinct species? It appears that the goal is to create more 'almost extinct' species.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Posting as AC because who knows what some politico might think of this:

    What are your thoughts regarding captive breeding and has any work gone into determining population size to get a good spread of genetics so that in the future, if a reintroduction effort is raised, would help ensure the species' continued survival?

    I, along with a few dozen people worldwide, work with endangered/threatened/extirpated fishes in our fishrooms. Some of the fish I work with, for example, were once found in a single location

  • What are the methods to gestate young one when no parents are alive? What type of surrogates are available?
  • The show Dr. Who pulled a tongue-in-cheek gag about mankind's general fear of global change (from Luddites to species to climate) by showing Earth, 5 billion years from now, as current. The Doctor's comment on the natural shifting of continents was that "they moved them back".

    Do you ever feel similar? As if the loss of a species is normal, but sad; and so you seek to move time back and halt the progress of the environment?

  • I've been a fan of your eclectic perspective and rational style since I bought the "Last Whole Earth Catalog". I know you were a early proponent and popularizer of space-based solar power and space colonies (at least in late 70's as I recall). Have you changed your views on those? Can I hope that my children will see an O'Neill Cylinder in space (or at least a Bernal Sphere)?

    I know faster than light travel is impossible. I know personal jet packs are impractical. Do building those space colonies we
  • A lot of science fiction postulates worlds full of designed creatures - Oryx and Crake, The Windup Girl, etc. Your efforts to revive extinct species could be seen as a stepping stone to that kind of technology. Are you intrigued by the possibilities? What kind of creature would you design?
  • When can we expect to order Mammoth burgers from Mc Donald's?

  • by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Monday May 05, 2014 @07:46PM (#46923969)

    I accessed The Well when it was a dial-up BBS (at great expense!) and devoured the Whole Earth Catalog. You are one -- if not 'the' -- most notable environmentalist to 'break ranks' on the topic of nuclear energy. On this topic you are a great orator, for you do not merely have the gift of calmly and diplomatically dispelling myths, at the same time you clearly communicate a love for people and a love for the most awesome aspects of modern technology, the 'keepers' such as rural electrification. I am also an staunch advocate for LFTR and my heart is gladdened to hear you mention it.

    My question is, has your position and persistence on the topic of nuclear energy brought you joy... or grief?

    [ Check out the 2010 Brand/Jacobson debate on nuclear energy [] and the documentary Pandora's Promise [2013] [] ]
    Bumps to a href=>Thorium Remix and my own letters on energy,
    To The Honorable James M. Inhofe, United States Senate []
    To whom it may concern, Halliburton Corporate []
    Also of interest, Faulkner [2005]: Electric Pipelines for North American Power Grid Efficiency Security []

    • by doom ( 14564 )
      A good question (if a bit over-linked). If I hadn't just commented on something else I'd mod you up.
  • How can scientists, or even "spit kiddies" tinkering in the garage, be sure not to resurrect extinct proteins that do bad things in today's environment?

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