Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Polar Bears Are People, Too

Just last week, Emily and I took our son Emerson to the zoo. He’s only ten months old, so I think most of the excitement of the animals was a bit lost on him. I think he couldn’t even see half of the animals, and he certainly didn’t understand the concept of looking around each cage until he found the animal hiding there.

But that’s okay. We’ll keep taking him there every so often until things start sticking out to him a bit more.

The animal that seemed to stand out to him the most, however, was the polar bear (which is perfect, because the polar bears are my favorite animals at the Albuquerque Bio Park). There was the one polar bear, walking back and forth along the top of the rocks in his pen just like he always seems to be doing when we go to the zoo. Of all the animals, that polar bear was the easiest to see, and Emerson seemed to love watching the big, furry white thing moving back and forth, sticking out its huge tongue, staring at the crowd.

So then.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this reanimating-extinct-animals thing that’s been going on in the science arena. And though I really would be quite interested in seeing a Dodo bird (besides just the cute one on Tiny Toons), I have a few concerns over this entire process…

First of all, let me say up front that I’m not exactly against the entire act in and of itself. I think it would be wonderful if we could start undoing some of the damage we’ve done environmentally. And it certainly would be a breakthrough for science, and could have many great applications for people and for the globe.

And I’m not even too worried about the entire premise of Jurassic Park (though there are certainly legitimate concerns there, and I think that the timing of the re-release of the movie in theatres is quite interesting…)

But I started thinking about something else along these lines:

As for some of these animals that are endangered—or in danger of going extinct—it would be really cool if we could help prevent that from happening. And I thought, “Even if something happens to the rest of the polar bears, we could bring them back, and that would be really cool! We’d never have to worry about them going extinct!”

This sounds great. But then I realized: it’s also exactly where the problem lies.

If we could bring polar bears back from the brink of extinction (or from extinction itself, if it comes to that), why would people bother trying to protect them anymore?

If we can veritably manufacture elephants, what would stop poachers and ivory dealers from killing all of the elephants we have? (With claims of “We’ll just make more!”)

Have we learned nothing from The Island, Never Let Me Go, The House of the Scorpion, or Final Fantasy VII?

If it’s easy to get something, you take it for granted. If you have an abundance of something, it devalues each occurrence of that thing.

Or, put more simply: If we can reverse extinction, I worry that people won’t work so hard to prevent it.

And it seems to me that the animals deserve better.

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