Should We Revive Mammoths?

ImageIt’s a question as old as things that are old, and was brought up in the iconic Jurassic Park in 1995 – if we have the power to resurrect lost species, should we? It’s talked about from time to time, but scientists in Russian and South Korean scientists are teaming together to actually put some money where their collective mouth is.

They struck the agreement in 2012, and it’s been over a year, and I’ll tell you what, I’m getting antsy. The thing is, I’m still not 100% sure I’m okay with it. It’s not just that I’ve seen Jurassic Park and vehemently disagree with Richard Attenborough or something of that ilk – it’s that I can’t figure out the “why.”

I’d love to see a mammoth. I’d geek out over seeing a sabertooth tiger or a moderately sized, herbivore dino. But is that enough reason to bring it back? The motivation seems to be based in “Well, it’s awesome.” Okay, so since we can, we should, yeah?

That’s not doing it for me. I want a reason beyond the human need to visually consume mammoths, which I feel is behind 90% of all desire to clone the DNA of a frozen extinct animal. The other 10% may be true curiosity that has nothing to do with the cool factor. Perhaps we can even learn something from studying mammoths, though it’d be difficult, seeing as how the new mammoth would be living in an entirely different environment with entirely different predators (see: none).

I’m not saying we shouldn’t revive dodos – I’m saying I want to know why we are. Cloning living animals to make for greater food supplies makes some sense to me, even if it makes me nervous. But cloning something dead simply to see it alive isn’t reason enough. Scientists will be bringing an entire species back to life – that’s pretty heavy when you take a step back and think about it. It’s a heavy topic when fiction tackles the subject of reanimating ONE person back to life, much less an entire group of creatures that no living person has ever seen walk the earth.

I say let’s consider that maybe humans are being a little selfish when we try to clone dead species – sorry humanity, but you can’t see it all. Stuff happened in the past that you’ll never witness, and more stuff will happen in the future that you’ll never witness; get used to it.

At least Jurassic Park is coming back to theaters

Singing young grey seal Justin, videos

A singing seal for those of us who are tired of reality TV singing competitions. So much better.

Dear Kitty. Some blog

Usually, seals make hardly any sounds. However, young grey seal Justin, in the seal rehab of Ecomare museum on Texel island in the Netherlands, sings, as this video shows.

The seal was found while sick by musician Justin Segerink, and named Justin after the finder.

In this video, Justin musician tries to get Justin seal to sing along to a song on guitar, but does not succeed.

Basically, only young seals make sound. And Justin is growing up; singing less and less. His health is improving so well, that next week, he will be freed into the sea.

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“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

–Cicero

Dying for Their Kraft

Animals in advertising are pretty much a golden goose – dogs doing human things inevitably sells beer. Cows scrawling misspelled messages inevitably sells chicken. Horses looking majestic inevitably sells…beer again. But a recent story has cast a light on the dangers of animals being used for advertising.

A shark died on the set of Kmart commercial a few weeks ago, after it was transferred across the country and kept in a small pool for a time. You can read the details in the link. It’s a troubling situation, and one without an easy answer. After having some horses die at the HBO show, Luck, and several other occurrences of similar animal deaths, the question has to come up:  should we not use animals as “actors?”

Granted, Luck was cancelled, and yes, Kmart was “saddened,” but are these going to stop people from employing animals in commercials, TV and film? Should it? With CGI nowadays, it isn’t hard to recreate a shark or a horse or a sloth, so maybe there’s no need to use the real thing. Geico’s certainly doing alright.

Accidents happen – you can’t prevent that. And accidents happen to people on set, too. But the people are making a conscious choice to get involved, and they know the risks. Plus, they’re getting paid, and to my knowledge, that shark wasn’t in SAG. It wasn’t like the shark died for its art – it died so that people can be coerced into buying cheaper boxes of Kraft mac n’ cheese from a Sears-owned department store behemoth.

I don’t expect to see only CGI dogs in Bud Light ads anytime soon (if I have my way, I don’t expect to see any Bud Lights ads at all ever again). It seems like individual situations are drawing the anger of people, but the big question of “Is this ethical?” is being sidestepped. I think it’s time we had that larger conversation.

Long Live The New Flesh?

Get ready for In-N-Out Vitro burgers. Several scientists in the Netherlands hope to grow meat in a lab like some odd experiment from a 1980s movie. But it’s not just another weird technological imperative, and it isn’t as scary as some of the other stuff being done to food out there. But the question is:  are you going to eat in vitro beef?

I mean, the ultimate goal behind this meaty marvel isn’t just benign – it’s benevolent. The idea behind in vitro meat is profit-driven, economically viable and even sustainable. The world can’t deal with how much meat we’re eating – it’s just not going to last, especially given the amount of grain it takes to harvest meat and the number of new meat-eaters born every year. This technological advance could feed millions for a fraction of the cost of traditional meat collection.

Once this meat-growing process is perfected, it will be much cheaper to create lab beef than to kill a cow. Also, it doesn’t kill animals – just relies on the building of muscle tissue from previously harvested cells. Even PETA supports it (really). And why wouldn’t they? It’s cutting down on the amount of animals killed for meat, plain and simple. PETA supporters will now be able to have their steak and eat it, too.

But what about life-long vegetarians? Those who stayed away for moral reasons may just be tempted to chow down on that Wagyu lab-beef burger with gorgonzola cheese and sun dried tomato aioli on a multi-grain bun. Those who stayed away for health reasons…well, I don’t know – I’m not a vegetarian. But I imagine if real meat gave them pause, meet made from droppers and test tubes might give them nausea.

Aside from the obvious need to re-name the product (“lab meat” sounds like the term morbid autopsy docs use to refer to their cadavers), the makers of in vitro burgers (also not marketable) have a lot going for them. Sustainability, creativity, a possible $1 million reward from PETA, and motivation to heal the world’s hunger problems.

Yet I’m still skeptical.

I’m all about knowing exactly where my meat comes from – organic, local, etc. – so I’m not sure what to think when I know my cheeseburger originated in a cold, uninviting room lit like a hospital. I just can’t bring myself to believe that science can create a better burger than my agricultural great-great-grandparents could decades ago. I’ve seen Monsanto do things to food in the name of technological progress that are, at best, disgusting, and at worst, immoral. Why should I trust this new flesh? I think I’ll give it a few decades on the market before I start eating these sci-burgers.

Hmm. Sci-burgers. That might be marketable.

“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

LA Museum Merger?

The LACMAMOCA? It sounds more like an overly complicated Starbucks hybrid coffee, but it’s actually the possible combination of The Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Okay, so the weird acronym combination hasn’t caught on (just my own pet name for it), but there’s a distinct possibility that this merge may happen, especially after the MOCA board was ravaged by unexpected departures – it would be an interesting shakeup in the LA art world. Read on here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/arts/design/los-angeles-county-art-museum-urges-merger-with-museum-of-contemporary-art.html

And yes, I realize I posted a New York Times article about LA museums (sorry LA Times) It’s for…bicoastal appeal. Or something.