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Cloning Endangered Species only Delays Extinction Essay

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Cloning Endangered Species only Delays Extinction

Last week, scientists revealed they have successfully cloned an endangered Asian gaur -- a stocky ox-like animal with a humped back. Such a technological breakthrough provides confidence that we will soon have the endangered species problem under control. Or does it?


Though the university's burgeoning squirrel population seems to indicate otherwise, species extinction is a grave problem in most parts of the world. Species are imperiled by myriad causes, but the four main perpetrators are habitat destruction and alteration, exotic or invasive species, overhunting and pollution. The gravest threat is the loss of physical habitat: The clearing or large-scale alteration of the land threatens species by removing food sources, nesting opportunities or refuges from predators. The next most pervasive issue, which frequently acts in conjunction with the first, is invasive species: Organisms new to a habitat adversely affect native organisms by preying upon them, competing with them for food or changing the dynamics of the entire ecosystem. The two most intuitive dangers -- pollution and overhunting -- are relatively smalltime crooks in this grand larceny of life.


The same scientists who cloned the gaur -- a group at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass. -- already have plans to clone giant pandas and an extinct Spanish mountain goat.


But will successful cloning bring pandas back from the edge of extinction? Unfortunately not.


Pandas are severely threatened by alteration and fragmentation of their natural habitat. This fragmentation prohibits emigration from bamboo patches when the vegetation suffers "die-backs," which occur every fe...

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...roblem. Social problems demand social solutions, nothing less.

Systems scientists came to this realization nearly three decades ago, with the model "World3." In 1972, Donella Meadows and coworkers created a computer-based model of the world, and discovered that the human population was bound to dramatically overrun its resource base no matter how much we invested in technological solutions. Crucially, also limiting human population growth failed to avoid this "crash." Per capita consumption tends to spiral out of control and can deplete resources on its own. Without tackling all causes of the crisis, we are powerless to avert disaster.


The same logic applies to biodiversity preservation. Cloning, like captive breeding, is a band-aid solution. If we want to preserve the biological legacy we inherited, we must fundamentally change how we live our lives.

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