Any one that knows me will tell you I like mammoths. In fact they’d probably say that is a mammoth understatement. So I am very excited about the recent mammoth news. You have probably seen the headlines that a company has donated fifteen million dollars to George Church’s Mammoth Rival Project to speed up the process of cloning a mammoth by editing the genes of modern Asian elephants. This is to create a kind of elephant-mammoth hybrid, capable of enduring Siberian winters, in an effort to curb the rate of global warming; The creatures will do this by roaming tundra breaking up the blanket of snow that insulates the ground, warming up and causing the permafrost to melt, that would release locked methane gasses into the atmosphere.
I am excited as this is the inspiration behind my current middle grade WIP. I actually came on the premise of the novel by accident whilst researching for a YA Sci-Fi Thriller about Neanderthal cloning, when reading about the science of de-extinction in Beth Shaprio’s book ‘How to Clone a Mammoth’. Of course Neanderthals are great, especially as almost everyone on the planet (except for those in the African Basin) have a percentage of Neanderthal DNA, but let’s face its mammoths are cuter, they have just more appeal, so I got distracted.
The distraction was that mammoths have a potential to help with the global warming problem and also a protentional place ready to house them in the form of the Pleistocene Park in Siberia. I thought that children of today with their concern for the planet, its non-human inhabitants and an increasing love to STEM subjects would find this interesting. The fact there are scientific solutions to the massive issue of global warming, that could work in combination with other methods , like eating less meat , changing to greener power and reducing plastic.
Of course I don’t actually think we should necessarily turn to cloning extinct creatures, after all there are other non-extinct species that can do the same thing like camels and bison, which are already being re-introduced to the tundra as part of the Project at Pleistocene Park.
Also there are a great many ethical issues to consider, like the welfare of the modern Asian Elephant mothers, and should we be editing the genes of an already endangered species rather than helping the breading of that host species.
However, I would hope my story may inspire children to look into cloning, as it's methods can be utilised to help endangered species. Like, Elizabeth Ann, the black-footed ferret, who was cloned from a ferret that died more than 30 years before she was born. This kind of cloning means you can inject genetic diversity into dwindling population giving them a better chance of regaining numbers and avoiding extinction. This is work that is supported by the Revive and Restore initiative.
So of course the mammoth news, is exciting but uncomfortable, both due to the big question SHOULD WE. But also on a more selfish and personal note for me. I have been writing this novel for a while, and very few people I spoke to about it, had ever heard of the Mammoth Revival Project. But now it’s big news, and with me having issues with spelling and grammar due to Dyslexia, I can take a little longer than most to get my work submission ready. So, I’m worried someone will now see this news, and work this concept up into a submit-able manuscript and pit me to the post whilst I’m still making mine conform to the English language. It may sound like I’m being ridiculously paranoid, but this has happen many times in the past, so it is rather raw injury.
So that is me, done, and off to feverously try and get my manuscript polished ready for submission. Wish me luck!