Extinction is one of the most extreme forms of scarcity. As such, environmental groups have been using the looming specter of species extinction and the subsequent loss of biodiveristy as a pathos-driven moral high ground to unleash a vicious cycle of scarcity.
The formula is simple.
Step 1. Identify a cute animal
Step 2. Find evidence that suggests the cute animal will soon be extinct
Step 3. Use pictures of cute animal to raise money from an unwitting public to save the animal from extinction
Step 4. Use the money to sue the Department of Wildlife services to list the species as endangered
Step 5. After winning the lawsuit, use the Endangered Species Act to enact regulations that strictly limit the use of land and resources in areas that can be considered habitat for the species.
Step 6. Repeat.
While the intentions of protecting endangered species are noble, the legislative and regulatory solutions for protecting these species are mired in a mindset of scarcity. As a result, the scarcity of one resource (a species facing extinction) must be met by the forced scarcity of other resources through regulatory restrictions (land development, mineral extraction, timber harvesting, agricultural production, road building, infrastructure expansion, energy generation, and any other activity that is generally associated with creating wealth).
While we are mastering the process of protecting fragile pockets of scarcity with an onslaught of mandated scarcity, we are quickly proceeding down the path of acquiring the tools to fight extinction and biodiversity loss with abundance.
In a recent article by Rebecca J. Rosen in the Atlantic titled, “Assuming We Develop the Capability to Bring Back Extinct Species, Should We?”, she contemplates the imminent likelihood that we will be able to reintroduce extinct species through genetic science. While the author raises some interesting points, she neglects to address the many possible angles to approach the likelihood that we will someday be able to bring back extinct species.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this possibility is an evolutionary Catch 22. By evolving a species of such advanced intelligence as humans, life (and by extension biodiversity) has essentially evolved its own insurance policy.
This darwinistic curveball will pose an existential threat to environmentalism as we know it. The backwater movements with their roots in the 1960s-70s, whose primary focus was control of human behavior, subatomic particles, global climate systems, and everything in between, will soon be swamped with abundance.
What will they do when a bunch of bio-hackers code new species into existence? It’s one thing to gridlock an oil exploration project with bureaucracy, but how do you stop the flow of information? How will the inherent value of the fragile balance of biodiversity change when the only constraint to biodiversity is the human imagination.
We are quickly getting to the point where the threat of environmental loss will be replaced with the more complicated and exciting project of figuring out how to allocate abundance.