A new company called Colossal with $15 million in seed funding from people like professional Bond villain Peter Thiel and notable self-help huckster Tony Robbins looked around at our hellscape and thought to itself, “What this world really needs is a woolly mammoth resurrected from DNA.”
Pitching itself as a bioscience and genetics company aiming to further the field of “de-extinction,” Colossal wants to start with the elephant’s distant cousin which was last seen clomping around the Arctic tundra about 10,000 years ago.
“The rewilding of critical, extinct species as proxies to their original habitats represents a new, disruptive conservation approach by restoring lost ecosystems that have the potential to help halt and even reverse the effects of climate change,” Colossal’s PR said in a statement, which is a wild claim even for a company intent on resurrecting giant, furry-covered pachyderms.
*Reads Michael Crichton once* — To make this happen, Colossal researchers — including the company’s co-founder and Harvard geneticist, George Church — plan to utilize CRISPR technology to introduce mammoth genes into endangered Asian elephant embryos over the next few years, then incubate the mutant lovechild of shortsighted hubris and Jurassic Park marathons in either a live elephant or artificial womb.
“Restoring the woolly mammoth has the potential to revitalize the Arctic grasslands, which has major climate change-combatting properties including carbon sequestering, methane suppression and light reflection.”
This ain’t it, Colossal — Call us pessimists, but we find it somewhat hard to believe that the missing piece to solving this whole climate change puzzle is a genetic mashup between an elephant and its great-great-great-great-great grandparent. $15 million is quite the sum of money, and could truly be put to good use in combatting the countless environmental crises we currently face. Choosing to funnel it all into multi-year genetic experimentation projects designed to revive endangered or already long-extinct species misses the point completely when it comes to dealing with climate change.
Would it be cool to see a woolly mammoth walk the Earth again? Sure, goofy, but cool. But we can’t reverse engineer our way out of this situation we find ourselves in, and we likely can’t restore what has already been lost. At least, not with artificial wombs containing baby woolly mammoth mutants.