May 7, 2019
A significant amount of carbon has been stored in Arctic permafrost for tens of thousands of years. And unless we take radical steps to restore the ecosystem that we destroyed there, the permafrost will melt and release 1400 GT of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. This dwarfs the amount humans generate annually and would accelerate climate change on an exponential scale. So, what can we do to reestablish the grasslands and reintroduce the animals that used to dominate the region? And what do we do if the wildlife that supported the ecosystem have since gone extinct? Can we use ancient DNA to create hybrid elephant-mammoths with the potential to thrive there?
Nikita Zimov is the Director of Pleistocene Park, a project in northern Siberia using wild grazing animals to reestablish climate-stabilizing grasslands in the region. The initiative began in 1988, and to date, the 20 km^2 is home to 8 major herbivore species. George Church is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and pioneer in the realm of genome sequencing. Through his work with Revive & Restore, George and his team are working to de-extinct the genes of the woolly mammoth to save the Asian elephant from extinction and populate Pleistocene Park.
Today, George and Nikita join Ross and Christophe to share the vision for Pleistocene Park and the ground-breaking work in genome editing that supports the reintroduction of megafauna to the region. Nikita explains why restoring grasslands to the Arctic is crucial in mitigating climate change, and George discusses his work to make elephants compatible with warm and cold temperatures. They also cover the ethical questions regarding genome editing and the worst-case scenarios around restoring the grassland ecosystem in Siberia. Listen in to understand the potential to scale and perhaps replicate Pleistocene Park around the globe and learn how to support George and Nikita’s work to prevent the degradation of permafrost and reverse climate change!
Connect with Ross & Christophe
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[1:31] George’s path to reversing climate change
[3:40] The definition of genome sequencing
[4:59] Nikita’s path to reversing climate change
[5:43] The vision for Pleistocene Park
[8:35] Why grassland is valuable to the Arctic
[14:29] Why Pleistocene Park needs megafauna
[16:50] George’s work to edit the elephant genome
[19:40] The ethical questions associated with genome editing
[21:30] The groundbreaking nature of George’s work
[22:27] George’s take on what could go wrong
[24:35] The opportunities around genome editing with other animals
[26:50] Nikita’s plans to scale Pleistocene Park
[29:25] The Russian government’s position on climate change
[31:38] The potential for unforeseen consequences at Pleistocene Park
[37:47] What’s next for George
[38:53] What’s next for Nikita
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