Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Haley Reading Group: Barry Yeoman’s "Billions to None"


[Best American Science and Nature Writing]

By Brittany Tuggle

Barry Yeoman’s article “Billions to None” focuses on the extinction of the passenger pigeon that dwindled over a century due to hunting and a genetic project deeply invested in bringing the bird back. To bring the bird back, scientists plan to genetically engineer the biology of the bird with other closely related pigeon species that will result in a passenger pigeon (adjacent) creature. However, the true controversy of the issue is that throwing this bird back into an ecosystem that has long adapted to living without it could culminate in unforeseeable consequences.

Yeoman’s discussion of how incredibly prominent the bird once was, per the title, was especially riveting. At one point, Yeoman explains that “These were passenger pigeons, Ectopistes migratorius, at the time the most abundant bird in North America and possibly the world” (297).

After reading Yeoman’s article, what was one point concerning the issues of de-extinction efforts that stood out to you? Why was that point or passage notable? Please provide a page number citation.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

It sounds like we are going down a hole we will not be able to get out of. A bird may not have the same danger level as a dinosaur but, if the only reason they died out is because of us, they are a strong species. Of course, there are simply things that won't be the same. The environment is much less forgiving now that we've messed it all up. I'd prefer they just let the bird be a symbol of what can happen when we don't control ourselves. Otherwise we might end up making something we didn't want to, be it the passenger pigeon or something else.

-Que'rra Mason

Breanna B. said...

I agree with Que-rra; we cannot simply try to undo the very thing which we caused. Although, it may just be a passenger pigeon, it is dangerous to try to reintroduce a genetically modified species into an environment which has become conditioned to its small presence. In general, I believe it is erroneous for scientists to continue to genetically modify organisms--food, viruses, etc. This is a slippery slope, and could very well lead to our demise.

Asher said...

I really like this quote from the reading, on page 305, "...it could serve as a call to take responsibility for how our personal and collective actions affect wildlife and climate". I think this quote will always be something to ponder over, especially in the terms of what is going on with the Dakota Access Pipeline. This world has so many living animals, including us, and it's are job to protect the ones that we can. There needs to a compromise among people and living creatures. We can coexist, without hunting and or poaching. The story of the pigeons is one of many.

-Asher Denkyirah

Aleeya Barrolle said...

“From Billions to None” an article from Audubon discussed the extinction of the passenger pigeon. At the point where I was concerned is when Yeomen said, “He hopes animals brought back from extinction-not just birds but eventually also big creatures like wooly mammoths-will draw the public to zoos in droves, generating revenues that can be used to protect wildlife” (303). This was a notable quotation for me because it seemed like animals were just going to be recreated for the societies enjoyment.

Yoemen has written a remarkable article on the extinction and de-extinction of passenger pigeons. Before reading this passage I had never heard of anything about this extinction of pigeons. What I have received from this reading is that anything a person does affects an animal.

-Aleeya B

Peyton D. said...

Prior to reading this article, I knew efforts were being made to prevent species from going extinct but I didn't know scientists were trying to bring extinct species back. I think all of the consequences should be considered before deciding to bring an animal back and the whole ecosystem should be considered when altering the equilibrium of life. Many species are extinct through natural selection and it should be left that way. The most surprising/concerning thing to me is this science may be used to bring back "big creatures like woolly mammoths will draw the public to zoos in droves, generating revenues that can be used to protect wildlife.” (pg 303) I don't understand the purpose of bring back larger animals, such as woolly mammoths, especially if the purpose is to live in a zoo. If the de-extinct animal has to live in a zoo, then restoring it is not natural anyway. I understand de-extinct animals in the zoo will attract the public and raise money for wildlife, but I don't think any animal should live this way.

Brandy Collier said...

I like the quote that said,"...Revive and Restore, a project that plans to use the tools of molecular biology to resurrect extinct animals"(302).This quote was notable to me because I thought it was interesting that scientists were trying to actually bring back extinct animals. This shows a great effort being put into keeping these animals alive and not letting them be extinct. I never really thought that scientists could recreate a species from a similar species.

Paris Smith said...

I like the quote "it could serve as a call to take responsibility for how our personal and collective actions affect wildlife and climate" from page 305 because we never think about the little guys. We tend to forget that our world could not exist without animals. They are the foundation of our ecosystem and how it survives due to their predation and death back into the ecosystem. We get so consumed in ourselves that we don't think about the wildlife because we do everything we can to avoid them because we are afraid but I think that if we were to learn more about them, we would stop the next time we are rushing to kill a fly or anything else for that matter because the environment is important and animals are a big part of that.

Payton Bridegroom said...

On page 304 he talks about the different percentages of animals that are threatened. For example 13% of birds, 25% of mammals, and 41% of amphibians are threatened. This stood out to because I never would have guessed these numbers would be so high. It really got me to realize how important this is and made me think of ways us people can try to save these animals before it's too late.
-Payton B.

Olivia Slater said...

As a Biochemistry major, I feel very strongly about the following fact: "Review & Restore is attempting something far more ambitious and controversial: using genetics to bring the bird back" (Yoemen, 298). Messing with nature is what caused the mass extinction in the first place. Further interference by the human race on an environmental issue such as this could be detrimental. We must learn from the mistakes that have been made in the past, leading to the mass extinction, and correct this behavior for future generations. The answer is not to "bring back" a lost species, but rather to preserve the ones that still exist.

Aja J said...

One statement that stood out to me was that “animals brought back from extinction-not just birds but eventually also big creatures like woolly mammoths-will draw the public to zoos in droves, generating revenues that can be used to protect wildlife,” (303). I think this is an interesting point because some people may think that bringing an animal back from extinction would not be a good idea. With that being said, I think there are definitely many advantages and disadvantages to bringing an animal back from distinction. I just wonder if the good would outweigh the bad.

Kayla Daniels said...

Honestly, I think it's a terrible idea to release these pigeons back into the wild. They are now bred for human interaction and captivity. They would not survive for long. The quote,"...it could serve as a call to take responsibility for how our personal and collective actions affect wildlife and climate" (page 305) stands out to me. People such as myself have been saying this for years. We are affecting the Earth too much and it's mostly negative influence. If we release these birds and they become extinct, we will only have ourselves to blame.

Joshua Jones said...

Before I read the essay, I had an idea of the efforts that were being done to recreate extinct animals due to leading research in genetics. Still, on page 303, the idea of putting an organism back into the ecosystem is "...not altogether clear," that it would be effective and the same as "...introducing an exotic species." I do not know what would happen but this stood out to me because if it were to happen, it would be a sight to behold. How would the organism behave thousands of years later from when it went extinct? What would the modern world hold for it? These are the questions that must be asked before attempting this type of biology.

Trevon Bosley said...

I was truly surprised by the stats given on page 304. I would have never assumed or thought these problems would affect birds and amphibians. This article truly heightened my vision on this extinction problem.

Robert Craig Jr said...

I feel as though this topic can be a very contentious one. In my opinion, bringing back endangered species has no real benefits but rather many dangers. Firstly, if we can simply bring back species, then what is the incentive for protecting them? If we can simply bring back extinct species, then there is no urgency when the news announces "the Bengal tiger is going extinct." Also, if the species went extinct because of environmental changes, then there is no real way to preserve a large number of the species, as releasing them into the wild would only lead them to the same cruel fate of extinction. So though I feel scientists have good intentions when they consider bringing back endangered species, I don't feel as though it is a good idea.

Marcus Barnes said...

The quote, "It's not all together clear that putting one of these extinct species from the distant past back into an ecosystem today would be much more than introducing an exotic species. It would have repercussions that we're probably not fully capable of predicting," sticks out to me because it really can have negative effects if the bird is brought back to life. (p. 303) Without knowing the outcome or probability of the safety of de-extincting the passenger pigeon, I think that it going through with this theory of it will be fine, is not something that should be taken lightly and so, no one should try to put into effect de-extinction.

Carlie Bibbs said...

The main point about the de-extinction of passenger pigeons that stood out to me was how scientists are going to recreate a species that never actually existed (302). This makes me wonder are they actually creating the same species that died out or is it just a close substitute? Because if it's just a substitute then it still would not be the real thing. I also wonder why don't scientists focus research on other more impactful things rather than recreating the passenger pigeon specie. Because if they were recreated they would not fit on the food chain right away.

Carlie Bibbs

Shardai J-H. said...

De-extinction is extremely counter productive. Even though it is human's fault that many animals are extinct or going extinct, it doesn't mean we have the right to reverse our actions. In life you cannot simply take something back. What's done is done. The money they are using for genetic engineering can and should be used for cancer research, education, green energy, and other things that'll help, not only humans, in the long run.

Nylah Berner said...

On page 302 it reads, "The most controversial effort inspired by the extinction is a plan to bring the passenger pigeon back to life... In 2012 Long Now Foundation president Stewart Brand and genetics entrepreneur Ryan Phelan cofounded Revive & Restore, a project that plans to use the tools of molecular biology to resurrect extinct animals." This seems very unnecessary. The funds used for this project should be used for something more beneficial.

Barry F. said...

After reading the article, one point that stood put to me concerning the de-extinction efforts was on page 298 when Barry Yeoman stated "Review & Restore is attempting something far more ambitious and controversial". I believe that it is not crucial to not put efforts into reintroducing the passenger pigeon back into the thriving ecosystem, which could through off the dynamics between the living things there. They should try to sustain what is still present.

Anonymous said...

One remark that caught me was on page 301, " We have given an awful exhibition of slaughter and destruction, which may serve as a warning to all mankind." It's sad that we had to do unbelievable damage to begin to learn the mistakes we've made. Although things did change in an attempt to make things better, it didn't have that much of an affect on the overall society.
Sydney J.

Kaelyn Blunt said...

I have done some research on extinction in other classes, and this bird in particular was brought up. We were talking about exactly what this sentence says. "There was virtually no effort to save them...[p]eople just slaughtered them more intensely. They killed them to the very end" (Veoman 301). That is exactly what happened, it is true. But I do not exactly agree that bringing them back would do any good. Like the book says, who knows what will happen to the world if something that the ecosystem has lived many years without is suddenly brought back. We can't know. Are we really willing to take that risk?
-Kaelyn Blunt

Miya Evans said...

There's a quote on page 305 that says, "it could serve as a call to take responsibility for how our personal and collective actions affect wildlife and climate.." However, i don't think that going back and trying to "right our wrongs" is whats best. i feel like its more of whats done is done situation. If they are human bred and kept in captivity until a certain point and then all of a sudden released, they may have hard time really adapting to their new environment, we may be breeding them just to have them killed off by nature.

- Miya Evans

simone hall said...

I thought that it was very interesting that they were talking about bringing back creatures that have gone extinct. The same quote made on page 303 mentioned by other students caught my attention. The author realized that bringing back animals from extinction would cause the public to swarm to see them. I took that as, money would be made that could further the protection of other endangered species and we, as a people, would be able to protect and expand the wildlife that our lifestyles destroyed. Therefore, we are not only bringing back a precious creature that was taken away from this world, we are also using this animal to stop others from dying out. It's a very smart way of thinking that could change wildlife in this world forever.

Natasha said...

First off, I love animals. I love nature. I love the environment. And I love science. But I do believe there is a point science just should not cross. While it is definitely great to try to keep endangered species from complete extinction, I do not feel like we should try to bring back species that have already been extinct. I think everything happens for a reason and if our higher power eliminates a species, then it's probably for the best. A quote on page 303 reads, "Animals brought back from extinction...will draw the public to zoos in droves." This is so sad to me. Are we really trying to bring back species so they can be contained and live miserable lives? Purely for our enjoyment? For money? For wealth? In my opinion, that is wrong.

Tatyana Curtis said...

After reading Yeoman’s article one cornering issue was, “He hopes animals brought back from extinction-not just birds but eventually also big creatures like wooly mammoths-will draw the public to zoos in droves, generating revenues that can be used to protect wildlife” (303). This was concerning to me because I couldn't believe the human society would only want animals to come from extinct just to receive money. This quote shows how money hungry society is.

Derick B. said...

On page 304, the article said that only 44 percent of Americans agreed there was solid evidence of global warming because of human activity. This is interesting to me because it shows that as a species we are not aware of the effects we have on wildlife which could be very dangerous for us.

Kellsey H. said...

One point concerning the issues of de-extinction efforts that stood out to me arose after reading the following statement: "big creatures like woolly mammoths will draw the public to zoos in droves, generating revenues that can be used to protect wildlife.” This can be found on page 303. Initially, I viewed de-extinction as an action that would not result in any form of good. After some consideration, however, I realized that some advantages may present themselves.

Zuriah Harkins said...

One point that stood out to me was how ignorant humans are to the damage that they can put on the environment. On page 304, it states, "This denial of both the threat and our own responsibility sounds eerily familiar to those who study 19th-century attitudes toward wildlife." Humans have been causing damage and denying for over 50 years now. We cannot be blind to the fact that we are causing animals to become extinct, whether it was intentional or not. I really liked how Yeoman brought up the climate change, because I feel like that is also a great example of how greatly human activity can have negative effects on the environment.

However, I also understand why people may be hesitant to bring back extinct animals. Genectically engineering an animal in a lab is sure to bring several questions and concerns since we are not 100% sure how this animal will behave in the environment and what kind of dangers that it can bring.

Zuriah H.

Aliyah B. said...

I agree with the point that Natasha made. It is concerning that we are only trying to bring these animals back for our own gain. Yes, not all animals are extinct because of the effect of our actions. But, for those that are, who are we to bring them back? We've already made our mistakes that have ended the legacy of certain species and we have to deal with those consequences. We should let the animals that became extinct before humans stay extinct too. Maybe, they went extinct for a reason, and they would negatively impact humans if brought back. We should leave things as they are. It would be great if woolly mammoths could potentially generate revenues that could be used to protect wildlife (303), however we could also find another way to get this type of funding.

Aliyah B.

John Kriha said...

After reading Yeoman’s article, one point concerning the de-extinction efforts that stood out to me was how the new hybrid specie would affect the current ecosystem. On page 303, experts questioned this idea by stating the possibility that “If you put the organism back in, it could be disruptive to a new dynamic equilibrium……it could have repercussions that we’re probably bit fully capable of predicting.” Natural selection has taken its course, attempting to reverse that could produce more negative consequences than good ones. Instead, we should focus our efforts on preserving already existing animals that are at risk of being extinct.

Kathryn Hatches said...

One passage that really stood out to me was, "we have given an awful exhibition of slaughter and destruction, which may serve as a warning to all mankind" (301). This passage stood out to me in particular because it just shows how many species we have destroyed out of amusement and/or convenience. It really bothers me that so many people take our ecosystem and environment for granted.
-Katie Hatches

Cheniya A. said...

Before I had the chance to read this article, I had not known that passenger pigeons had gone extinct. I'd hardly even known what a passenger pigeon was. But, even so, the intent that fuels this idea to forge a new manufactured species of an animal that went extinct at our own hands seems wrong. It also seems selfish to bring an animal back into a world where it no longer has a sustainable place in nature where its previous purpose seems subordinate.

Moreover, his plan to bring back larger animals for, what is, essentially, personal gain and profit, does not support his message. The quote, “He hopes animals brought back from extinction-not just birds but eventually also big creatures like woolly mammoths-will draw the public to zoos in droves, generating revenues that can be used to protect wildlife” (303). Not only is the notion dangerous and seemingly ignorant, but I have no doubt that whatever higher power governs our universe would punish us for going against whatever plan he had set in motion. Some species just need to go extinct - that's it. Every species has its time, as history has proven.

Anonymous said...

After reading the article, one issue of de-extinction efforts that stood out to me would be the aftermath of releasing the newly modified bird back into nature. "There were very few people who put stock in the idea that humanity could have any impact on the passenger pigeons." (page 304) This here shows a shared concern that the results of human interaction and modification of these pigeons may not be the best thing for them, or for the other species directly intertwined or connected with pigeons.

Richard G.

Alona Davenport said...

What stood out here was on pg 303 when it was said that attempting to bring an extinct species back could be disruptive to a new dynamic equilibrium. Also that it would have repercussions that aren't able to be predicted. With that being said, it would be a safe bet to not try to bring back species that have already been extinct. We are unaware how the new hybrid species will react to a world that is so different than the one it was intended for and that's just not something that seems safe to test out.

~Alona D.

Alexis Acoff said...

On page 304 a bunch of statistics were given showing the impact human activity has had on other animals. It is surprising to me that despite all of the evidence and statistics about the many changes that have occurred in a short amount of time, there are still people who do not believe that human activity is affecting our world in a negative way. To address the pigeons specifically, I read a comment of someone saying that the pigeons should not be released back into the wild because they have been domesticated and would not survive. I agree with this comment, it would be like releasing dogs into the wild and expecting them to thrive.

cassidy oliver said...

One point that stood out to me is the possible use of genetics to bring back extinct species. The efforts of groups willing to use genetics is quite ambitious (298). The bird specie that was discussed by the group had been extinct for 100 years. Would reversing a species extinction change the current ecosystem? Also could the genetics research learned for de-extinction help the advancement of genetics for humans?

Jeremiah B. said...

One point that concerns me is what Temple says about the changes in the ecosystem on page 303. De-extinction could dynamically disrupt the equilibrium of the ecosystem and could potentially cause a different species to go extinct or become endangered. This problem could cause a domino effect and change neighboring ecosystems as well.

albino ALPACA said...

The part that stuck out to me was on page 300. Here the passage told about the amount of hunters and trappers that there were. This made me think about the gold rush. Everyone rushed in and took all they could until nothing was left. But gold is different since pigeons are living things. People take heart more to overkilling than mining.

David B.

Jessica D said...

Prior to reading this i wasn't aware, like many, that the passenger pigeon even existed.To find this out and see that they became extinct is mind blowing because i knew nothing about it to begin with. How did something, not well known go extinct. Im sure the climate changes had part to do with this.