Of Mammoths and Megalomaniacs

Environmental Ethics 45 (4):381-402 (2023)
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In this article, two ways of thinking about the potential disruptiveness of de-extinction and gene drives for conservation are presented. The first way of thinking zooms in on particular technologies and assesses the disruptiveness of their potential implications. This approach is exemplified by a framework proposed by Hopster (2021) that is used to conduct our assessment. The second way of thinking turns the logic of the first around. Here, the question is how gene drives and de-extinction fit into a wider and partly pre-existing context of disruption of human-nature relations. By only zooming in on a particular technology and its potential implications, the context out of which the technology is born is unavoidably disregarded. Gene drives and de-extinction are catalysts of a wider disruption already underway. And it is precisely because this disruption is already underway that the terrain is opened for the development and application of these technologies. In other words, the disruptiveness of these technologies strengthens the disruptiveness that was already underway and vice versa. It is argued that the two ways of thinking about emerging technologies in conservation need to go together, meaning in technology assessment both perspectives need to be included.



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Bernice Bovenkerk
Wageningen University and Research

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