Bio-engineering, climate change, and the zombie apocalypse

1 minute read

I have an article in Slate, where I riff on last week’s silly suggestion to “bio-engineer humans” to stop climate change: “Can Bioengineers Make Human Beings More Sustainable?”

My take: The experiment has already been done!

When the climate warmed by several degrees around 8,000 B.C., it must have seemed at first like a wonderful dream. The glaciers melted. The human population grew and grew. There were more people than ever before, using a broader range of resources and eating a broader range of foods, and they invented beautiful and complex cultures.
That's when these people of the early Holocene did something truly bizarre. They reacted to all this climate change by engineering a new, more sustainable ecology. And they began to foster mutant children who would flourish in an alternate, globally warmed future.

Here’s what I find interesting: Bioethicists suggest totalitarian-sounding approaches to genetic change. But with lactase persistence and amylase duplications, nature took a different course:

When it comes to cutting meat, natural selection has acted more like an entrepreneur than a eugenicist. Instead of giving us an aversion to meat, it lures us away from meat by offering a milkshake sweetened with corn syrup.

Of course, that just makes the population grow faster. Only one way to really solve this problem, and yes, my essay goes there…