The ethics and application of gene-editing for ecological conservation (Interview with Natalie Kofler of Editing Nature)
This is a conversation on Green Dreamer with Kamea Chayne, a podcast and multimedia journal illuminating our paths towards ecological balance, intersectional sustainability, and true abundance and wellness for all. This preview has been edited for clarity. Subscribe to Green Dreamer Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or any podcast app to stay informed and updated on our latest episodes.
Natalie Kofler (@nataliekofler) is a trained molecular biologist and the founding director of Yale University's Editing Nature (@editingnature), a global initiative steering the responsible development and deployment of environmental genetic technologies.
Feeling strongly about our need to stay in the grey area to work through the uncertainties in “changing the codes of life,” her work navigates the technical, ecological, and ethical complexity of gene-editing applications designed to impact wild species, such as CRISPR-edited mosquitos to prevent malaria transmission, genetic strategies to eliminate invasive species, or the use of CRISPR gene-editing to promote species resiliency to changing climates.
On this podcast episode, Natalie sheds light on what role gene-editing can play in environmental conservation and building resilience against climate change; the ethics of changing the DNA of nonhuman species; why inclusivity is vital in gene-editing advancements and applications; and more.
To start, get a glimpse below into the conversation between Natalie and Green Dreamer Podcast's host, Kamea Chayne.
On seeing humans as a part of nature:
"When thinking about these technologies, it's absolutely important that we remember as humans, we are part of this larger natural world. If we see ourselves as separate, I actually don't see how we can make responsible decisions.
Of course, being in relationship with nonhuman nature also means that we have to talk about what the quality of that relationship looks like.
I aspire to thinking more about being in kinship and being in a place where we honor and value nature for its own intrinsic value. I think if we try to dominate nature, I doubt we could make good decisions."
On inclusivity within environmental gene-editing:
"We're talking about engineering the shared environment. Because of that, there's a huge justice issue here where people have a right to be part of these decisions.
So we're really needing to think about new kinds of decision-making frameworks that ensure that those voices get to be part of how those choices are made."
On what it will take to create a healthy, balanced planet:
"We really need to start making decisions that uphold the flourishing of both humans and nonhumans and really cease from separating our species from the rest of the biosphere. If we don't, I'm worried we won't be able to make the choices that we need to.
We also need to understand that our health is so intimately related to the health of our planet and home. [It's essential that we] think about ways we can develop new kinds of interactions and a relationship with nature that's built on respect, love, and kinship.
If we can come from that place and that becomes our ethos that guides our choices, I have a lot of optimism that we can create a really beautiful future."
Final words of wisdom:
“Don't get downtrodden. We see a lot of destruction, hate, and trampling over of both humans and nonhumans, but I really feel like this is the last stand of an old age that's on its way out.
I think we're going to see movement into a different kind of future, and we should be excited to be part of creating that!”
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