Gene editing lets us change other species. Should we?
These trees have been genetically engineered to slow climate change. Should we use them?
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You may have heard that the United States Supreme Court recently weakened the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate emissions. That decision harms our ability to fight climate change. In this video, I look for hope in a new research effort - but it's important that new science be paired with regulation. As Mr Beast put it in this video, "we're going to need all the help we can get."
Recently, I visited a greenhouse full of super trees. Over the past few decades, genetic engineering has given us the power to manipulate living things - crops, animals, even humans. At the same time, we’ve been unable to adequately slow climate change. The trees I saw are an effort to use one to help the other, led by a group of researchers at a company called Living Carbon. If it works, it could strengthen one of our best allies in this fight.
Hold on though, easier said than done. In this video, we go behind the scenes with one big, ambitious project. We explore the major challenges to getting this right, and the reasons planting trees has become controversial in the fight against climate change. Along the way, I visit Living Carbon’s lab and greenhouse, and interview CEO Maddie Hall and CTO Patrick Mellor.
The really HUGE idea here isn’t so much about these plants as it is about us. It’s the idea that sometime soon, humanity is going to need to take on a responsibility no species has ever had before: To deliberately, continuously regulate the atmosphere of a planet on behalf of every living thing on it.
And we need to decide: How much do we change other species to do it?
00:00 What are supertrees?
01:44 How do you edit tree genes?
02:26 What’s different about these trees?
03:45 Do these trees really suck in more CO2?
04:18 Thank you Masterworks!
05:24 Why not just plant more trees?
06:44 Why is planting trees controversial?
07:57 What about invasive species?
09:24 What do supertrees look like?
10:19 What’s next for Living Carbon?
11:00 What’s the HUGE* vision here?
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Cleo Abram is an Emmy-nominated independent video journalist. On her show, Huge If True, Cleo explores complex technology topics with rigor and optimism, helping her audience understand the world around them and see positive futures they can help build. Before going independent, Cleo was a video producer for Vox. She wrote and directed the Coding and Diamonds episodes of Vox’s Netflix show, Explained. She produced videos for Vox’s popular YouTube channel, was the host and senior producer of Vox’s first ever daily show, Answered, and was co-host and producer of Vox’s YouTube Originals show, Glad You Asked.
Additional reading and watching:
- “If We Plant 1 TRILLION Trees Can We Stop Climate Change?” Be Smart https://youtu.be/PX1Rc0xlUpk
- “These ‘supertrees’ are engineered to capture more carbon” Fast Company https://www.fastcompany.com/90646232/these-supertrees-are-engineered-to-capture-more-carbon
- “Photosynthesis Enhanced Trees Grow Faster and Capture More Carbon” Living Carbon https://www.livingcarbon.com/post/photosynthesis-enhanced-trees-grow-faster-and-capture-more-carbon
- “Enhanced photosynthetic efficiency for increased carbon assimilation and woody biomass production in hybrid poplar INRA 717-1B4” https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.02.16.480797v2
Gear I use:
Camera: Sony A7SIII
Lens: Sony 16–35 mm F2.8 GM
Audio: Sennheiser SK AVX and Zoom H4N Pro
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Welcome to the joke down low:
What kind of tree can you fit in your hand?
A palm tree
Find a way to use the word “hand” in a comment to let me know you’re a real one ;)