Are Seemingly Unsolvable Issues Offered Options? As With Gene Tool CRISPR To Stem Our Population Growth?

By Donald A. Collins | 22 March 2021
Church and State

Jennifer Doudna is an American biochemist known for her pioneering work in CRISPR gene editing, for which she was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry along with Emmanuelle Charpentier. (Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

As my readers will recall, I have often expressed deep concern over the issue of too many humans now alive on our planet who are busily consuming too many of the basic assets of our planet to serve adequately the numbers already here! And the future is not brighter.

Solutions are obvious but now unaddressed adequately to avoid some catastrophic future outcomes far worse than we see today.

In short can humans perceive the dangerous trends now extant and take corrective action?

Certainly, the current pandemic has alerted us to the need to see how productive being connected internationally can be in producing the vaccines and getting them to enough people to achieve herd immunity.

You can read about the importance of herd immunity in the piece here.

But the value of the working connection between us humans has perhaps never been better described than by Walter Isaacson’s latest book The Code Breaker which sits atop The NY Times non-fiction best seller list.

The Times review of this seminally vital story can be read here.

Isaacson features as principal heroine protagonists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier—an American and a French women—two women who recently shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry. They share astonishing international connections with brilliant scientific colleagues from all over the world and when their Nobel invention called CRISPR—the tool which allows gene splicing—was invented several years ago it was freely offered to the world and symbolizes the extreme importance of being so interconnected.

CRISPR permits us to erase the genes that produce sickle cell anemia and Huntington’s, HIV and many other serious health threats. Isaacson is also brilliant in discussing the moral implications of using gene splicing.

Could this scientific collaboration help lead us to recognizing the enormity of this looming global population crisis?

How the featured protagonists—the two women who as I noted above, recently shared a Nobel Prize—were so internationally connected with brilliant scientific colleagues from all over the world. Their Nobel invention called CRISPR is the tool which allows gene splicing and has for years been made available to the whole world which symbolizes the extreme importance of being so globally interconnected.

Could this scientific collaboration lead us to recognizing the enormity of this looming global population growth crisis?

Or, it can be plausibly argued, could this enormous success at “playing God” only spark our continuing arrogance in ignoring our overreach about our use of planetary resources?

Only time will tell but time for decisive action is rapidity running out.

There is no obvious or certain connection that the ability to alter our genes will lead us to stop the destruction of irreplaceable life sustaining assets of our planet.

However, Issacson writes with elegant passion about the careers of many brilliant scientists including reports these two women—only 2 of only 7 to share in over the 184 Nobel Prizes in chemistry awarded—really have seemed to care little for the money CRISPR has made them.

As Issacson, creator of several multiple masterful biographies, writes on pages 478 and 479 “Curiosity is the key trait of the people who have fascinated me from Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs and Leonardo da Vinci. Curiosity drove James Watson and the Phage Group, who wanted to understand the viruses that attack bacteria, and the Spanish graduate student Francisco Mojica, who intrigued by the clustered repeated sequences of DNA, and Jennifer Doudna, who wanted to understand what made the sleeping grass curl up when you touched it. And maybe that instinct—curiosity, pure curiosity—is what will save us”.

I judge his use of the phase “what will save us” may denote his understanding about overpopulation as a huge threat to stable human life.

Perhaps, but the advice of powerful scientific messengers such as Sir David Attenborough and E.O.Wilson have yet to spark the powerful political curiosity needed to initiate adequate action!

Of course, the primary route to solving the population problem is assuring women who seek family planning that they are accorded full reproductive rights and that certainly has to be made note only strongly the purview of women, but the view of men as well!! Religious power against women often remains a critical impediment to women’s reproductive rights. While their further empowerment has been constantly improving in recent years, the rise of women to top political power must and will continue.

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

Certainly magnificent books such as Isaacson’s will help invoke curiosity, but the advice of powerful scientific messengers such as Attenborough and Wilson and many others have yet to spark the powerful political curiosity needed to initiate adequate action on our overpopulation/consumption crisis!

Human greed, that powerful incentive for encouraging endless striving for growth, can perhaps be spliced like a faulty gene if leaders can grasp and see that no one on a limited planet can win by allowing vital assets for sustaining human life to be destroyed. There are limits to growth and we are fast learning how closely serious climate changes are related to human numbers.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Kindle Store

Code Breaker: New book on Jennifer Doudna & Gene Editing

How CRISPR lets us edit our DNA | Jennifer Doudna

David Attenborough’s Witness Statement (A Life on Our Planet)

Making Peace With Nature – UN Environment Programme

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