Animals, plants, fungi, and the rest of the natural world are sacred to me. I want to protect them as well as other life-forms. To this end, the Guardian Program is something I have been thinking about for a long time. At its core, the program focusses on human beings as guardians of other living species. This is in stark contrast to our current role as exploiters of the natural world. This Guardian program would facilitate the preservation of life on our planet as well as the celestial expansion of life, along with humans, as we colonize the solar system. This is a theoretical program in 2020. However, I am hoping to make such a program a reality in the next several years. However, I wanted to lay out the basic premise to see what people think.
This program would build on existing infrastructure, other organizations, and require multinational support. At its most developed stage, such a guardian program would help facilitate celestial engineering/geoscaping, or the use of living organisms to transform extraplanetary environments into habitable paradises. Imagine using oxygen and nitrogen forming bacteria to create an atmosphere on Mars. What is possible has not yet been defined!
Humans are responsible for the massive biological extinction currently occurring on our planet. Habitat destruction, pollution, and the overharvesting of natural resources are perhaps the most noteworthy causes of the biodiversity crisis.
Please take a look at my recent blog post, Genetically Sequencing all Life on Earth – The Earth Biogenome Project, if you have not already. Basically, a team made up of hundreds of international organizations are trying to sequence the genomes of all 1.5 million known Eukaryotic species on the planet in 10 years. This represents just a fraction of all life on earth. However, if achieved, the beneficial effects will ripple through all levels of our society.
Why Genomes Do Not Tell the Full Story
While genomes are profoundly important, they do not tell the whole story. Genes are used as blueprints to build proteins. Proteins work in symphony, catalyzing reactions and forming cellular building blocks. Remember you cannot understand a symphony with one violinist, you need the whole ensemble. These proteins can only form correctly with the aid of other proteins, among multiple other factors, and additional poorly understood variables.
As such, I have doubts about the ability to perfectly recreate a complex life form based on genetic material alone. Sorry Jurassic Park. On top of this, mitochondria, or the energy factories of the cell have their own DNA, which in humans comes from mom. This makes things even more complicated.
Taking things a step further, species only really make sense when we understand their natural environment and the forces that shaped them. Humans cannot be understood, without understanding the factors in which we were formed such as gravity and an atmosphere with 21% oxygen. While the DNA sequence or genome of a species is an important part of the story, it really isn’t the whole story. People talk about epigenetics, or the factors on top of our genes which make us, us. Epigenetic factors can cause genetic diseases, just like mutations in DNA base pairs. However, like most things, our understanding remains primitive.
In summary, a living representative of a species, present within its native habitat are needed to tell the complete story, regarding any given life-form.
Humans in Space
I believe that mankind entered the first phase of a new era in 1961 when Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut became the first man in space. The next great leap will be establishing self-sustaining colonies on other celestial bodies, namely the moon and mars. Thank goodness, brilliant-forward thinking people are working on this as we speak.
This new Era comes at a time when we are rapidly and irreversible catalyzing the extinction of numerous living species on our planet. The space on earth is getting tight. Humans are growing in numbers. The amount of space and resources each of us require are also increasing. However, As soon as we are not so earth bound, this may change.
Bringing other Life with Us as We Colonize the Solar System
When humans finally take the great leap, and begin initiating self-sustaining colonies on the moon, Mars, and beyond we will not be going alone. For starters, humans are covered in more bacterial cells than human cells. This is known as the human microbiome and means, at baseline, we are already walking-talking ecosystems. However, these little mutualistic friends are just the beginning.
Humans depend on other life forms for food, medicine, materials, and even just pure enjoyment. Surrounding ourselves with plants and animals puts us at ease. This is why we have houseplants and gardens. It is also why taking walks in the forest are so beneficial to health. The treasure of earth is the diversity of life it harbors. Everything else, can essentially be replaced. Life has so much left to give us in the form of knowledge, products, and enjoyment. However, as species are dying off before they can be studied and sometime before even being discovered, so much information is being lost forever.
For the reasons listed thus far, I believe we need to start actively protecting, learning about, and cultivating, as many living species as is technologically possible. To this end I propose:
The Guardian Program
- Categorize and genetically sequence all life on earth, store all information in a publicly available forum (earthbiogenome.org).
- Learn, document, and teach others to cultivate, reproduce, and maintain all known species in perpetuity.
- Obtain information regarding all species native habitats. Document with photos, environmental conditions, and written descriptions.
- Take steps to protect the natural ecosystem of every living species on the planet
- Design protocols for safely transporting other life-forms off of our planet to self-sustaining colonies. Provide living specimens and training to such an end.
- Ensure earth’s living treasures accompany humans as we become extra-terrestrial
- Preserve the diversity of life
- Pass on valuable information to as many people as possible
- Teamwork and collaboration on a multinational level
- Change human mentality – Transition from exploiters of life to guardians of life
- Facilitate science and innovation. Science leads to more and better science.
- Future human colonies with abundant diversity of life and habitable conditions resembling that of earth.
1. Every species would have a “guardian”. Such a guardian, would be an individual person motivated by preservation of the species and teaching others to that end. Being a guardian of a given species would be a great privilege. While an entity may share in guardianship responsibilities and even fund such an endeavor, every species, would need a discrete individual, to serve as its guardian. Guardians are responsible for training new guardians.
2. Guardians would have the ability to self-fund and self-publish their work. Outside funding is acceptable, however if such additional funding is removed, the guardian would be responsible for assuming costs. Guardians are permitted to make money off of their species, so long as this monetization does not compromise the values of the guardianship program.
3. Guardians would first and foremost be experts in their species. They would be familiar on a biological, cultural, cultivation/care, and resource management level. Guardians would maintain and update an extensive report detailing a species from a genomic, molecular, biological, environmental, and behavioral standpoint. This document would also contain detailed information on how to grow, reproduce, and care for a given species. Recommended transport strategies and a list of necessary materials would also be needed. As species depend on other life forms to survive, collaboration with other guardians to minimalize cargo for space voyages will be very important.
4. All guardians, reports, genomes, and other relevant links would be available in one-publicly available website or forum.
Humans are destroying the rich biodiversity present on planet earth. This mass extinction is occurring, just as humans are gaining the skills necessary to become an extraterrestrial species. When humans do finally establish self-sustaining colonies on other celestial bodies, we will want and need to take other living species with us. The Guardian program would serve as a means to both protect species as well as facilitate their presence on extra-terrestrial colonies. A guardian is an individual who protects, cultivates, studies, and teaches others about a given species, which they guard. Being a guardian is an altruistic and self-funded venture. Guardians are responsible for maintaining publicly available species data as well as training future guardians. Information on all guardians and links to their data will need to be easily accessible to all.
- Learning how to transport and care for groups of species in a sustainable-perpetual manor will help inform terrestrial production methods utilized on earth.
- By utilizing life and particularly microorganisms, humans will some day be able to engineer other planets to make atmosphere, soil, and other natural resources.