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Marin Environmentalist Claims Recreating Extinct Species Is Possible

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Stewart Brand poses for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Stewart Brand poses for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. (Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

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LONG BEACH (CBS SF) – Speaking from the prestigious TED Conference in Long Beach Wednesday, Sausalito activist Stewart Brand said scientists are developing the ability to reassemble an extinct animal’s genome, and even recreate the animal itself.

Brand, who gained fame after he campaigned to have the original NASA space photos of earth published, and subsequently created the Whole Earth Catalog, said Wednesday that “de-extinction” could be used to help restore organisms and habitats damaged human activity, according to a report in the Marin Independent Journal.

A team of Harvard geneticists are currently working to bring back the passenger pigeon, which has been extinct since 1914, according to the TED website. The passenger pigeon is considered a keystone species because it aided the survival of the buffalo, according to TED. Researchers believe it may now be possible to alter the genetic makeup of a close relative, the band-tailed pigeon, to re-engineer the passenger pigeon.

The Jurassic Park-like science was already used to recreate an extinct variety of wild mountain goat in 2010, but the animal died after just minutes due to a lung defect, reports TED.

Brand said he hopes advancements in the field will help reverse some of the damage done to earth by humans.

“Humans have made a huge hole in nature in the last 10,000 years,” Brand said. “We have the ability now, and maybe the moral obligation, to repair some of the damage.”

Brand was one of 50 speakers at this week’s conference. Videos from their events have generated a huge online following for TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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