There’s a lot of news fuss about celebrity deaths, but mostly people don’t care. As a rule, the rich and mighty are well known but loved sparingly; every once in a while, though, you can get genuinely torn up by a famous stranger’s death. For people of a certain age, there was John Lennon. For people of a certain taste, there was Michael Jackson. For me, there was Michael Crichton, who died six years ago, when I was a freshman undergrad.
Like many Crichton fans, I was hooked by Jurassic Park. The book, not the movie — I’m not a snob about these things; it’s just one hell of a good book. The movie, for its own part, is an established classic. There’s a new Jurassic Park movie coming out sometime next year; it got a lot of press this week because its trailer debuted. It looks as if the plot will hew, basically, to the original premise: dinosaurs cloned back into existence. Good pulp stuff. But I’m not just throwing the movie some NRO publicity — this is a follow-up to my column last week re China’s genocide of Tibetans and its Falun Gong neo-Buddhists.
If you didn’t read it (I suggest you do, but), I’ll sum it up: The Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorial governance of China has extended to erasing Tibet and harvesting a religious minority’s organs. These rank near the top of the CCP’s crimes; there are others.
In 1973, OPEC tried (and to a nontrivial extent, succeeded in) artificially turning world opinion against Israel by denying oil to Israel’s allies. This year, OPEC’s influence on the fuel market is finally being washed away by America’s science acumen. Specifically: fracking; hydraulically fracturing rock to release heretofore untappable petroleum reserves.
China has its own OPEC-style monopoly. China owns every single panda bear in the world.
There was a time when China gave pandas as gifts. In fact, “panda diplomacy” dates back to the 7th century, when a Tang empress gave a pair of bears to the emperor of Japan. In 1972, modern China revived the practice; Mao celebrated Nixon’s visit by giving the U.S. a pair of pandas. Suddenly, everyone wanted a panda, and over the next two decades, bichrome bears were bestowed on eight other grateful targets of Chinese diplomacy. But in 1984, the pandathon abruptly ended.
China continued to bestow pandas only on select countries, but they stopped being gifts. They were rentals. American zoos could apply for panda sets, but the bears would come with ten-year contracts, at the price of $1 million per couple per year. The CCP would retain bear ownership — including ownership of any cubs born during the loan. In fact, a cub ads $600,000 to your annual tab, and has to be returned with its parents. None of the original gift-pandas are alive; neither are their progeny. Every last panda on the planet is controlled by the People’s dictators in Beijing.
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for free men to dissolve a criminal government’s monopoly over a species of cuddly bears, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the dissolution. Every year, American zoos pay millions in panda money to a government that tortures, murders, and harvests the organs of its citizens, en masse. It uses its God-given pandas to put an adorable face on the genocide of Tibet. No free people — least of all, a nation founded on the self-evident truth that all men are created equal — should be in business with such a government.
So let us turn to science. Hydraulic fracturing won’t break up the panda trust — but a number of American companies and universities have become quite adept at cloning.
The first successful clone was a Scottish sheep named Dolly, born at Edinburgh U in 1996. Contrary to common belief, she was healthy, produced a string of healthy lambs, and died six years later of causes unrelated to her atypical origin. These days, cloning is — if not routine — an established procedure. Cats, dogs, and horses have all been cloned. Also cows, pigs, buffalo, deer, rats, rabbits, ferrets, flies, and so on. A mouse was cloned from a frozen mouse who had died 16 years earlier. A type of endangered bison called a gaur was cloned, in a first step toward test-tube conservation. Cloned mules race on the Nevada mule-race circuit. (Really.)
The great thing about Michael Crichton novels is the way they render fantastic ideas utterly plausible — like the recovery of dinosaur DNA from the blood of blood-sucking insects preserved in prehistoric amber. The half-life of DNA isn’t quite 65 million years, so for the time being, we won’t be able to bring that off. But here’s something we could: Let’s get to work cloning our own pandas.
Write your congressman.
— Josh Gelernter writes weekly for NRO and is a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard.