Pine Nuts: Lonesome George |

Pine Nuts: Lonesome George

Once upon a time there was a handsome devil named Lonesome George. He came to be known as Lonesome George because, handsome as he was, he could not find a romantic interest.

I wish I could share a photo of him here, as you would fall down on the floor over his good looks. We have no photos of female tortoises hanging around Lonesome George, mainly because there were no females left. You see, Lonesome George was the last tortoise of his species to survive on this planet. He died without much fanfare in the Galapagos seven years ago, though he is much missed today.

Why do we miss Lonesome George? We miss him because his lost contribution to our day was that he was carrying genes linked to a robust immune system, efficient DNA repair, and resistance to cancer.

“We miss you, George!”

Early this month we lost another Lonesome George, a 14-year-old Hawaiian snail who was the very last of his kind. He’s pickled in a jar of alcohol today, but here’s the good news, scientists saved a piece of George’s foot (yes, snails have feet — I didn’t know that either). The idea is that someday we will have the wherewithal to clone another Lonesome George, who will indeed be lonesome, until such a time as we can figure out how to create a Lonesome Georgette.

The calm and steady hand that rocks us from cradle to the grave might possibly keep us from exterminating ourselves overnight, but in slow motion, over the past 400 years we have seen the extinction of 89 mammalians, with another 169 species listed as critically endangered. As the Beach Boys plead in their song, “Hep Me Rhonda, Hep Hep Me Rhonda!”

Then comes news that California’s beautiful Monarch Butterfly is in a death spiral. They might already be in “extinct vortex,” where there are not enough left to survive.

Last week, the scientific journal “Science Advances” published a study that indicates over half of all wild coffee beans worldwide are in danger of going extinct due to the ravages of climate change. According to this study, it is estimated that 50 percent of the world’s land used to grow coffee will not be farmable by the year 2100.

Personally, without coffee in the morning, I won’t care whether the world keeps or not.

But here’s the question that scares the daylights out of me … when we humankinds are extinct, who is going to clone us? And if, like artists, we are never fully appreciated until we are gone, who is going to appreciate us?

We can take a little comfort in an idea that Mark Twain put forth some time ago. When the world does come to an end, well, we could go to Cincinnati, because Cincinnati always has been, and always will be, 20 years behind the times.

In closing, we are the first generation to comprehend the dire effects of our toxic polluting, and we might be the last to be able to do anything about it, so doing nothing is no longer an option.

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at

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