06/19/2013 05:20 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What If There Were Lions in America?

What if there were lions in America? No, I'm not joking, and neither was Josh Kling when he asked, "What If We Could Bring Back Extant Species" at the last What If...? Conference. And, no, "extant" isn't some new slang you should be embarrassed for not knowing. But, if we all feel at least a little embarrassed for what kind of stewards we've been for the animals we've shared Spaceship Earth with for the duration of our existence, then perhaps "extant" is an excellent word to learn.

So, what exactly is Josh asking when he asks about bring extant species to North America? He explains in his presentation below. Here's an overview: The ecosystems we see around us used to be filled with species such as lions, elephants, cheetahs, and camels. These were all normal residents of North America at one time. To scientists, they are referred to as "extant," meaning that they did not die out completely (extinct), they only died out in a specific area. What if we could restore these extant animals to where they once lived? Is it a good idea and how would that change our relationship with nature?

Who is Josh Kling? Josh is a budding naturalist who is passionate about life. More specifically, he is passionate about lifeforms. His passion drives him to try to find strange and remarkable things no one else has seen before. He is a future researcher who dreams of pushing our understanding of the natural world and enhancing our awe of it. Future accomplishments include: the reintroduction of extant large animal species to North America and the discovery of life on another planet.

What If We Could Bring Back Extant Species?