Serious error, chapter 6
Saifedean’s discussion of scarcity in natural resources is a rather ignorant perspective (not stupid, but ignorant in the sense of not knowing). When he says it is ridiculous to worry about overfishing the ocean, he is ignoring many historical cases of where humans have depleted or even made species extinct – for the sake of harvesting resources.
1) The saddest example might be the bison of the American great plains. There used to be almost unimaginably vast herds of bison over much of US land. But because they were easy to hunt, and mainly for their hides, the bison were hunted (by transplanted Europeans) to near extinction, which is where they stand today.
2) My favorite example is the woolly mammoth which used to roam the US (and Eurasia, I think). Records told by artefacts, and extant skeleton and even frozen bodies of these animals, which had no other natural enemy, were hunted to extinction.
3) The most famous example is the dodo bird. Interestingly, this bird was over hunted mainly for food, rather than the myth that people just hated them. They were basically great big fat chickens, with no natural predators. Their flesh would be tender b/c they were never challenged. They were sitting ducks, so to speak.
4) How about whales? These large animals have no natural predators and we have not destroyed their habitat (yet). There is absolutely no reason why they should be endangered species, except that they were over hunted for food and oil. In fact, Japan and Iceland are still over hunting.
5) Another fish is the freshwater sturgeon of the great lakes. Sturgeon take literally decades to mature, and they taste very good. Now they are endangered.
6) Need I mention Rhinoceros? Hunted to near extinction for their horns? Or some species of elephant, over hunted for ivory.
7) Not just animals. Consider mahogany, beautiful wood highly valued for furniture, etc. Now it is so rare that it is illegal to import it into the US.
That is a short list of animals that are extinct or endangered to the point that they are no longer useful sources of resources for human beings.
So you’re saying we can’t fish all the fish out of the ocean? If you think that all fish are fungible, then maybe that is true. But I’d rather be eating tuna than the dregs of bottom feeders in the ocean.
And now, for some blatantly chauvinistic opinions.
Saifedean is brilliant, learned and a great writer. But sometimes he blows shit out his ass that he knows nothing about. Like his understanding (or not) of abstract art — not Jackson Pollack, but Kandinsky, Miro, Calder, u.s.w, not to mention Picasso and Braque. Or when saifedean says that all the greatest inventions came in the 19th century. What about the solid state transistor, which was impossible until we discovered quantum mechanics? Or jet engines, or computers, or the internet, u.s.w. I won’t take the time to compare here, but the 20th century was not inferior to the 19th, in terms of inventions.
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