Christopher X J. Jensen
Associate Professor, Pratt Institute

National Geographic on the yartsa gunbu bubble

Posted 23 Aug 2012 / 0

National Geographic Tibetan Gold

This story encapsulates a whole host of unsustainable human behaviors:

  • First, we have people over-harvesting an ecological product in a manner that risks its collapse;
  • Second, the over-harvesting is driven by a cultural superstition that has spread without any real basis in fact; and
  • Third, the entire over-valuation of these parasite-infested-worms is driven by a growing Chinese economy that has produced a few extraordinarily rich people.

Or, if you prefer the parasite’s-eye-view:

  • This fungus infects this worm, but if people keep harvesting infected worms before the fungus can reproduce, the supply of infected worms will decline; and
  • The idea that these worms have medicinal value has spread as a memetic parasite through segments of the Chinese population, despite the fact that these worms may have no real benefit; and
  • The fact that we have so many economic parasites allows these exploiters to pay ridiculous sums of money for these infested worms.
A Minor Post, Anthropogenic Change, Articles, Belief, Biodiversity Loss, Coevolution, Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Evolution, Ecology, Economic sustainability, Ecosystem Services, Memetic Fitness, Parasitism, Population Growth, Resource Consumption, Sustainable Harvesting, System Stability, Tundra

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