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.