How capitalism will save endangered species

From The Washington Examiner

by Dan Hannan| May 10, 2019 12:00 AM

Not long ago, a new variety of orchid was discovered at the Newmarket racecourse in Suffolk, England. The track’s managers were horrified at first. When an endangered plant is found on your land in England, eco-regulators seize control; and this flower was, apparently, the only one of its kind in the world.

But the Jockey Club came up with an ingenious defense. If the orchid truly was unique, it argued, and if it flourished only on ground that had been churned up by horses’ hooves for the better part of 400 years, then surely the correct course was to maintain that unusual habitat.

The inspectors accepted this logic, and the orchid continues to thrive on the turf upon which, in 1672, Charles II became the only reigning monarch to ride a winner.

I thought of Newmarket when I read the United Nations report claiming that a million species faced extinction as a result of population growth, the exploitation of resources, and capitalism in general.

Although the figure has been uncritically relayed by broadcasters, a moment’s thought should make us suspicious. For one thing, we have been here before. In 1980, for example, the Jimmy Carter administration distributed to foreign governments a report claiming that, by the year 2000, 2 million species would be wiped out. In fact, by 2010, there had been 872 documented extinctions.

It is possible, of course, that additional species are being eliminated before they can be classified, though not on anything remotely like the scale suggested here. There are varieties of bacteria, for example, that exist only in one cave or in one grove. If that is what we mean by “species,” then their extinction, coming about through tiny environmental changes, is presumably a common event, with or without human agency.

That, however, is not what most of us understand by the loss of biodiversity. We think, rather, of species failing to survive contact with homo sapiens. We think of polar bears and tigers disappearing, going the way of Galápagos tortoises and Tasmanian tigers.

That would indeed be depressing if it were happening. But it isn’t, at least not in the way that is claimed.

There are five times as many polar bears now as there were 60 years ago. The number of tigers in India has risen by a third over the past decade. As for the giant tortoises and Tasmanian tigers, modern science is close to resurrecting them decades after the last of their kind perished.

Which brings me to the error that lies behind not only this report but much modern eco-thinking: namely, the idea that economic growth is bad for the environment.

Tigers are doing better than lions but not as well as wolves. Why? Because wolves live in rich countries, tigers in middle-income countries, and lions in poor countries.

The wealth generated by markets gives us the luxury of being able to shoot animals with cameras rather than guns. I wrote here a while back about how Alaska — a state which, in the public mind, is run by anti-tax Republican businesses — has seen an almost miraculous recovery in the numbers of previously endangered species, such as eagles, whales, and sea otters.

You breathe cleaner air and drink cleaner water in Washington, D.C., than in Windhoek, Namibia, or Wuhan, China. Why? Because Washington is a wealthier city.

Read the full column here.

45 thoughts on “How capitalism will save endangered species

  1. Wealth, is the lifeblood of prosperous and developed countries.

    There are three things essential to the survival and prosperity of any county. Wealth, abundant, affordable Energy, and Education.

    All three go together and are interdependent. Without any one of them, the others, and that society fail. Forget this at your peril. Only wealthy societies can tolerate the destructive parasitism of environmentalism.

    • I just floated the Amazon river through a part of Peru and was horrified at the garbage in the river. Millions of plastic bottles floating all along the banks and current. In Lima there is a smaller river running through parts of the city that serves as a dump for the poor people that live there. This pollution is all due to poverty, the lack of free markets .

  2. The La Brea tar pits contain the bones of many extinct species. link Many of those died off within the last glaciation and this interglacial, ie. within thirty thousand years. That’s an eye blink in geologic terms.

    Species go extinct. Some day, we will go extinct. In the mean time, I am happy that I don’t have to deal with things like saber toothed tigers.

  3. There are other kinds of wealth. Consider: how many people can afford to pay attention to climate claims long enough, or closely enough to put two and two together, and realise many claims are irrational? Many people cannot afford to find out.

    Time is money, whether in a capitalist economy or some other kind. “Afford” could in future be much more about time than tuppences.

    Although there is a good correlation between species and protection by the rich, it is also true that in some very materially-poor places, the environment is well protected by the people living there because they sacrifice their time and effort to do so.

    One of the more surprising things I witnessed is that the “jungle” in Central Java, Indonesia, looks random, wild and enduring, is it filled with homesteads – thousands upon thousands of them. The jungle is actually managed, and has been for centuries, as an enormous permaculture garden. It just looks wild and random to the occasional visitor because it is not laid out like an English country garden.

    Now, whether this means it is “capitalism” that produces the lush habitat for thousands of species of winged and walking creatures is hard to judge. Perhaps a broader definition of wealth is needed.

    The freedom to choose to work with the environment is the key contributor. In general a capital investment or a return on investment orientation is going to give better results. Clearly there is an ethic at play as well. Money doesn’t have ethics, people do. Well, some of them.

  4. Capitalism being what it is, I saw first-hand an example of capitalism and threatened extinction once while driving through Bishop, California. This was during the late 90’s when there was a “stop everything” government mandate to save the desert pupfish, which lived in springs on the edge of Death Valley. Some capitalist, who obviously didn’t like the wholesale halt to industry, had printed, and sold, I presume, a bumper sticker that said:
    IT TAKES A THOUSAND PUPFISH
    TO MAKE A SANDWICH

  5. No Greater testimony to the true agenda of the environmentalist movement It is a political agenda. It is not about science and nature.
    That would be obvious if the press asked questions and reported all the answers rather than filtering reports based upon whether they hinder or support a leftist ideological leaning.

  6. Wuhan China is sometimes referred to as the Detroit of China. I think that is an apt description but the air in Wuhan is definitely worse.

  7. “You breathe cleaner air and drink cleaner water in Washington, D.C., than in Windhoek, Namibia, or Wuhan, China. Why? Because Washington is a wealthier city”.
    But Capitalismi is a social issue.

    • Because Washington is a wealthier city.

      Made totally possible through the powers of The Police State to tax, fine, regulate, extort, plunder and inflate the currency.

      Washington D.C. is hostile to anything that creates genuine wealth.

  8. My wife found this article which brought to mind the pessimism for the survival of whooping cranes because of their tiny numbers and lack of genetic diversity. https://www.claremont.org/crb/article/giving-up-darwin/

    It has even been suggested with some evidence that rare species may actually be more fit, discussed long ago by Haldane in 1932 The Causes of Evolution, 1990 reprint, Princeton Univ. Press. Nice to have your work survive modern ‘understanding.’ This one is also interesting. Coyne, J. A. 2010. Why Evolution is True. Penguin Books.

    Seems as if we still have a lot to learn. Not always, as we define it, so intelligent design it seems, at many levels. Lots of species still win the lottery. Part of what may be going on is biologists too enthralled with “socialist” species like ants.

    • And while we are at it my wife also just found this. Wilson was one of the students of ants, coined the term Sociobiology, which may have been or at least so seen as a way to distinguish it from Ethology, both studies of animal behavior, the latter perhaps more specifically oriented.

      https://www.chronicle.com/article/A-Legendary-Scientist-Sounds/246257

      “I am unhappy about STEM……That was a radical-left view: the future of biology would be to adopt a Marxist philosophy. Biology was to be socialist, far-left, and it was to profit by Marxist ideology and Marxist ways of thinking. This was something they saw as important to the future of science….There are lots of ways in which science can be politicized. We’re in the middle of one right now with climate warming…..And yet the collections are not being used effectively to train people in biodiversity. They’re being neglected.”

      I lived through it. When his Sociobiology book came out I had interesting discussions with a brilliant colleague who they ran off. The more they talked diversity the less there was.

  9. Despite all the doom and gloom prognostication more species will be endangered by the changes in their habitat from temperature deviations of -1.5C than by +1.5C.

  10. If you check the list of “recent extinct mammals” most of them were rodents living on small islands. Probably didn’t exist on the island until accidentally introduced by Polynesian colonization, quickly speciated by in-breeding, then eliminated by house cats a few centuries later. Very questionable as to whether such should even be considered an extinction event. A couple on the list like the Chinese river Dolphin simply could not be relocated to habitat not taken over by a competing species, in this case humans.

  11. “There are varieties of bacteria, for example, that exist only in one cave or in one grove.”

    Then there are those strep bacteria that currently live in my throat for which I am taking 500 mg of Keflex twice a day to wipe those little bastards out.

  12. 99% to 99.9% of all species that ever existed are now extinct.
    Long before CO2 emissions.
    That’s life on Earth.
    Humans have no obligation to interfere.

    • 99% to 99.9% of all species that ever existed are now extinct

      I don’t know how that can possibly be confirmed to be true.

      From a Creationist perspective, “each produced after their own kind” so you get Mendelian Inheritance and a continued drain of genetic information over time as certain traits are lost through geographical isolation, adaptation and genetic entropy – we should expect to see permutations of different genetic types with many unable to survive. The new orchid is just yet another variation of the parent orchid “kind”.

      From an Evolutionist perspective, genetic information is being added through an overwhelming number of beneficial dominant mutations (as opposed to destructive mutations) such that new species ought to be popping up all over the place, including the successor to H. s. sapiens. Should we mourn the loss of any “missing link” because its some sort of crime to lose a species?

    • Since there is no hard evidence that of high rates of extinction, it’s more correct to say the 99.9% of species that never existed are now extinct.

  13. Don’t know about the genetics here but we knew the spill was overhyped due to lack of homework.

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2201564-pollution-proof-fish-borrow-genes-from-relatives-to-survive-toxins/ This is supposedly introgression to grandis (Gulf species ) from heteroclitus (Atlantic species) requiring (?) transport of the latter. Proving transport is difficult and there is an ocean capture and Bermuda population of the latter. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6439/455

    Hey fellows can we borrow your genes?

  14. I wonder how many species went extinct when the jungle in southeast Cameroon was forceably depopulated of Baka pygmies and chopped down to grow palm oil for diesel cars in Europe. Parts of this jungle were already ceded to Safari/hunting companies and the people beaten by wildlife officers and the army for ‘illegal’ hunting in there own home territory. The green ba*stards exploited ugly tribalism by rulers in Cameroon to do this to these people. Multiply the species threat to Indonesia and other diesel pakm areas to b*ugger up one part of the planet to ‘save’ it.

  15. Would be intrigued to know the identity of the UNIQUE Orchid at Newmarket Racecourse that Daniel Hannan speaks of. I can’t find any reference to it on the web at all. Hannan is a reliable guy and, if it is an exaggeration, I doubt that he has initiated it. There are local orchids there, and the Lizard Orchid is famously found there, but it certainly isn’t unique.

    Any UK botanists listening out who can shed a little light on this?

    • The orchids at Newmarket, including the rare lizard orchids, do not grow on the ground that has been churned up by horses’ hooves for 400 years. They grow on the chalk Devil’s Dyke, a prehistoric earthwork (a protected monument) higher than the actual course and unchurned by horses.

      So, whatever it’s source, the story that the Jockey Club argued that the churned up turf provided habitat for the orchid and the environmental inspectors accepted this seems rather dubious.

      • Thanks, Tom. Yep, I know Devil’s Dyke – a man-made nature gem! So no unique orchid, found nowhere else in the world, then? Lizard is found widely in Europe, though it’s always very local.

        That’s what I thought. Opinion pieces like this one invariably weaken their point by large exaggerations, especially when reporting snippets of science or nature that the writer knows little about.

        I’m a big fan of Dan Hannan and it’s a shame to see him suckered into this kind of misreporting. Quite unnecessary, in my view, as the argument he makes stands well without the dodgy illustrations. Matt Ridley, on the same subject (and maybe same source), is better grounded and more accurate.

  16. Properly regulated hunting IS one of the best tools we have for preserving wildlife.

    According to no less a body than the IUCN, there are only two areas in the world that have seen major increases in wildlife numbers on a landscape-wide scale over the last century. They are Southern Africa and North America. Both of those models were built around sport-hunting.

    Conservation is not cheap. Simply declaring a few species, or a parcel of land “off limits” and declaring the job done has signally failed. Kenya lost 70% if its once populous wildlife AFTER it enacted a ban on all forms of Sport-hunting. In poor nations, and particularly the poor rural areas of poor nations, animals are meat. Meat is valuable, and meat-poachers kill everything. Males, females, juveniles. “Wildlife” is typically regarded as pests that eat crops and compete with cattle and goats for forage. Large wildlife are dangerous pests that may kill you or you family. Africans did not weep for “Cecil” the lion. Living with elephants is like living next to a gang that will take your food if they feel like it, and kill you if you try to stop them. They are wild animals, and Africa is not a Disney theme park.

    This is where capitalism comes in.
    Only trophy-hunting makes a tiny percentage (around 1%) of elephants so valuable that it pays to tolerate and protect the 99%. That 1% are the old males which have already passed on their genetics, and hence are the most easily spared from the breeding population. The same applies to lions. Where they have no value and kill livestock, they are routinely poisoned by bush Africans. Only the income generated by trophy hunters makes it worthwhile to tolerate their depredations…… and where the “iconic” species are protected, all the less well-known species flourish as well. Over the last few decades, an area far greater than all the Parks and Reserves in Africa has had its livestock removed, fences torn up, and had wildlife protected. (In many cases, reintroduced).

    White Rhinos are the classic example. A government without the resources to adequately protect the almost-extinct remnants, legislated to permit private ownership of the animals. Private capital relocated, protected and bred White Rhinos until they were no longer endangered.

    Yes… the idea of hunting seems counter-intuitive to many and downright abhorrent to some, but the Africans have a saying, ‘If it pays, it stays.” Camera-tourism generates a significant amount of income, but the vast majority of tourists flock to the big-name Parks where high wildlife numbers and spectacular scenery are serviced by paved roads and five-star resorts. Few wish to travel for hours or days over unsealed roads through scrubby, semi-arid landscapes where the only visible wildlife are little more than dots in the distance. None will pay the kind of fees that hunters do, or endure the conditions. No photograph will feed entire villages for free, the way a single hunted elephant will. (No edible meat is wasted, why would it be?)

    Managing wildlife with hunting in view is like managing farmed animals IN THIS RESPECT. Farmers and hunter both take a SURPLUS. If we take too many, there are none left for the future, and you better believe that we are concerned for the future. If it pays, it stays. This principle has proved true around the world. Whether individually or cooperatively, hunters have preserved Wetlands in Australia, forests in Europe and grouse-moors in England.

    No-one is demanding that you like this, particularly if your dream is of some Edenic Utopia where the lion and the lamb eat grass together, but in a world where people have to eat and resources are limited, the most successful wildlife conservation has occurred where wildlife pays its way. If YOU aren’t paying for it, who will?

    • As the comedian said “if you want to save the spotted owl, open a Kentucky Fried Spotted Owl shop”. After all, we’re never going to run out of chickens.

    • Much of what I read here I already know, since there isn’t much that is really new about in climate change issue, but I feel truly educated by your well-written post, PeterW! Thank you!

  17. The orchids at Newmarket, including the rare lizard orchids, do not grow on the ground that has been churned up by horses’ hooves for 400 years. They grow on the chalk Devil’s Dyke, a prehistoric earthwork (a protected monument) higher than the actual course and unchurned by horses.

    So, whatever it’s source, the story that the Jockey Club argued that the churned up turf provided habitat for the orchid and the environmental inspectors accepted this seems rather dubious.

  18. “flourished only on ground that had been churned up by horses’ hooves”

    Then, horses must churn of greater areas of England’s turf! So the orchid can flourish over greater areas!

    “om Foley May 11, 2019 at 4:37 pm
    The orchids at Newmarket, including the rare lizard orchids, do not grow on the ground that has been churned up by horses’ hooves for 400 years. They grow on the chalk Devil’s Dyke, a prehistoric earthwork (a protected monument) higher than the actual course and unchurned by horses.

    So, whatever it’s source, the story that the Jockey Club argued that the churned up turf provided habitat for the orchid and the environmental inspectors accepted this seems rather dubious.”

    I assume the argument is that the orchid thrives at Newmarket and has apparently thrived for over 400 years.
    Eco-good intentions could certainly be the extinction of those orchids.

    • Devils Duke is about 12 km long and only a small section of it runs along one side of Newmarket racecourse. It has provided a refuge for a range of species along its entire length; there is greater variety including woodland at the southern end away from Newmarket. There is no likelihood that the racecourse has had any special role in the conservation of the plant species. The dyke is just a narrow linear ridge that didn’t lend itself to farming or building, so retained the natural vegetation. Perhaps legends about it, note the name Devils Dyke, discouraged people from doing anything to it. Perhaps a lesson? Deter humans from a place, and vegetation and wildlife will flourish c.f. Chernobyl.

      • Devils Dyke is one of the long lava flows (in-fill spots in the original crustal cracks) that helped the 1800-1850 English researchers det4ermine magnetic drift and magnetic field changes in England. Then Canada, US, and worldwide.

  19. The US private sector spends $2 trillion/year on government regulation compliance, most of which are EPA regulations, which for perspective, is a little less than the ENTIRE GDP of India, which has a population 3 times as large the US…

    Since 1980, US air pollutants have been slashed 60~99% at the cost of 10’s of $trillions:

    https://www.epa.gov/air-trends/air-quality-national-summary

    Idiot Leftists like AOC propose wasting $100 trillion on the absurd CAGW Hoax, which would bankrupt the US for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and would, ironically, make it impossible to adhere to existing environmental policies and regulations…

    Free-market economies and the prosperity they bring are the best means to clean air, water and healthy habitats.. Socialism leads to devastating environmental problems..

    That’s the lesson of history..

  20. “capitalism will save endangered species”
    “it flourished only on ground that had been churned up by horses’ hooves”

    RIP scepticism.

  21. Some good points but these are just asinine at best. Things are so much more nuanced than this.. Monetary wealh creates health and prosperity? That’s only a part of the equation.

    “Tigers are doing better than lions but not as well as wolves. Why? Because wolves live in rich countries, tigers in middle-income countries, and lions in poor countries.”
    “You breathe cleaner air and drink cleaner water in Washington, D.C., than in Windhoek, Namibia, or Wuhan, China. Why? Because Washington is a wealthier city.”

  22. Factually wrong like most MSM stories. The orchid is Himantoglossum hircinum which is rare, but by no means unique or new. And it doesn’t grow on the racecourse proper, but rather on a part of Devil’s Dyke that runs through to racecourse.

  23. Extinction this, extinction that. Yap, yap, yap. The planet is fine fine. The planet got along fine without us before we existed at all, especially as the dominant hominid species. The self-righteous goodie-two shoes mindset doesn’t help the planet at all. It will get along fine without us, long after we’re gone.

    There seems to be a sort of ‘let’s wipe out all humans’ mindset in the ecohippies, which points to a suicidal bent. Or maybe it’s just “all talk” with them – all show and no “go”. The idiotic behavior in London a short while ago was full of noise and fury and produced nothing except hot air from politicians, people who are afraid of large crowds. But it’s part of a cycle and at some point, the cycle ends, just as they all do.

  24. These days, if a population of something dies out, then it’s recoded as an extinction. Like a population of non-migratory caribou in the mountains of BC. which is ridiculous, as all caribou are the same species. There are millions of caribou around the world, but caribou extinctions are continuously in the news. The same is true for many species. Barn owls, for example, are reported to be in danger of extinction….in Ontario. so what? Ontario has never been a great place for barn owls. Barn owls, by the way, are common in many areas all around the world. Dozens of so-called imminent extinctions fit this mold. Ridiculous.

  25. Nobody really knows how many species exist today on earth, but the general estimate or guess seems to be something on the order of 1 trillion.

    So losing 1 million species over the coming century or so represents approximately 1 in one million species. And this is a “crisis”???

    We know of specific actual extinction crises in geologic history wherein approximately 65 to 90 plus percent of all then-existing species disappeared more or less instantaneously due to major disturbances.

    I submit that losing 1 millionth of today’s species over the next century does not even fall into the noise level of the number of species on earth at any time in the last half billion years. Natural selection and continuous evolution likely causes vastly more species extinctions than any sort of interaction with humans ever causes.

    Oh, and all those lovable species (???) like polar bears and penguins and bald eagles and baby seals will NOT be among the species lost. The lost species will be the ones that virtually no actual people have ever seen or heard of in their entire lives, including PhD degreed scientists, not just the unwashed masses.

  26. Devils Duke is about 12 km long and only a small section of it runs along one side of Newmarket racecourse. It has provided a refuge for a range of species along its entire length; there is greater variety including woodland at the southern end away from Newmarket. There is no likelihood that the racecourse has had any special role in the conservation of the plant species. The dyke is just a narrow linear ridge that didn’t lend itself to farming or building, so retained the natural vegetation. Perhaps legends about it, note the name Devils Dyke, discouraged people from doing anything to it. Perhaps a lesson? Deter humans from a place, and vegetation and wildlife will flourish c.f. Chernobyl.

  27. “In fact, by 2010, there had been 872 documented extinctions.”
    ___________________________________________________

    ctm, in order to prove this claim, you must now seek out all possible habitats for these species, accessible or not.

    And you have to prove for each one of these possible habitats that there is not a single individual of the searched for species.

    have fun!

Comments are closed.