Thursday, May 31, 2007

Species Inflation; The Latest Green Con

The Economist alerts its readers to the latest Greenie wheez.

They reveal that over the past 20 years we have witnessed a massive reclassification of animals from sub-species to distinct species, particularly in the area of "charismatic megafuana" (cuddly animals to you and me).

There are two reason for this switch;

i) The idea of a species becoming extinct is easy to grasp and makes newspaper headlines. The wiping out of a sub-species may only make page 45 of the National Geographic.

ii) Upgrading subspecies to species increases the number of rare species, thereby augmenting the biodiversity of a piece of habitat and thus its claim for protection.


Two examples nicely demonstrate species inflation;

1. According to their DNA, polar bears are merely white, brown bears (think Knut). Not good news for those who rely on the Endangered Species Act.

2. The Bahamas used to protect their local raccoons, but switched to eradicating them when they discovered that genetically they were no different from the common Northern raccoon.

In the long term, as every economist worth his salt knows, inflation of a currency brings devaluation. Or as Keynes put it,

"There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency"