Brian's Reviews > Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World

Cod by Mark Kurlansky
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's review
Jan 12, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: history, non-fiction
Read in January, 2011

It seems that humanity goes through the same disastrous steps every time we exploit a finite natural resource.

First we discover the resource and begin to harness its economic benefits. Merchants and scientists agree that nature's bounty is limitless and can never be exhausted by man. Next, we apply technological advances that allow us to harvest the resource at an ever increasing pace. Human population increases, and with it the market for the resource. Improved transportation technology allows the product to be carried to new markets, resulting in perpetual profit growth. Fortunes are made, and no contrary argument can be tolerated.

Eventually clear evidence appears that the resource is being exhausted. At this point a representative of the relevant industry will come forth to argue that the warnings are mere hysteria, and everything is OK. Individuals with a financial stake in the industry will propose that "the science isn't in yet," and "We don't know for sure." The cost to extract the resource increases as deposits diminish, but the exploitation continues. Finally, the obvious cannot be ignored, and regulatory restrictions are enacted. This usually comes only after the resource has been exploited beyond recovery.

This book highlights a frustrating aspect of human nature that we seem powerless to overcome. From logging to whaling to oil to cod, the same story is told over and over.

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