kill fewer than 10 humans worldwide each year as natural predators. But hundreds of millions of sharks – which collectively have a far lower planetary biomass than humans (yet are essential to healthy marine ecosystems) - are killed each year for their fins due to the myth that shark-fin soup is healthy. There is no species so useless that your species can ’ t create a compelling narrative to kill it off. As it nears extinction, a species’ scarcity paradoxically makes it, as you say, a Veblen good, driving up the dollar prices, so the species is not even saved from exploitation by its own increasing scarcity and cost as was formerly the case, but is rather penalized by it. Indeed, the rarer a species gets, the more mythically valuable it becomes in the human commerce system. To the point where rhino horns, elephant ivory, river dolphin eyeballs, and other biologically inert tissues become worth many times their weight in precious metal, with the price rising until they are extinct, at which point those who have stored these products have priceless possessions, rendered valuable by the “ Goldfinger ” effect. Modern humans are not only blind to what isn ’ t there, you ’ re effectively blind to the commerce all around you that's driving the change. How many generations yet before a human child is correctly taught that the world ’ s largest animal is the cow? Much of your planet ’ s wild biomass has been lost in what should be recent memory. Estimates of original bison populations in North America range from 15 million to 10 billion - three orders of magnitude of difference in estimates - due to shifting baselines and the tendency to underestimate historic abundance based on what it "feels" should be normal to you. Again, the stories of the ground shaking, and a sea of bison horizon to horizon seem like tall tales now, even if the great-grandparents of some in your class saw them. Answer me truly, young human: if it were possible to bring back the five billion passenger pigeons which were part of your nation’s biological heritage as recently as 200 years ago by the simple expedient of passing a one-time $1 dollar-per-person tax in the US Congress, what would the odds be of it passing?
You don ’ t miss what you ’ ve never personally known.
The Bottom line: We are blind to extinctions, despite living amidst and participating in them.
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