Daily Archives: 02/07/2011

The Tiger by John Valiant

I finished this book over weekend.  It’s more than the title would suggest.  Tigers and humans would be more like it, but still not cover the topic covered.  If there’s a criticism of this book, its that it’s too ambitious in what it covers.

The real hook is a tiger.  A tiger gone rouge, the wilds (and I do mean the wilds) of Russia in 1997.   A tiger that collides with humanity, in an increasing violent fashion, that injures man and beast and that seems to exhibit very “human” desire for vengeance.

The cat kills or more obliterates two men in quick succession.  In one case in revenge perhaps for the man stealing its kill.  Events build to a final bloody confrontation between tiger and conservation officers that normally endeavor to protect these awesome creatures.

The story progresses based on accounts of those involved.   The readers is fed quite a bit of speculation about what exactly happened during tiger attacks.  That some of the most climatic events are only speculated about is due to all those involved being dead.   This supplemented with a lot of story of similar attacks where there were survivors.

A lot of context on the state of Russia in the late 1990’s is provided.  This provides more understanding of how the collapse of the Russian economy pushed many especially in the wild east of the country to live off the land.  The result was perhaps inevitable poaching of the tigers (tiger body parts are quite valuable), and more confrontation between man and beast across Siberia.  Other digressions include the relation of primates, including humans, with big cats over eons of evolution, and tiger conservation efforts.

If there is a criticism of this book, its that it felt like it could have been shorter and focused on the action, the killings and efforts to stop the rogue animals, without so many digressions.  This may because the core events, at least that we know in detail are limited, but fascinating, again because the witnesses are dead.

An interview with the author is here.

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Hot to Jump to Conclusions

Cafe Hayek

via Hot to Jump to Conclusions.

Stirred by political turmoil in Egypt and by a recent spike in food prices, Paul Krugman writes in today’s New York Times

But the evidence does, in fact, suggest that what we’re getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we’ll face in a warming world.

The “evidence” that he refers to is extreme weather events, such as last year’s Russian heat wave, happening at the same time that food prices have turned upward and some citizens are in revolt against their governments.

Weather patterns might or might not be evidence of global warming, but today’s political turmoil and spike in food prices are emphatically not reliable evidence of a world being “disrupted” by humankind’s continued reliance on fossil fuels.

Even granting that global warming is caused by industrialization, temperature increases caused by human activity date back at least to 1880.  But for nearly a century now, human suffering from extreme weather events has declined dramatically.  Here’s science analyst Indur Goklany:

Long term (1900–2008) data show that average annual deaths and death rates from all such [extreme weather] events declined by 93% and 98%, respectively, since cresting in the 1920s.  These declines occurred despite a vast increase in the populations at risk and more complete coverage of extreme weather events.

It’s irresponsible for Krugman to ominously predict increasing “disruptions” based only on a recent food-price spike and a few instances of political unrest – especially given that the long-term trend is for extreme weather events to cause less and less human suffering.

I think the data on deaths due to extreme weather is likely as difficult to be sure of as data on climate change.  So, I’d take it with a grain of salt or two.  Still I do share the notion that the while Global warming is likely real and human caused, the consequences of it aren’t clearly dire enough relative to other issue to justify anything like some advocate.

The US: The world’s manufacturing juggernaut


From the Boston Globe of all places:

Americans make more “stuff’’ than any other nation on earth, and by a wide margin. According to the United Nations’ comprehensive database of international economic data, America’s manufacturing output in 2009 (expressed in constant 2005 dollars) was $2.15 trillion. That surpassed China’s output of $1.48 trillion by nearly 46 percent. China’s industries may be booming, but the United States still accounted for 20 percent of the world’s manufacturing output in 2009 — only a hair below its 1990 share of 21 percent.

“The decline, demise, and death of America’s manufacturing sector has been greatly exaggerated,’’ says economist Mark Perry, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “America still makes a ton of stuff, and we make more of it now than ever before in history.’’ In fact, Americans manufactured more goods in 2009 than the Japanese, Germans, British, and Italians — combined.

American manufacturing output hits a new high almost every year. US industries are powerhouses of production: Measured in constant dollars, America’s manufacturing output today is more than double what it was in the early 1970s.

HT:  Greg Mankiw

PS.  The four countries mentioned in paragraph two have a combined population greater than the US.

The world’s manufacturing juggernaut
Sun, 06 Feb 2011 17:30:40 GMT