Passenger Pigeons SEE

Passenger Pigeons SEE

The extinction of passenger pigeons is an ideal example of Garret Hardin’s theory, Tragedy of the Commons. The theory that individuals act independently and rationally according to self-interest, and these behaviors are contrary to the best interest of the whole group is presented with this case. Not only individual hunters, but also passenger pigeon companies (commercial hunting) led to the extinction of 4 billion passenger pigeons within only a few decades. Because this meat was cheap, it was a popular choice in slavery. Another crucial reason was deforestation; in the early 1800’s when Europeans settled into North America, in order to build infrastructure, habitats were destroyed. This case is considered a market failure because the demand for the common resource, passenger pigeons, was higher than that of its supply. Moreover, this factor led to the depletion of this resource.

Statement 1: One of the primary negative externalities of the extinction of passenger pigeons is the environment.

Evidence: The extinction of nearly any animal always impacts the food chain to a certain extent, and passenger pigeons are a great example of this. These birds were vital in the feeding of numerous carnivores such as foxes, raccoons, marten and mink, and lynx. Also for several raptors, which include falcons and hawks. As the pigeons are secondary consumers, their extinction would create difficulty for Tertiary consumers as well, for example snakes. (

Evidence 2: The cause of the extinction, as mentioned earlier, was also because of deforestation. In the 1800’s the enormous deforestation, which was well over thousands of hectares, had consequences in the environment. Although trees are vital for our lives millions of them were cut down – though maybe it was not as a big as a problem then; however, the results are the important part. This great deforestation disabled biodiversity. It ruined habitats for numerous species and caused many, if alive, to migrate to other areas.

Statement 2: The depletion of this common resource has also had an externality on the economy.

Evidence: After the 1870’s as the passenger pigeons were nearly extinct, it could not be consumed anymore. Because slavery had ended around the 1860’s this did not significantly impact it; however, it did impact individual consumers. More importantly, it impacted the demand for other food resources. Although passenger pigeons did not have any perfect substitutes, some resources were favored in the replacement: these include rice and bread. Simply due to the depletion of a food resource hunger was not an option; therefore, individuals specifically consumed the ones listed above. As the demand of these resources increased, so did the price and therefore the company revenues increased. This was economically beneficial for rice and bread companies but also was catastrophic for those who depended on passenger pigeons.

Although no actions could be taken to solve the problem with passenger pigeons because it already extinct; however, this case should be scrutinized and precautions should be taken to prevent the extinction of other species. A few decades after the extinction in 1870, some laws and rules were set. These included hunting seasons, catch size, and catch quantity. It is possible to see this in the fishing industry. Several economies are dependent on their fishing revenue; therefore abuse the supply. There are many species near extinction and these include Blue fin tuna and Cod. There are universal laws that catch per year should not exceed a certain ton. The ICCAT set this number to be 13 tons in 2014. Also, hunting/catch seasons enable the species to reproduce during the times when hunting/catching is not allowed.

For example, in 1992 when Cod was nearly extinct, the Canadian government declared a cod moratorium. Although the shorts term impacts severely impacted people economically, in the long run it was a very successful project. Fisherman lost their jobs for a certain period of time; however, the specie reproduced and was abundant as before. In addition to this, some areas around the world are being treated with care. For example cutting down trees in some areas are not permitted. Construction of infrastructure is not allowed and this will help sustain the species and even be beneficial for reproduction. (WWF)

Categories: Economics

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