These are my notes for the K5M Book Club on the book Money, by Jacob Goldstein.
Chapter 8: Everybody Can Have More Money
The concept of measuring economic progress from the perspective of the cost of artificial light reminded me of how excited I was to see the 2011 Justin Timberlake movie In Time, where time is currency. I remember being disappointed (rewatching the trailer seems like it would be more fun to rewatch now that I live in LA).
Goldstein mentions, kind of as a joke I think, that switching to whale oil for light was great for humans but tragically worse for whales (and it gave us Moby Dick, which I have never read). He mentions that around 1850 kerosene was invented, which meant humans needed less whales.
I am always curious about a shift like that, and in just the wikipedia page on whalingit’s interesting to note that at the same time kerosene happened there were some innovations happening in whaling.
In the 1860s Captain Thomas Welcome Roys invented a rocket harpoon, making a significant contribution to the development of the California whaling industry. In 1877, John Nelson Fletcher, a pyrotechnist, and a former Confederate soldier, Robert L. Suits, modified Roys’s rocket, marketing it as the “California Whaling Rocket“. The rocket was highly effective in killing whales.
But these charts that show whales hunted by country don’t seem to indicate any reduction in whaling at the time of kerosene (1950s):
At first it looks like whaling was brought under control in the mid-80’s but then you see the last chart of the small whales and it’s clear that the industry has just killed SO MANY of the big whales that now it’s more profitable to kill small ones.
Paul Watson credits The Kindness Club as his inspiration, which was started by the Aida Fleming, the wife of the Premier of New Brunswick, in 1959. She credited starting the Kindness Club to Albert Schweitzer’s ethical concept of “reverence for life,” which he came up with in 1923. He is an interesting dude, but we’re off topic…
I didn’t have many other stand out moments except I loved the graph of goinh from 10 minutes, to 1 hour, to 5 hours, to 20,000 hours. ELECTRICITY!
Oh, one more thing, you can look up Edison’s patent for the “electric lamp“!
That was a pretty short chapter. In just scanning ahead to chapter nine I see there is mention of Ned Ludd, which also is one of my favorite restaurants in Portland, where they cook almost everything in a wood fired oven. I am not normally a desert person but they have this chocolate chip cookie they make in a cast iron pan and then you pour cream on it and it’s… fucking amazing. Anyway, if you ever visit Portland go there, and if you already live there, go make sure they stay in business and buy something from them during COVID times.