Systems thinking: a cautionary tale (cats in Borneo)


In the nineteen fifties the Dayak people of
Borneo an island in southeast asia were
suffering from an outbreak of malaria so they called World Health Organization
for help the World Health Organization had a
ready-made solution which was to spray copious amounts of DDT around the
island with the application of DDT mosquitoes that carried the malaria were knocked down and so was the malaria there were some interesting side effects
though the first was that the roofs up people’s houses began to collapse on
their heads it turns out the DDT not only killed off the
malaria carrying mosquitoes but it also killed a
species of parasitic wasps that had controlled a population of thatch-eating caterpillars thatch being what the roofs
at the Dayak people’s homes were made from without the wasps the caterpillars
multiplied and flourished and began munching their way through the villagers’ roofs that was just the beginning the DDT affected a lot of the island other
insects which were eaten by the resident
population of small lizards called geckos the biological half-life of DDT is around
eight years so animals like geckos do not metabolize
it very fast it stays in their system for a long time
overtime the geckos began to accumulate pretty high
levels of DDT and while they tolerated the DDT fairly well the island’s resident cats which dined on
the geckos did not the cats ate the geckos and the DDT contained in the geckos killed the cats with the cats gone the island’s
population of rats came out to play we all know what happens when rats multiply and flourish pretty soon the Dayak people were back
on the phone with the World Health Organization only this time it was not malaria
that was the problem it was the plague and the destruction of
their grain stores both of which were caused by the
overpopulation of rats this time though the World Health
Organization didn’t have a ready-made solution and had to invent one what did they do? They
decided to parachute live cats into Borneo
operation cat drop occurred courtesy of the Royal Air Force and
eventually stabilized the situation if you enjoyed this video please
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