5 'Rare' Things That Are Way More Common Than You Think
Because so many of us live in cities, we think of the Earth as a crowded place. In a world where every nook and cranny has been squeezed for resources and every untamed jungle has been turned into an IKEA, what's really left to discover?
A whole lot, as it turns out. You actually don't have to look terribly hard to stumble across ...
Even before The Goonies came about, the whole "searching for buried/sunken pirate treasure" thing was the plot of dozens of movies, books, and TV episodes. So where the hell did Hollywood get the idea that the world is just littered with lost pirate gold? It really is ridiculous -- if you had a galleon laden with the king's treasure, you wouldn't just leave it laying around.
It's a disease.
In reality, there was probably, like, one ship full of gold that sank, and Hollywood just ran with the idea.
But Actually ...
An astonishing 3 million shipwrecks remain on the ocean floor, waiting to be found by some adventurer. That's because early explorers were all about finding precious metals, and early colonies were all about mining it and shipping it back home. The trade routes were thus continually packed with ships bearing gold, silver, and other shiny things -- rickety, wooden ships that were continually sinking every time they ran into rough seas. And this was before anybody invented submarines or scuba gear that could go down and retrieve it -- what sank belonged forever to the singing crabs of the deep.
Pictured here with the hookers he later blew it all on.
So while you spend your paid vacation days sipping pina coladas on a Caribbean beach, at any given moment you're actually not far from some of the over $60 billion worth of undiscovered treasure lurking down among the fishes, hidden in boxes surrounded by pirate skeletons. Just over a year ago, a World War II-era British ship was discovered with 240 tons of silver still on board, worth $200 million. And people were laughing at the Tampa-based company Odyssey Marine Exploration for posting several years of losses, but in 2007, they found a $500 million wreck off of England. Who's laughing now? (Them. They are laughing.)
"Actually, now we're so rich that we pay others to laugh at you for us."
So the next time you meet a drunk in a bar who offers to sell you a crudely drawn map with a big red "X" on it, perhaps you should at least give it a moment's thought.
With the exploration age behind us and the human population growing out of control, it's difficult to believe that there's anywhere left unsettled in this world. That's why stories like Cast Away are somewhat ridiculous -- where can you possibly go on Earth that isn't either A) near routes traveled by international flights, ocean freighters, and fishing boats or B) already home to a native village or corporate oil-drilling operation? Between tourists, rich people buying private islands, and supervillains building hideouts, there can't possibly be any "deserted" islands left that are any bigger than your average driveway.
"Fuck it, as long as I don't have to shovel the island, I'm in."
But Actually ...
Don't give up your dreams of living like Gilligan and having your own monkey butler just yet -- there are actually a lot of uninhabited islands out there just waiting for some crackpot with a raft to lay a claim. You could be that crackpot!
Just to give some idea of how plentiful deserted islands really are, the Maldives alone has 1,000 uninhabited islands, and that's just one island chain. Indonesia is planning to rent some of its 10,000 uninhabited islands to folks whose low-lying islands are being affected by rising seas and storm surges. Greece is leasing 40 of its numerous hunks of remote paradise in order to reduce its debt. And that's not some far-off, remote country in a frozen corner of the globe -- it's Greece.
"That's the word."
Hell, the largest uninhabited island in the world is Devon Island, off the coast of Canada. It's 21,000 square miles of not even a single crazy, ranting hermit. If you're one of the millions of Americans who complain daily about the congestion of modern society, just imagine if your family of four could move to Devon Island and each have 5,000 square miles to yourself. As long as you were willing to build your own house.
"Doesn't this count as child labor?"
"As Dadtator of Dadsontia ... I'll allow it."
So even if there are lots of uninhabited islands, there can't still be all sorts of native tribes hanging out in the jungles. Aren't we hearing about how the rain forests are being cut down at an alarming rate? Where could primitive people possibly live where there isn't already a Starbucks within walking distance?
"Never forget the ways of our people. Two pumps vanilla, light foam."
But Actually ...
We've already written about six such tribes who only recently discovered that there was a modern world outside of their patch of jungle, and in fact there are a lot of insanely secluded people on this planet who have only very recently made contact with the outside world. And that's just scratching the surface -- there are over 100 uncontacted tribes still living on this planet that we know about. These are people who have never even seen a wristwatch, to say nothing of "Gangnam Style."
These isolated communities are mostly concentrated in three regions: the Amazon forest, Papua New Guinea, and the Andaman Islands. Unfortunately for them, most people don't even realize that they still exist, and some deny their existence out of convenience. Such is the case with the Peruvian government, whose refusal to acknowledge such tribes serves as an excuse to continue deforestation, encroaching on their land.
"Did that tree just scream?"
The sad reality is that when a remote tribe is discovered, Westerners tend to regard them more as zoo animals than human beings, giving them money and tossing food in return for photo opportunities. We only know they exist mostly from other extremely isolated tribes who have limited contact with them. Most of them seem perfectly happy not being a part of our world, which they would undoubtedly regard as a dystopian, disease-ridden wasteland.
Maybe they're on to something here.
Today literally anyone can pay $50,000 to have a Sherpa guide drag their ass up to the tippity top of Mount Everest, which you might be aware is the tallest mountain on Earth. We've mentioned that, as a result, Everest is packed with visitors every year, to the point that if you climb it, you'll find yourself joined by 70-year-old Korean tourists sucking on supplemental oxygen and standing triumphant with 100 of their best friends.
And if the world's most daunting peak is now nothing more than a high-altitude Disney World, then that must mean that every formidable mountain on the planet has by now been trampled by glory seekers looking for bragging rights on Facebook.
"Nature, I'm lovin' it."
But Actually ...
There are lots of extremely tall mountains that remain unclimbed for a number of reasons. The main reason is that, believe it or not, there is a limit to the insanity of die-hard mountaineers -- many tall peaks are so remote that an emergency rescue is completely out of the question.
Also, some countries that are hoarding a bunch of tall-ass mountains simply won't let spandex-clad Europeans in to conquer them. Bhutan, for example, doesn't allow any mountain climbers in and is home to the world's tallest unclimbed mountain, Gangkar Puensum.
If Colorado's taught us anything, it's that mountain climbers are the harbingers of moral decay.
Tibet alone has 255 unclimbed peaks that are at or above 20,000 feet, according the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation. For reference, Mount McKinley is the tallest peak in North America, and the third tallest in the world, at 20,320 feet. China likewise has a shit-ton of mountains well over 18,000 feet that are simply in the bumblefuck middle of nowhere and no one has bothered to climb them yet. It could be you! Although, if we know our audience, it probably won't be.
"These cat videos aren't going to watch themselves."
There's a reason why scientists are scrambling to develop new technologies to replace our dependence on oil, even apart from the whole "killing the planet" thing. Considering that the Earth isn't making any more dinosaurs, the slimy black byproduct of their violent extinction is a finite resource, and we're constantly being warned that the day we'll have to start killing our neighbors to siphon the last drops out of their gas tanks is terrifyingly near.
"Better practice. Dale down the street is pretty girthy."
But Actually ...
Occasionally you'll run into somebody claiming that the whole thing is a drummed-up fake crisis, because by some estimates, there are centuries of oil left. They're not wrong. But they're not right, either.
See, the world isn't running out of oil -- it's not even close. What the world is running out of is cheap oil.
The reason it's easy to panic about running out of oil is because we keep conflating "the oil we know about" with "all the oil that exists." Those who say that we're running out of oil are usually pointing to what's left of the oil that we're already extracting. And they're right -- the conventional oil that's in the ground amounts to about 1.3 trillion barrels, which sounds like a lot, but we use more than 30 billion barrels a year now. So quick math says that we'll run out within 40 years, and that's not even accounting for the fact that the number of cars on the road is exploding, as countries like China realize that bicycles are bullshit.
Rickshaw's are OK, because watching someone suffer for your convenience will always be fun.
But then there is the oil we haven't found yet, and more importantly, the "unconventional" sources. Oil shale -- basically, oil embedded in a certain kind of rock that is a huge pain in the ass to extract -- accounts for up to another 3 trillion barrels in the United States alone. There are trillions more in tar sands and other sources that we never extracted before because it was so much easier to drill it out of wells. But, as the price of oil goes up, it becomes profitable to go digging for oil in these increasingly inconvenient places, which is why production keeps booming, despite doomsday predictions.
There are four countries in particular that are experiencing current oil production booms that experts believe will catapult our production capacity to as much as 20 percent more than it is today by 2020. Brazil, the U.S., Canada, and Iraq are all places where previously inaccessible oil sources are now vomiting out the precious black dino-batter like never before. Processes like hydrofracking are so effective at freeing up previously unrecoverable oil that by 2020, it is predicted that the U.S. will be the largest producer of oil in the world.
Yay! Free oil and monster trucks for everybody!
Imagine this, but with hybrids underneath.
Well, not so fast. This oil is not only expensive, but also dirty. Getting the black gold from tar sands causes a whole host of environmental problems, and busting the oil out of shale takes a shitload of water, releases tons of toxic gases into the air, and uses huge amounts of energy. And this isn't even touching on the elephant in the room: global warming.
In fact, the big problem with fighting global warming is going to be the fact that there is so, so much oil left to burn, and that this oil will be both affordable and actually worse for the environment than the stuff that caused the problem in the first place. The truth is, there will likely be plenty of oil left right up until the moment when we force ourselves to stop drilling for it. After all, the discovery of a previously unknown cake in the back of the refrigerator doesn't mean that we should continue shoveling cake into our mouths. At some point, we've got to show some goddamn restraint.
Shit, we should have picked a less delicious metaphor.
For more things you're clueless about, check out 5 Ways People Are Trying to Save the World (That Don't Work) and 6 Ways Video Games Are Saving Mankind.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Products That Completely Defeat the Purpose of Camping.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover why you should just go ahead and buy that Monster Truck.
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