Whale oil was “indispensable”, too…


Whale oil lampsG.Paul Burnett/NY Times

Is the oil business the new whaling business? And, if so, is that a good sign or a troubling one?

Bear with us. Whaling, after all, was one of the world’s first great multinational businesses, a global enterprise of audacious reach and import. From the 1700s through the mid-1800s, oil extracted from the blubber of whales and boiled in giant pots gave light to America and much of the Western world. The United States whaling fleet peaked in 1846 with 735 ships out of 900 in the world. Whaling was the fifth-largest industry in the United States; in 1853 alone, 8,000 whales were slaughtered for whale oil shipped to light lamps around the world, plus sundry other parts used in hoop skirts, perfume, lubricants and candles.

❝ But, in fact, whaling was already just about done, said Eric Jay Dolin, who wrote some of the text for the exhibit and is the author of “Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America.” Whales near North America were becoming scarce, and the birth of the American petroleum industry in 1859 in Titusville, Pa., allowed kerosene to supplant whale oil before the electric light replaced both of them and oil found other uses.

❝ Eric Jay Dolin…the author of “Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America.”…(says) the message for today was that one era’s irreplaceable energy source could be the next one’s relic. Like whaling, he said, big oil is ripe to be replaced by something newer, cleaner, more appropriate for its moment.

“What you think you can’t live with today, tomorrow can become just a memory,” he said. “That’s what happened with whale oil, and eventually it’s going to happen to oil, but you don’t just turn off one switch and flip on a new one. It’s the product of a long, wrenching process that I hope leads us to a more sustainable path than the one we’re on now.”

RTFA to view a more complete picture of the parallels. The article was published in 2008, BTW.

Soccer fans prefer restaurants, museums to hookers. Huh? Wha?

The influx of thousands of soccer fans would increase demand on South African sex workers; at least that was the belief of a leading expert prior to the start of the 2010 World Cup.

But it seems fans of the beautiful game that traveled to the Rainbow Nation have created a flop in sex-worker business — leaving prostitutes out-of-pocket and out of work — in favor of more high-brow pursuits.

“The World Cup has been devastating. We thought it was going to be a cash cow but it’s chased a lot of the business away. It’s been the worst month in my company’s history,” the owner and founder of one of Johannesburg’s most exclusive escort companies told CNN.

“No one is interested in sex at the moment. I think we’ve had three customers who traveled here for the World Cup which has seen my group’s business drop by 80 percent. I enjoyed watching the games, but I can’t wait for everyone to just go home now!” the madam, who works under the alias of “Tori,” added…

The tournament in 2010, if anything, has seen the modern-day soccer fan attracted to art galleries and museums over brothels.

“People went to the bars and stadiums to watch the games and afterwards they went home. They didn’t bother themselves with coming to us,” Zobwa, who works as a prostitute told CNN.

“Before the tournament we were getting good money but [over the month] it has not been busy at all. We thought it was going to be much better but it has been boring. I’ve actually left Johannesburg now because there has been so little trade.

RTFA for the details. Amazing to me. Is the sport attracting a better educated, more perceptive crowd?

Dare I hope?