When you start multiplying cost per mile to operate a car by the distance you ride, you can easily calculate how much money you save by riding a bike.
By far the most dramatic and devastating impact of the Columbian Exchange followed the introduction of new diseases into the Americas. When the first inhabitants of the Americas arrived across the Bering land bridge between 20,000 and 12,000 years ago, they brought few diseases with them. Why? For one reason, they had no domesticated animals, the original source of human diseases such as and measles. In addition, as they passed from Siberia to North America, the first Americans had spent many years in extreme cold, which eliminated many of the disease-causing agents that might have traveled with them. As a result, the first Americans and their descendants, perhaps 40 million to 60 million strong by 1492, enjoyed freedom from most of the infectious diseases that plagued populations in Afro-Eurasia for millennia. Meanwhile, in Asia and Africa, the domestication of herd animals brought new diseases spread by cattle, sheep, pigs, and fowl.
T. E. Lawrence, by contrast, was the farthest thing from a proper British Army officer. He did not graduate with honors from Sandhurst. He was an archeologist by trade, a dreamy poet. He wore sandals and full Bedouin dress when he went to see his military superiors. He spoke Arabic like a native, and handled a camel as if he had been riding one all his life. And David, let’s not forget, was a shepherd. He came at Goliath with a slingshot and staff because those were the tools of his trade. He didn’t know that duels with Philistines were supposed to proceed formally, with the crossing of swords. “When the lion or the bear would come and carry off a sheep from the herd, I would go out after him and strike him down and rescue it from his clutches,” David explained to Saul. He brought a shepherd’s rules to the battlefield.
It makes no sense, unless you think back to that Kentucky-L.S.U. game and to Lawrence’s long march across the desert to Aqaba. It is easier to dress soldiers in bright uniforms and have them march to the sound of a fife-and-drum corps than it is to have them ride six hundred miles through the desert on the back of a camel. It is easier to retreat and compose yourself after every score than swarm about, arms flailing. We tell ourselves that skill is the precious resource and effort is the commodity. It’s the other way around. Effort can trump ability—legs, in Saxe’s formulation, can overpower arms—because relentless effort is in fact something rarer than the ability to engage in some finely tuned act of motor coördination.
Stretch'd and still lies the midnight,
Two great hulls motionless on the breast of the darkness,
Our vessel riddled and slowly sinking, preparations to pass to the
one we have conquer'd,
The captain on the quarter-deck coldly giving his orders through a
countenance white as a sheet,
Near by the corpse of the child that serv'd in the cabin,
The dead face of an old salt with long white hair and carefully
The flames spite of all that can be done flickering aloft and below,
The husky voices of the two or three officers yet fit for duty,
Formless stacks of bodies and bodies by themselves, dabs of flesh
upon the masts and spars,
Cut of cordage, dangle of rigging, slight shock of the soothe of waves,
Black and impassive guns, litter of powder-parcels, strong scent,
A few large stars overhead, silent and mournful shining,
Delicate sniffs of sea-breeze, smells of sedgy grass and fields by
the shore, death-messages given in charge to survivors,
The hiss of the surgeon's knife, the gnawing teeth of his saw,
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long,
dull, tapering groan,
These so, these irretrievable.
The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived power,
but in his own right,
Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear,
Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,
Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than sharp steel cuts,
First-rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's eye, to sail a
skiff, to sing a song or play on the banjo,
Preferring scars and the beard and faces pitted with small-pox over
And those well-tann'd to those that keep out of the sun.
In contrast, the animals of the Americas have had very little impact on the rest of the world, unless one considers its earliest migrants. The camel and the horse actually originated in North America and migrated westward across the Bering land bridge to Asia, where they evolved into the forms familiar today. By the time of the Columbian Exchange, these animals were long extinct in the Americas, and the majority of Americaâs domesticated animals would have little more than a tiny impact on Afro-Eurasia. One domesticated animal that did have an effect was the turkey. Wild animals of the Americas have done only a little better. Probably after the 19th century, North American muskrats and squirrels successfully colonized large areas of Europe. Deliberate introductions of American animals, such as raccoons fancied for their fur and imported to Germany in the 1920s, occasionally led to escapes and the establishment of animal communities. However, no species introduced from the Americas revolutionized human affairs or animal ecology anywhere in Afro-Eurasia. In terms of animal populations as with disease, the Americas contributed little that could flourish in the conditions of Europe, Africa, or Asia.
I saw the marriage of the trapper in the open air in the far west,
the bride was a red girl,
Her father and his friends sat near cross-legged and dumbly smoking,
they had moccasins to their feet and large thick blankets
hanging from their shoulders,
On a bank lounged the trapper, he was drest mostly in skins, his luxuriant
beard and curls protected his neck, he held his bride by the hand,
She had long eyelashes, her head was bare, her coarse straight locks
descended upon her voluptuous limbs and reach'd to her feet.
(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,
The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in their place,
The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)
These are really the thoughts of all men in all ages and lands, they
are not original with me,
If they are not yours as much as mine they are nothing, or next to nothing,
If they are not the riddle and the untying of the riddle they are nothing,
If they are not just as close as they are distant they are nothing.