Sunday, May 20, 2012

J.P. Morgan's losses tied to environmental degradation

Connecting the dots from the New York Times:

On the excess of deer in the Northeast :

"By 1900, deforestation and unregulated hunting had reduced deer populations in the Eastern United States to tiny remnant clusters surviving in remote sanctuaries. But subsequent protective laws and aggressive habitat management allowed deer to bounce back.

To this day, wildlife managers slice intact forests into sunny woodlots that maximize the number of deer and the frequency of encounters between deer and hunters. Private landowners are encouraged by wildlife agencies to crisscross their forest acreage with tasty plantings of clover and wheat in support of what is now a burgeoning population of perhaps 50 million white-tailed deer — in some places as many as 75 deer per square mile. 

....Less appreciated, though, is how these millions of deer are quietly eating every palatable leaf within their reach across the eastern forests of North America. That’s very bad news for migratory birds." 


Deer act as hosts for the ticks that carry Lyme disease.   The ticks get their Lyme disease bacteria from small mammals like mice and chipmunks.  While reducing deer would help, some argue that  reducing mice is likely to be more effective.
This is best accomplished by allowing natural predators like weasels, coyotes, foxes, and owls to do the job. And the best way to increase their numbers is to maximize the size of forest patches.
Nevertheless, deer are the focus of this research:
A three-year experiment in tick control in two areas of Long Island — Shelter Island and western portions of Fire Island — has shown encouraging results.
Researchers from Cornell University installed and monitored dozens of “four-poster” feeding stations, which lure deer to a bin baited with corn and rigged with rollers soaked with a tick-killing pesticide, permethrin. When a deer rubs against the rollers, ticks die by the thousands. One station can treat all the deer in about 100 acres. 

New York had banned four-poster devices because feeding wild deer makes them congregate, which increases the risk of spreading chronic wasting disease. The Department of Environmental Conservation approved the experiment for these confined areas, where Lyme infections were severe and chronic wasting disease unknown.
How it all ties in to the losses at  J.P. Morgan:

Ever since JPMorgan Chase disclosed a multibillion-dollar trading loss this month, the central mystery has been how a bank known for its skill at risk management could err so badly.

As early as 2010, the senior banker who has been blamed for the debacle, Ina Drew, began to lose her grip on the bank’s chief investment office, according to current and former traders. She had guided the bank through some of the most rugged moments of the 2008 financial crisis, earning the trust of Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, in the process. 

But after contracting Lyme disease in 2010, she was frequently out of the office for a critical period, when her unit was making riskier bets, and her absences allowed long-simmering internal divisions and clashing egos to come to the fore, the traders said. 

The morning conference calls Ms. Drew had presided over devolved into shouting matches between her deputies in New York and London, the traders said. That discord in 2010 and 2011 contributed to the chief investment office’s losing trades in 2012, the current and former bankers said.