10 Fascinating Examples of Unintended Consequences

10 Fascinating Examples of Unintended Consequences


Actions have consequences. Unfortunately, those consequences are not
always entirely welcome, intended, or predictable. There are numerous examples of governments,
organizations, and even individuals acting with good intentions, only for their efforts
to backfire catastrophically. Sometimes the cure can be worse than the disease,
as these examples of the law of unintended consequences demonstrate. 10. Macquarie Island Located in the vast expanse of almost entirely
empty ocean between Australia and Antarctica, Macquarie Island is so remote that nobody
knew of its existence until 1810. Its most notable inhabitants at the time were
several species of rare birds and a huge population of fur seals. The island’s wild beauty didn’t have universal
appeal, with one early visitor described it as being: “the most wretched place that
can be conceived.” Nonetheless, the presence of so many seals
soon attracted hunters. The hunters’ ships brought unwanted stowaways
in the form of rats, so it seemed like a good idea to introduce cats to keep their numbers
in check. Rabbits were added to provide a readily available
source of food for any shipwrecked sailors who might find themselves stranded on the
island. All three invaders were soon wreaking havoc
on the island’s delicate ecosystem, but it seemed to be the cats that were causing
the most destruction. The feral felines ate their way through the
island’s birds with such remorseless efficiency that conservationists set out to eradicate
them. By the year 2000, Macquarie Island was judged
to be entirely cat free, but its problems were not over. With their only predator gone, the island’s
rabbits were free to do what they do best: breed and eat. Within a matter of years, they’d consumed
40% of the island’s vegetation. The impact has been described as an ecological
meltdown, and the subsequent campaign to repair the damage and eradicate the island’s rabbits,
which is only now nearing completion, has already cost millions of dollars. 9. The Eastland Disaster In the early hours of April 15, 1912, the
RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean. Within just three hours the fatally wounded
passenger liner slipped beneath the waves and into history. More than 1,500 people lost their lives. The Titanic had been one of the most famous
ships in the world, and the huge loss of life, including some very wealthy individuals, spurred
the US Senate to call an inquiry. It was concluded, entirely reasonably, that
the death toll would have been substantially lower if the Titanic had set to sea with a
full complement of lifeboats. In 1915, as a direct result of the Titanic
disaster, a new law stipulated that any American ship of over 100 tons had to carry enough
lifeboats to carry every passenger in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, this did not have the intended
effect of making every ship safer. The SS Eastland was a badly-designed, ungainly
vessel at the best of times. The extra weight of several additional lifeboats
crammed onto her top deck turned her into an unstable death trap. On July 24, 1915, just yards from her moorings
on the Chicago River, she tilted alarmingly, took on water, and rolled over in just twenty-feet
of water. While some lucky survivors were able to literally
step from the Eastland’s upturned hull onto dry land, many less fortunate individuals
were trapped below decks or thrown into the water. More than 800 people lost their lives in the
disaster. While the poor design of the ship and the
owners’ failure to carry out tests were also to blame, it was the extra weight of
the lifeboats that caused the Eastland to sink. 8. The Streisand Effect In 2002 a photographer by the name of Kenneth
Adelman made it his mission to record the entire Californian coastline in a series of
thousands of aerial photographs. The project was just beginning to get off
the ground when he received a threatening letter from Barbra Streisand’s lawyers. The famous singer and actress had discovered
her house numbered amongst those pictured, and she was not amused. Adelman had not set out to target Streisand’s
house. It was just one amongst thousands that featured
in his work, all of them from such a distance that no real detail could be made out. Still, Streisand insisted her privacy had
been invaded. When Adelman refused to remove the offending
photograph, Streisand hit him and his non-profit organization with a $50 million lawsuit. This turned out not only to be a wild overreaction
but a very bad idea. When Streisand began legal proceedings, the
offending photograph had been downloaded a grand total of six times, two of these by
her own lawyers. As the case, which Streisand subsequently
lost, made headlines around the world, the previously obscure California Coastal Project
website began receiving hundreds of thousands of hits every month. If Streisand had been trying to draw attention
to the photograph, which was most definitely not her intention, then she could scarcely
have done a better job. 7. The Treaty of Versailles In November 1918, the slaughter of World War
One, or the Great War as it was then known, finally came to an end. However, the terms of Germany’s surrender
weren’t ratified until June 1919 in the French city of Versailles. While the fighting had never reached German
soil, the mighty German Army had none the less been defeated. The Germans had no choice but to accept whatever
terms were demanded of them. The Allied powers set out to ensure the German
war machine could never threaten them again. Germany was forced to accept sole responsibility
for the war, most of their fleet was to be scrapped, their army was reduced to just 100,000
men, and restrictions were placed on the construction of civilian and military aircraft. On top of this the Germans were to pay vast,
unspecified sums of war reparations to the victorious Allied powers. Rather than caging the German tiger, the Allies
only succeeded in enraging it. The Treaty of Versailles was universally hated
amongst the German people, and Adolf Hitler made great political capital from his vocal
opposition to it. As Hitler trampled over the restrictions one-by-one,
boosting his domestic popularity in the process, Allied politicians were divided over how to
react. Many of them felt the terms of the treaty
were far too harsh; they argued that Hitler was just taking back what was rightly his. The Treaty of Versailles was a key factor
in the rise of Hitler and the outbreak of World War Two. Fortunately, lessons were learned. At the end of World War Two, American financial
aid flowed into Western Germany, transforming a former foe into an ally. 6. The Smokey Bear Effect The United States Forest Service has been
managing America’s woodlands since 1905. For most of this time history the Forest Service
regarded forest fires as an enemy devoid of any redeeming qualities. It gradually became apparent that decades
of highly successful fire prevention had been storing up problems for the future. Analysis of tree rings revealed that a substantial
fire would be expected to sweep through an unmanaged forest once or twice a decade. The larger trees would survive, but much of
the undergrowth and pine needles would be burnt away. It turned out this process was vital to the
health of the forest. With the undergrowth choking the forest, many
species of plants found themselves starved of sunlight reaching the forest floor. Even worse, when a fire finally did break
out it would be fed by huge quantities of highly-combustible material. These megafires destroy everything in their
path. Even huge pine trees, some of which grow to
more than two-hundred feet tall and have stood for several thousand years, are unable to
withstand the ferocity of the blaze. 5. The Enfield Rifle By the mid-1800s the British Empire had become
the largest empire the world had ever seen. The British would rely on the superiority
of their technology to hold dominion over so many peoples, and in 1855 British and colonial
soldiers began to be equipped with P53 Enfield Rifles. The new Enfield rifles were a significant
upgrade on the muskets that had come before, but there was a problem: they were rumored
to use cartridges greased with pig and cow fat. Whether or not this was actually the case
isn’t entirely clear, but it was enough that people believed it to be so. Most of the population of India, the crown
jewel of the British Empire, were Hindus who regarded cows as being sacred. Most of the rest were Muslims who believed
pork to be unclean. The British managed to outrage both groups
simultaneously. In April 1857, the British imprisoned a small
group of Indian soldiers who refused to use the cartridges. The discontent that had simmered throughout
India boiled over into rebellion, which became a vicious war for independence. It took more than a year of fighting and brutal
reprisals for the British to reassert their control. The introduction of the Enfield rifle almost
cost the British their grip on India. 4. The Four Pests Campaign In 1958 Mao Zedong launched the Democratic
Republic of China into what he called “the Great Leap Forward.” Over the course of five years he intended
to transform China from an agrarian society into an industrial powerhouse. One of the many goals Mao set was the eradication
of those species he deemed to be unwanted pests. Flies, mosquitoes, and rats all made the hitlist
for Mao’s Four Pests Campaign, as did sparrows since they ate seeds that could otherwise
have been used for human consumption. China’s entire population was mobilized
in Mao’s war against the sparrows. There could only be one winner. Within a few short years the birds had been
all but wiped out, with catastrophic results. While sparrows did eat a small amount of seeds,
the bulk of their diet was made up of insects. With the sparrows gone, China was overrun
by a plague of locusts. Entire crops were lost. Mao belatedly realized his mistake and reintroduced
sparrows obtained from the Soviet Union, but by then much of the damage was done and more
than twenty-million people had starved to death in one of history’s most terrible
famines. 3. India’s Vultures In the mid-1990s India’s population of vultures
began to die in droves. At first it was thought the animals were being
killed off by a mysterious disease, but the culprit was eventually identified as an anti-inflammatory
drug called diclofenac that was being administered to sick cattle. As the vultures scavenged meals from the cows
that didn’t pull through, they consumed small quantities of the drug. A vulture’s stomach acid is capable of dissolving
anthrax and cholera bacteria, but the slightest trace of diclofenac causes their kidneys to
fail. In a matter of just a few years India’s
vulture population plummeted from 40 million to just 100,000 birds. In India cattle are raised almost exclusively
for dairy rather than meat, so when the beasts die their carcasses are left for scavengers. When the vultures all but disappeared, food
was in plentiful supply for the millions of feral dogs that roam India in packs. More dogs meant more humans being bitten,
and this in turn led to an increase in fatalities from rabies. The Indian Government banned the use of diclofenac
in 2006, but the damage may prove to be irreversible. Despite the efforts of conservationists several
species of vultures remain critically endangered. 2. HMS Dreadnought In 1906 the British launched a revolutionary
new warship. HMS Dreadnought was more heavily-armed and
armored than any other ship afloat. One British Admiral lovingly described her
as the most powerful thing in the world. Sea power was so important to the British
that their stated policy was to maintain a navy more powerful than their two closest
competitors combined. HMS Dreadnought had been introduced to ensure
Britain would continue to rule the waves, instead it inspired a fearsome enemy to challenge
British strength. Britain’s Royal Navy substantially outnumbered
the German Imperial Fleet, but that no longer counted for very much. HMS Dreadnought had rendered every other ship
obsolete overnight; what now mattered was whether the Germans could build new Dreadnought
class ships faster than the British. The Germans thought they could, and from 1906
until the outbreak of World War One the two nations embarked on a hugely expensive naval
arms race. The Royal Navy by no means welcomed the competition
sparked by the introduction of HMS Dreadnought, but it was perhaps a good thing. Had the Germans not poured such vast sums
into the Imperial Fleet, which spent almost the entire war at port, there would have been
considerably more resources available for the German Army. 1. Korean Demilitarized Zone In July 1953 the shooting phase of the Korean
War came to an end when North and South Korea signed an armistice that brought three years
of brutal warfare to an end. The two sides were separated by a kind of
no-man’s-land, a demilitarized zone, some 2.5 miles wide, that runs across the entire
width of the Korean Peninsula. The Demilitarized Zone’s intended purpose
was to prevent the two Koreas from tearing each other’s throat out. It has, so far, succeeded in this laudable
goal, but there have also been unintended consequences. Fortunately, they’ve been entirely favorable. Almost totally uninhabited and free of human
influence for decades on end, the Demilitarized Zone was gradually reclaimed by nature. It’s now a thriving ecosystem that’s home
to thousands of species, several of which can’t be found anywhere else on the Korean
Peninsula. Every now and then the law of unintended consequences
works out in everyone’s favor.

100 thoughts on “10 Fascinating Examples of Unintended Consequences

  1. the end of WW I caused WW II, when America beat Japan and at the signing of Japan's surrender Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and Gen. Yoshijiro Umezu said that Japan was ready to conform. They thought that America was going to simply take over Japan, and were ready to do so. If America wanted to Japan would be part of America today.

  2. My economics professor told the class that after World War II, Germany made the fastest economic recovery in history. How did they do it? They did the exact opposite of everything their American advisers recommended!

  3. Versalles was not unintended, look at the words of Woodrow Wilson… he specifically intended to "MAKE THEM PAY" and he was one of the primary creators of that mess

  4. The dust bowl was a pretty catastrophic unintended consequence. After the introduction of tractors, American farmers became exponentially more efficient. They were so effective and grew so many crops that the soil completely ran out of nutrients. Nothing could grow there anymore, so there was nothing holding the dirt down. The wind blew through and took the dirt with it, kicking up massive sandstorms all through the American Midwest.

  5. Tvtropes has a whole page dedicated to unintended consequence to things like this such as how the D.A.R.E program increased drug use and so on. It really interesting

  6. Prohibition works so well that the DEA did it again with the war on drugs.  This slush fund for law enforcement.  results: massive increase in drug use.  massive $$$$ missing, and record breaking lawlessness record numbers of law enforcement incarcerated.

  7. I clicked on this video because of the thumbnail, but then once he got to it on the list it didn’t even make sense.
    What was the point? I don’t understand what the “unintended effect” was supposed to be. Can anyone explain?

  8. The way this guy, Simon; speaks in this video feels so unnatural. His rhythm and breathing feel like an anxious syncopation. I know it’s a weird thing to focus on but if you try to mimic his phrasing it’s definitely difficult and unnatural feeling. Great video and great content, just a weird observation that I noticed and can’t stop paying attention to.

  9. The cause of the SS Eastland capsize was because of errant design, lack of initial buoyancy to maintain stability of above waterline weight, regardless of what made that weight.

  10. Next up: Tariffs on Chinese goods to protect and bolster US economy RUIN US economy as “American made” products require Chinese goods to make them!

  11. So no one will read this but i have a mandela effect for you guys…
    Titanic when it sank no one died…. So can some one tell me the truth

  12. I think my favourite, was the Streisand effect. This is hilarious and just goes to show that sometimes, when folks who've earned a great deal through showbiz, (or any other profession where inordinately large sums are paid for no more work and effort than anonymous jobs require) decide to be offended by the genuine efforts of those who are minding their own business and trying to achieve an interesting end, simply because they've lost touch with reality and because they "think they can" … What they REALLY ought to do… is butt the bloody hell OUT!!! Not only did Streisand lose, but I hope losing cost her a bloody fortune!!!

  13. Thank You!
    I did enjoy that video.
    I would probably be able to retain/recall more of the information presented if you spoke just a little bit more slowly though…
    But well done !
    Enjoy summer 2019,
    thanks again & have some fun.

  14. That serves Barbra Streisand right… I was so happy to hear that happened to her lol! She is not reasonable person… She has really let her fame go to her head. I've seen her in interviews acting like that, I've also several stories from fans that got to meet her only to discover what a that she is!

  15. I use diclofenac in both pill and gel form. The drug is highly toxic to more than just vultures. I can’t pet my cats or let them cuddle with me when I’ve applied it to my hands, arms, or any other exposed skin. I have to wait at least 30 minutes for it to soak in then wash off the remnants before I can have kitty cuddles again.

  16. Women have had about 100 years of the ability to vote. NOW, we're dealing with Policies that are nothing short of Socialism/ Communism in the name of Feminism. Brilliant.

  17. Action: Corrupt Obama administration.Consequence: TrumpAction: "Trump Russia Collusion hoax"Consequence: multiple indictments incoming.

  18. Many unintended consequences in Australia since colonization. One was the introduction of Cane toads into Queensland in 1935. (A toad that secretes poison through their skin to avoid predators, killing off many native species). 200 were released into Northern Queensland in an attempt to control the cane beetle, responsible for destroying sugar cane crop. By 1979 not only was there no noticeable reduction in cane beetle populations, the toads had multiplied so much that they reached the boarder of NSW (almost 2000km's away) and in 1985 they had reached the Northern Territory. Their population estimates as at 20014 is around 200 million.

  19. Ok dude before you get started. D.A.R.E.(drug abuse resistance education) This was an absolutely horrible program that taught total abstinence. It taught equal consequences for cigarettes, Marijuana and crack and heroine and it never mentioned prescription pills.

  20. Another example of unintended consequences is the banning of abortion. Illegal abortion rates increased, as well as health complications/ deaths from illegal abortions, and infant mortality rates.

  21. That must be why South Park had mega Streisand episode it was already funny but makes more sense now

  22. There's animals in human form who don't naturally understand actions have consequences so that deserves kudos to say that thing all real people already know.

  23. Oh poor Victim Barbara Streisand winey little witch the, ego has landed and it defecated on that hillside very disgusting (cough nose) with the integrity of a rabbit pellet! Bless you anyway and everyone thank you

  24. America funded "Rebels"in the middle east in the early 80's to supposedly fight against Russia encroachment. Those rebels are now known as the Taliban,Al-Qaeda and Isis …not sure the end result was "unintended" though….

  25. I remember a lot of childhood stress with Smoky Bear. He was on TV and would look right at me and say 'Only You can prevent forest fires '! I was so concerned, what do you think I am Superman? I'm just one Kid! Dammit man…

  26. So Maquarie Island had a trifecta of invading species rats (accidental), cats and rabbits (on purpose) you mentioned the fate of the cats and rabbits but nothing of the rats are they still there ? Are they still a problem ?

  27. The Australian Antarctic division and Tasmanian National Parks recently announced that they had eradicated rodents from Macquarie Island too. They used bates en-mass and trained rodent hunting dogs to check the results; the dogs have gone home too.

  28. i enjoy the toptenz ok but the guy is somewhat wrongabout the eastland. it was a minimum of 800 dead – babies being held weren't counted at all. the counting was sketchy at best. big surge of a lot of people. these folks were headed for a company picnic and pretty much having a great time on the boat as well. the top heavy boat started going side to side almost immediately as people boarded and most everyone wanted to be on the top deck to see the sights. more top heavy.
    some accounts say up to three times the capacity of the boat barged onto the eastland. .as another boat came into dock, everyone on the top deck hurried to the ONE side of the Eastland to see it. the eastland rolled, strained against it's moorings and still tipped over TOWARDS the dock throwing people under it and the sinking boat. it was still tied to the dock!!
    this is in chicago. from chicago, i read of this when i was a kid, fascinated me and with pics it was unfathomable. and then i never heard another thing. i would ask people in chicago – they never heard of it. i asked my boyfriend who was a naval graduate and was from chicago – he didn't believe me as he had never heard of it.
    the pics are poignant since this is the early 1900s and the clothing style was so different. pic of these small girls in their long little dresses were awful. one pic of an endless line of corpses as one row, of an endless amount of rows, in the make shift morgue…..

  29. best example is freeing slaves, that only caused misery and havoc for everyone else involved, continued to this day.

  30. In regard to the Treaty of Versailles: the main problem that there was no military occupation of Germany at the end of WW1. No one kept an eye on the Germans.

  31. I kind of don’t feel that the Korean demilitarised zone worked out in everyone’s favour. I’m pretty sure there’s more than a handful of North Koreans that are unhappy about it.

  32. My favorite: In the movie Finding Nemo, a young clown fish that is stolen from the Great Barrier Reef illegally by a hobby aquariumist and eventually is re-united with his father.
    People watched the movie, decided clown fish were very cute and illegal sales of wild caught clown fish soared soon after…

  33. part of Germany was briefly invaded in WW1 by Russia. Here are some other unexpected consequences that lead to Nazi Germany. The Vienna art school denying Hitler membership, Gavrilo Princib killing Archduke Franz Ferdinand leading to WW1, Britain and France appeasing Hitler in the 1930s, and finally the control of much of Germany's land in the hands of the League of Nations or Poland.

  34. 100% not "the extra weight of the lifeboats" that caused the ship to sink. It was poor construction and planning.

  35. I highly doubt that it was the lifeboats causing the ship to malfunction.
    that was rather a lucky coincident for the company that built the ship,
    blaming their engineering failure on the goverments law.

  36. About the treaty of Versailles.. the germans were expecting to pay no less than 56 billion. The treaty was quite fair monetarily speaking. Hitler just hung on to it because it is a relatable thing. No one wants to pay a bill.

  37. How about Kaiser Wilhelm sending Lenin back to Russia to start the Russian revolution, thus producing Stalin and the whole USSR nightmare. That kinda blew up in there face!

  38. I've just been replaying Doom 3 and now every time I hear you say a year I expect it to be 2145. 😀

  39. The Smokey Bear effect is real, as is the opposite.
    See, the Yellowstone fire was allowed to get bad. Because of the state of the forests after the previous "All fires are the enemy" ideology, the USFS would let naturally let fires go as a natural mechanism of forest health. What they didn't realize was that it was two lightning strikes and a woodcutter's campfire. That and add in that it was damn near impossible to fight wildfire properly on the national park land due to regulations. It was no surprise that it took a foot of snow to put it out.
    What we need is for more non invasive firewood harvesting followed by controlled burns. Cut in some roads through underbrush. Let the public get their firewood from standing dead trees only. Then in the winter, cut your fire lines with bulldozers and burn the undergrowth. Doing this in sections and revisiting sections every 7-8 years would do wonders for the pine forests. After the first initial burn, the lower amount of fuel on the ground will allow for new pines to survive the next fire. Giving you the ability to have a forest with a diverse age range of trees for better longevity and safer fires. While also replicating the natural cycle this ecosystem had before we started mismanaging it.

  40. HMS Dreadnought was an idea coming up inevitably. Something like her would have been built within a year or so. The only question was who would do so.

  41. This is why we should "let nature take its course" … any attempt by man to unnaturally influence the climate/ecosystem leads to disaster, due to our ignorance of what we don't understand

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *