There’s something comforting about this story: even Nobel-winning economists procrastinate! Many of us go through life with an array of undone tasks, large and small, nibbling at our conscience. But Akerlof saw the experience, for all its familiarity, as mysterious. He genuinely intended to send the box to his friend, yet, as he wrote, in a paper called “Procrastination and Obedience” (1991), “each morning for over eight months I woke up and decided that the next morning would be the day to send the Stiglitz box.” He was always about to send the box, but the moment to act never arrived.
From the summit of Bishop Pass in the Sierra Nevada, elevation 11,972 feet, all you can see are miles of granite peaks against the sky. There is no traffic and no pollution. The natural world seems pure and unspoiled.
But appearances are deceiving. Over the last decade, disaster has struck in the form of chytridiomycosis, or chytrid, a deadly fungal disease that has driven at least 200 of the world’s 6,700 amphibian species to extinction. One third of the world’s frogs, toads and salamanders are threatened. Forty percent are declining. Chytrid’s arrival has laid waste to the indigenous Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, Rana sierrae.