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Weis: Leap Frog

06/20/11 7:55AM By Russ Weis
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(HOST)  With the summer solstice nearly here, environmental educator and commentator Russ Weis considers a potentially portentous solstice coming up next year.

(WEIS)  In early 1996, my fiancée and I decided to travel to inform both sets of parents about our Leap Year engagement.  We intended to mail announcements to all remaining family members from somewhere in the midst of our February 29th trip, stating "We're Taking the Leap."

My wife's from Rochester, New York, and I'm from Long Island.  So I drew a line on a map connecting the two spots, and would you believe that the exact midpoint turned out to be a town called Hop Bottom, Pennsylvania!  This was serendipity enough for us; we had found our perfect mailing location.

Predictably, we got some frog-themed wedding gifts.  And frogs are still in our life, since we live across from a marsh.  So we've been serenaded yearly by shrill spring peepers and throaty bullfrogs. 

It's been said that if you put a frog into a pot of scalding water it will jump out, but if you put it into warm water and then slowly raise to a boil it will stay in and perish.  Al Gore himself used this tale in his "Inconvenient Truth" global warming movie.

True or not, the story still persists, since it's a convenient metaphor.  And there's no debate that frogs serve as an important bio-indicator species.  This means they can alert us to problems in our environment, like canaries in a coal mine.  And the fact is that the worldwide frog population has been dropping steadily for years now.

My children, twins born on successive days in 1998 - the Chinese "Year of the Tiger" - happen to provide a metaphor of their own about our planet's potential fate.  My daughter's birthday is December 21st, the 2012 date predicted by the ancient Mayans as "the end of the world."  She derives no consolation from the realization that her 14th birthday will at least arrive, while my son's presumably won't.

Personally, I don't think the world will be ending anytime soon.  Yet our planet's problems did provide one recent doomsayer with ammunition.  Here's what I have to say about Harold Camping's recent erroneous end-times prediction: "Frog-edaboutit!"

But it's not so easy to dismiss the habitat destruction, pollution, and ozone depletion that are causing the dwindling of the world's frog symphony.  And whether you place your stock in science, mythology, or religion, I'm happy to say that at least my children are grabbing the tiger by the tail.  For instance, my son served on his school's greening committee, and my daughter's class oversees all the school's recycling and composting.  I myself prefer camping out to heeding Harold Camping's apocalyptic preachings.

My goal is for many more birthdays - for my kids, for your kids, for all of us.  However, we are in hot water, and it's getting hotter all the time.  So, for the frogs to keep on croaking their raucous chorus for years to come - not to mention to keep from croaking ourselves - we'd better hop to it.
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