Carl Pope and the Boiled Frogs

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Yesterday I mentioned that Carl Pope, chairman of the Sierra Club, had taken the boiled frogs' name in vain as part of his Earth Day appeal. He (graciously) writes back:

>>Mea culpa--I stand herpetologically corrected. I am happy to stipulate that frogs--unlike humans--will not sit still to be poached, and promise never to use the analogy again. In doing so, however, I disprove the charge of "liberal birtherism," since an intrinsic feature of birtherism is that it is impervious to evidence or alteration.

 

While we're on animal metaphors, I was trying to make the point in my blog post that the American political system can't even act in self-defense after a catastrophe--the Macondo blowout, for example. We're already back to drilling for oil in deep Gulf waters. There is a serious question about whether we should worry more about slow-heating crises like carbon pollution (poached frogs) or seemingly improbable catastrophes like the Japanese tsunami and nuclear failure (black swans). The answer may lie in another zoologically suspect fable, the frog that is persuaded to ferry a scorpion across a river. The frog believes it is safe because it would not be in the scorpion's self interest to sting it midstream. The scorpion does so anyway, saying "It's my nature." Current conservative theory assures us that we can trust markets to avoid oil gushers in the ocean, nuclear meltdowns on our coastlines, and climate catastrophe for our children. But we'll still get stung, because when corporations see a profit, they just can't help themselves.

 

Carl Pope <<

Research scientists have proved again and again that the "It's my nature!" tale of the scorpion is absolutely true, so I am glad to end on this note of accord. Happy Earth Day.

And, for the Chinese angle on the boiled frog conundrum, please check out (former Guest Blogger) Brian Glucroft's entertaining report from Dunhua, Jilin province.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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