Carl Pope and the Boiled Frogs

By James Fallows

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/04/carl-pope-and-the-boiled-frogs/237755/