Sasha keeps asking to go to the Aquarium. I hesitate. In fact, I plainly refuse to do so. Here’s why. The place that always tugs at my heart from opposite directions. They do a lot of conservation work and educate people about the fragile marine environment and how global warming is a reality we can no longer ignore. Almost extinct species are being cared for and hopefully they’ll multiply enough to be released in the wild. That’s one side, the bright one. And we need it like oxygen.
And then, the dark side. The gift shop just adjacent to the almost extinct frog species is selling plastic frogs. Many species of frogs are already extinct and present only as sad reminders in aquariums and other similar conservation places. Why are they extinct? Because we pollute the oceans, rivers and lakes by dumping all sorts of chemicals in them, because of our insatiable desire to acquire yet another thing, because we rely on non-renewable resources with all our might, because we deforest entire continents without thinking twice about it. Harsh but true. Louis XV was harshly criticized by his contemporaries and many generations after – my elementary history teacher included – for his lack of morals and the contended carelessness “Apres moi, le deluge“, “After me, the deluge.” Whether he said it or not, no one knows for sure. But he sure acted like it. Back to the frogs, not that I actually left the issue. What’s wrong with buying mementos, you’ll say. They might serve as education tools. Might is not do. And if it were, do is not without fault, not in this case. If the manufacturing factories spew chemicals in the air then the plastic frogs are not toys but bullets. For both frogs and kids. Later they become garbage after being thrown out. Some of the plastic frogs and pink belugas might end end up in the ocean – what bitter irony – where they add to the growing patches of garbage already floating there and damaging marine life to the point of killing it. It’s just like complaining that kids are overweight while continuing to feed them fast food. It’s simply wrong.
I know that gift shops such as this are yet another way of raising money for research that will ultimately help the animals. But relying on the money coming from the very thing that’s causing the damage in the first place is ethically crooked. Not an isolated issue. Isn’t it after all the equivalent of selling cigarettes in a hospital that treats lung cancer patients.
What to do? Buy fewer toys and trinkets made from non-renewable resources. No buying of toys from gift shops of conservation centres. Sure they bring joy, yet in all fairness that joy is short-lived anyway and I personally believe that buying frogs for our children to play with will not teach them much about the danger frogs are in. Whether they are made hard or soft plastic, most toys leave a trail of chemicals behind, with serious effects ranging from cancer to developmental problems, and that will affect not only the wildlife but our children as well. Harbinger of doom I am not, I simply call it as I see it.
It takes more than one flower to bring the spring back, but we can still do it.
In the end it is not necessarily just the frogs; their sad and quiet – I wish I could say slow too but I’d feel slightly irresponsible if I did – disappearing is but a symptom, one of many that the world we live in needs our help. Some may say that the world has more arduous problems than disappearing frogs that need immediate attention. And that’s true. Yet the cynical response to that would be that all the problems no matter how severe will not exist should there not be a planet to live on for the people who create them in the first place. The responsible answer is that we’re all connected. In case of frogs, you see, their bodies that act like sponges and thus environmental heralds. Simply put, their skin absorbs all the chemicals we dump and they get sick and die. A more evident hint I could not think of. It’s all connected. The big circle of life. Yes I got the line from The Lion King.
It’s been a year since I wrote this post. In the meantime there have been a few more species that made it on the critically endangered list, including tigers, leopards, sea turtles, gorillas. In 2006 we lost the last of the West African black rhinoceros. Shame. And lost count of already extinct frog species.
The way I see it, we’re running towards this sudden dropoff zone. Soaring and falling are the two choices. We can soar but only if we figure out how to fly by the time we get there. Slowing down to do so means we get a chance to see the world around. If enough of us slow down, we all will eventually. I’d call it making time. Is that vane or hopeful?