On Dumb Animals and Climate Change

frog4Today, Krugman uses the metaphor of boiled frogs to bring home the reality of collective inaction on climate change.  He is referencing the widely held belief that if you put a frog in cold water and then heat the water, the frog won’t know that it’s being cooked (until it’s too late).  The comparison is obvious; climate change will slowly barbecue us and yet people — particularly Americans  — will not act until it is too late.

I confess that I had never thought of this so clearly before.  Often the justification people offer for boiling frogs and lobsters alive is that they (the beings getting cooked) are too stupid to understand what’s happening to them and thus their deaths have no moral significance.  How, I wonder, does that differ from us?  Since we are too slow-witted to act to mitigate climate change, will the suffering and mass death that will inevitably befall us have any moral significance?

The phrase “dumb animal” has taken on a whole new meaning for me this morning.   And by the way, that story about the frogs is false.  They do not simply stay in the water as it heats.  If allowed to escape, they will.

–David Cassuto

One Response

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