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By now, virtually every public school student in the country has
heard about the supposed environmental catastrophe of deformed frogs.
Everywhere you look, it is said, there are frogs being born with severe
disabilities: too few or too many limbs, and misshapen eyes and toes.
And the cause? Pesticides, pollution, and ultraviolet radiation, all
synonyms for greedy businessmen, which in turn indicts capitalism.
Hence, the free market is destroying nature.
And, hey, if the free market is causing frogs to be born with five
legs, it can’t be too long before the same thing happens to humans,
right? Better act now to ban all pesticides, or better yet, overthrow
the whole of the capitalist system, before we all grow an extra eye in
the middle of our forehead.
But it turns out that this morality play, seized on and relentlessly
promoted by environmental activists, is a myth. A natural parasite, not
pollution, is the source of the problem, according to the April 30,
1999, issue of Science. The deformed-frog hysteria illustrates, not the
corruption of capitalism, but the absurd lengths that environmentalists
will go to manufacture a crisis in hopes of more government control.
The frog fraud began in August 1995 when students from a Minnesota
middle school went on a nature walk to a local pond. Some of the kids
noticed that quite a few frogs were missing limbs and had misshapen
feet. The students, their heads swimming with green propaganda, thought
that bad businessmen must have been dumping chemicals in the pond.
A few days later, the local TV crew arrived, shooting long, loving
shots of pitiful frogs dragging themselves from spot to spot and leaping
in odd directions. They had everything but “Will Work for Flies” signs.
An AP story followed. Within a few weeks, there were more reporters on
the scene than frogs.
Soon the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency jumped in. Then malformed
frogs popped up in 34 other states, as other nature classes sought fame
and fortune. Without skipping a beat, the feds formed the North American
Reporting Center for Amphibian Malformations (NARCAM), adding
credibility to an incredulous cause.
We began hearing that the frog is the leading “bio-indicator,”
providing an advance warning of the catastrophic fate about to befall
mankind unless we change our ways. “Friends of the Frog” societies
sprang up all over the country, with websites galore.
Next came televised specials, radio programs, environmental awards
for the students, research grants to universities, investigations by
state and federal environmental agencies, and another round of massive
green propaganda. For a while, you couldn’t turn on the television
without being greeted by odd-looking frogs and ominous warnings of the
deformed future of the human race under capitalism.
Hobbled frogs became a national obsession. Surely, it was only a
matter of time before Janet Reno insisted on wheelchair ramps at every
pond in the country, and social therapy for boys and girls who
discriminate in favor of so-called normal frogs when choosing a pet.
Thank goodness for Stanley K. Sessions of Hartwick College, the lead
author of a new study that debunks the hysteria. It turns out that
parasitic worms, known as trematodes, had been burrowing into the frog’s
developing limbs before they could properly form.
The scientists found this out by discovering higher concentrations of
the trematode Ribeiraoia in deformed frogs. Such parasites, and the
deformities they bring about, are just as likely to exist in the wild as
in a neighborhood pond. Why? Well, it just happens from time to time. On
the whole, it turns out that a frog’s life is just as difficult in poor,
socialist countries as it is in rich, capitalist ones.
But already the Frog Project is a self-sustaining industry. After the
Science article appeared, officials from the Minnesota Pollution Agency
said we should take no comfort in the findings. “It would be
irresponsible to sit back now and say, ‘Oh, no, it’s not a chemical
cause,” said Judy Helgen. Even after being shown otherwise, she says
that “for us, chemicals are the leading hypothesis.”
Dr. Helgen realizes that the frog fraud is the greatest thing to ever
happen to her agency, and doesn’t want the bonanza to end. So, too, with
all the research institutes, media crews, regulators, and environmental
activists who saw the poster frogs as reinvigorating their discredited
It’s a microcosm of how a thoroughly corrupt political industry
works. It seizes on the plight of sympathetic creatures as a prelude to
new controls on the economy. This movement has cost billions upon
billions in lost productivity and innovation. It has led to government
bans on perfectly wonderful chemicals, higher prices on thousands of
consumer products, and a myriad of restrictions on freedom.
Environmentalists and their media allies have every incentive to
misreport and even to lie to bring about public hysteria. That’s why you
can never believe the propaganda they dish out. Even after the evidence
is in, we can’t expect the environmentalists to recant. What drives them
is not a
genuine concern for nature, but a hatred of man and his civilization.