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March 22, 2007

Dead Cats and Hermaphroditic Frogs

Nature has a very complexed system of checks and balances that occur naturally. This is how nature works. These checks have been around since the beginning of time and have had no problems keeping the world in balance. That is until man came along. Man has, since technology has allowed, altered the natural world in many ways. Many of these alterations are extremely harmful to the environment, let alone, the human population. Some even believe we (civilization as a whole) have created our own dooms day. Maybe we have or maybe we haven’t, but we still have a great influence on the environment. The article by T.C. Boyle talks about the balance in nature. How disrupting one side of the balance will, in turn, screw up the other side. He gives the example of DDT being used shoddily in developing countries. He explains the trouble of using DDT to kill off the large amounts of mosquitoes. The trouble is that mosquitoes aren’t the only specie killed off. Many wasps are murdered in the process. Once the wasps are gone, the caterpillars flourished and ate the roofs right off the tops of the native’s huts. Then the natives got all pissed off when it rained because they had nowhere to go for shelter. As you can see, what we do to the environment doesn’t just affect the environment. It affects us too. Humans need to be more respectful to the environment and obey the laws of nature. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use pesticides because they are bad. We just need to be more careful with them. If the individual that was in charge of the situation presented in the article would have used the DDT in a more intelligent way, many of the problems could have been avoided. They could have treated a small test area first to observe the effects. Then, they would have found out the consequences on a small scale. Which, in some cases may not be enough. I found an article from Discover magazine about the effects of Atrazine (one of the most widely used weed killers in agriculture today and used in over 80 countries) on frogs. Atrazine is made by Syngenta, a very prominent company when it comes to agriculture. Syngenta sold over $6.3 billion in crop-related chemicals and other products in 2001. With this large of a company, you can be sure the EPA and other government agencies are closely testing the chemicals Syngenta concocts. But with Atrazine, it’s a different story. Somehow, Atrazine passed all the testing and the EPA said that it could be present in drinking water at levels of three parts per billion before it was harmful only to find out it wasn’t as safe as they thought. It was found that this chemical, in very small amounts (less that one part per billion) changes the genetic makeup of frogs turning them into hermaphrodites. It changes the hormones produced in male frogs, making them grow female body parts. Think about that next time you take a drink from the water fountain.

Hermaphroditic Frogs