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MARCH 2013

It’s Deadly Being Green Blue Ridge Press

By Amy Mathews Amos (and an anonymous frog)

Where are celebrities when you need them? Oh sure, Ker- mit can sing a great song on camera, but what about when the rest of us are dying out here? Then where is he? Chas- ing some blond pig, no doubt. It’s not like this should

come as a big surprise to you all, but frogs like me—along with toads—are disappearing around the world. Your scien- tists have known it for over 20 years.

Researchers discovered the obvious more than a decade ago—that pesticides poison us. After all, that’s what they do, right? They’re poison. They

give us frogs deformities—like giving boy frogs girl parts. Now the latest study, pub- lished in January 2013 by four European scientists in the jour- nal Scientifi c Reports, shows that pesticides kill us too. The scientists sprayed Eu- ropean common frogs with six formulations of chemicals used on crops around the world, at the same doses used on fi elds. They even used the same kind of sprayer that commercial growers use.

And guess what? One pesti-

cide killed all the frogs within one hour. Another killed all the frogs within a week. My fel-


low amphibians didn’t stand a chance. In

stroying our wetlands and for- ests.

fact, all the pesticides

tested were deadly: A single spraying by each of the pes- ticides currently used killed at least 40 percent of all frogs within a week. So guess what happens the second time fi elds get doused, or the third? That’s right: Round two and three of the killing fi elds. How much of this do you think frogs can take?

Hey, it’s not rocket science.

We frogs have what they call permeable skin. We breathe through it. Air and water pass through it. So any poison in the air or water goes right through us too.

It’s really been a one, two punch for us lately. In some places, people are catching and eating us. In others they’re de-

And everywhere the climate

is changing, making it tricky for sensitive creatures like us. A lot of scientists think that climate change has something to do with the nasty fungal dis- ease wiping out frogs in Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. Of course, by the time scientists know exactly what’s killing us we all might be gone. More than 1,800 species of amphibians worldwide (frogs, toads, salamanders and our relatives) are now threatened or endangered—a third of all species, says the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Over a hundred species have vanished in the wild. We know for sure that at least nine are kaput—gone extinct since 1980. I bet a bunch more are

goners too. Why should people care? still have their cute


movie Muppets after we’re gone, right?

Well they might not be so

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happy we wild frogs are gone when all the insects we usually eat start invading their space and croplands. It doesn’t make much sense to kill us off when we eat pests that bug you. Es- pecially when so much food can be grown organically, without toxic pesticides. Last year, U.S. and Canadian researchers reviewed dozens of scientifi c studies comparing organic food crops with con- ventional food crops grown with artifi cial pesticides and fertilizers. Verena Seufert and Navin Ramankutty of McGill University and Jonathan Foley of the University of Minnesota reported their fi ndings in the scientifi c journal Nature. They found that overall, crops grown by organic meth- ods can produce about three- fourths as much food as con- ventional methods using pesti- cides, and some organic crops yield almost as much food as conventional. Not bad when you consider all the frog lives saved. And the soil on organic farms holds water better than conventional farms. That wa- ter will come in pretty handy in places like the U.S. Midwest, now that we’re seeing all these record droughts brought on by climate change. You folks also might want to

think about whether chemical pesticides that deform and kill tadpoles might also be affecting your little ones too. So Kermit, step up to the

plate: Tell your fans to eat or- ganic and save the frogs. Before it’s too late. Amy Mathews Amos is an inde- pendent environmental consultant and writer © Blue Ridge Press 2013.


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