March 27th, 2007 by Sonja

I remember catching toads when I was young. They were much easier to catch than frogs. Frogs, after all, lived at the edges of ponds (so they had easy escape routes) and they are slippery. Toads live pretty much anywhere and they are bumpy. They are risky because they might pee on you, but fascinatingly grotesque. Thus, when I saw this provocative headline, Toad the Size of Small Dog, it was a must read.

I had visions of The Wind in the Willows, or a small boy having caught and fed a toad in order to enter the Guiness Book of World Records. But, no. This was a toad found and caught in the “wilds” so to speak of the suburbs of Darwin, Australia. It’s a case of toads gone bad. Toads wrecking the local eco-system. Toads brought in from South America in the 1930’s to control the beetle population, but they demolished other things too. So now they catch the toads, kill them and reprocess them to make “a great fertilizer.”

I began thinking about this. In a certain sense this is a very funny article about large men with large flashlights tiptoeing about stalking toads in the deep dark night and I’d love to write the screenplay for the comic movie about it. In another sense this article is about how little we know and understand the delicate balance of nature and science. We think we get it, but we are like the 5 blind men describing the elephant. Except we’ve just got the trunk. We understand one part of the elephant’s trunk and are making decisions about the whole elephant based upon our knowledge of his trunk, or a little piece of his tail. But we do not understand how the whole elephant fits together and moves and grows and lives.

I also began to think about how much of the damage that’s been done in and on the earth and to each other has come about because of our impatience. We are impatient to grow more food faster. We are impatient to live perfect happy lives. We are impatient with illness and sadness. We are impatient gray skies and cloudy days. We are impatient with hunger. We are impatient.

I am also beginning to think that it’s pretty likely that we passed the point of population sustainability sometime in the 1800s. I know that means that I should not be writing this. And likely 7 out of 10 of my readers should not be reading it. This is a harsh reality. But then so is the reality that many people in the developing world live out day after starving day.

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