Issue #4: Letter from the Founder
Lately, the parable of the boiling frog has come mind. If unfamiliar, the story is about a frog placed in a pot of lukewarm water. The water warms, but as it does, the frog remains tranquil, unaware of any temperature changes. The temperature continues to warm, and eventually, too late to change its fate, the frog boils to death.
The parable of the boiling frog has not always been a fictional story though – it was first realized as a series of experiments conducted by German physiologist Friedrich Goltz in an attempt to locate the soul. In 1860, Goltz removed cerebral regions from frogs and immersed them in gradually warming water, comparing their behavior to that of normal frogs that were exposed to the same environmental conditions. As it turns out, the frogs with portions of their brains removed did not react to the warming water and boiled to death while the normal frogs, with brains fully intact, leapt out of the water when it began to warm. Though Goltz did not scientifically find the soul, his experiment has lived on and has been reinterpreted and utilized by philosophers and artists alike.
So, why has this specific parable come to mind? I think the frog in the gradually warming pot of water is an incredibly relevant analogy for humans, with an invaluable lesson at core. Last year scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ranked 2017 as the second-warmest year on record since reliable record-keeping began (ca. 1880). “This is the new normal,” stated Gavin A. Schmidt, director of the NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York. Temperatures are not likely to plateau, either. How do we find hope? Though humanity may sometimes appear to act in stupor and without a cerebral brain, hope lies in our awareness – of the gradually warming pot of water that not just the frogs are in, but that we are in.
Does this translate to development of advanced rockets and spacecraft so that we can eventually jump ship? Maybe, but I hope that living on other planets is not our only backup plan. I hope, instead, that we as humans choose to shift our focus and energy onto restoration. As human activity continues to transform most of Earth’s natural ecosystems, restoration of these dramatically altered spaces is our last beacon of hope. How do you plan to help? On an individual level, when faced with a problem, I try to remain solution-based. If the solution does not lend itself to an idealized outcome, I ask, “How can I do this differently?” So, here we are… how can we do this differently?
One solution can be found through cross-fertilization. It is time we bring multiple disciplines together with people from diverse backgrounds to exchange and formulate new ideas. Let us work together in this forest of creative hopelessness and develop innovative solutions for the problems that we have created, take necessary measures to preserve what remains, and inform future decision-making regarding the future of our natural resources.
Thus far, the underlying topics of E-Squared have encompassed the animal and what it means to be human (Issue #1); the environment and human impact (Issue #2); and man, machine, and the future of humanity (Issue #3). As E-Squared closes out its first volume, Issue #4 reminds us of our connection to planet Earth, grounding us in the sobering realities of our future. Together, let us begin… again.
Resolve to be a radicle* – emerging differently than before, giving rise to new and groundbreaking roots.
*The first root of the plant
Emily A. Dustman
“A normal frog if immersed in water which is gradually heated, speedily becomes violent in his attempts to escape. In striking contrast to this phenomenon is the behaviour of a brainless frog, which… sits motionless until it is dead from the excessive heat.” – Friedrich Goltz