Warts And All: In Defense Of Frogs

Considered the ugliest of them all, frogs are far more helpful to the environment than cuddly kittens or charming princes. It's time to start showing some serious amphibian amour!

Future Pince Charming
Future Pince Charming
Martha Gutiérrez

There are some animal species that seem destined for rejection. Typically, they are the ones that look very different from us, and are often arbitrarily classified as ugly animals.

In the United States and Britain, animal protection activists have coined a word to define the discrimination by humans against certain species of animals: “specism.”

These prejudicial attitudes towards our Animal Kingdom brothers can take different forms. But rest assured that what is pretty or ugly to us will not necessarily mean the same to them. Of course a rat would not think of another rat as ugly, nor would a toad judge another toad in such a way. Each animal has a natural value and every creature has an intrinsic value.

If having purely subjective and shallow opinions were the end of it, it would not be so serious. The problem is that the animals considered “ugly” are commonly harassed, damaged, decimated, and annihilated. This comes at a high cost to them — but it can also cause serious harm to the environment.

Such is the case of amphibians, a species where well-known animals such as frogs and toads are found. These beings have a very positive impact on the environment. As such, they urgently need to be shielded from the continuous danger they face due to the lack of care and respect they receive from humans.

People are certainly more likely to show mercy for a poor dog being attacked by a group of kids throwing stones at it than for a toad the kids are "just having fun" with frying under a magnifying glass.

Fortunately, there are people who do rise in defense of amphibians. For example, Carlos Fernández Balboa, of the Argentina Wildlife Foundation, author of the Guide To Defend Amphibians.

Many amphibians are unknown to people who use the words “toad” or “frog” interchangeably to refer to almost all of the species, Fernández Balboa explains. Through his work, we come to know that there are some 4,150 different amphibian species in the world that quietly benefit the environment in mountain, forest, and lake areas. Closer to home, they also feed on insects that cause us problems in our backyards and gardens.

Amphibians are very useful to the environmental equilibrium. Knowing them better, more profoundly, is the first step to affording them the justice they are due.

And if ecological motivations fail to change your mind, maybe it's worth imagining an amphibian version of that famous fairy tale, where this time the mamma frog croaks out the story to her little ones about how, after the kiss ... the ugly Prince turned into a handsome frog!

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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