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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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For Seniors, Friendship May Be More Important Than Family

Even if the aging and elderly tend to wind up confined to family circles, Argentine academics Laura Belli and Danila Suárez explore the often untapped benefits of friendship in our later years.

Photograph of two elderly women and an elderly man walking arm in arm. Behind the, there are adverts for famous football players.

Two elderly women and a man walk arm in arm

Philippe Leone/Unsplash
Laura F. Belli and Danila Suárez Tomé

Updated Dec. 10, 2023 at 10:10 p.m.

BUENOS AIRES — What kind of friendship do people most talk about? Most often it is childhood or teenage friendships, while friendships between men and women are repeatedly analyzed. What about friendships among the elderly? How are they affected when friends disappear, at a stage when grieving is already more frequent?

Argentines Laura Belli and Danila Suárez Tomé, two friends with PhDs in philosophy, explore the challenges and benefits of friendship in their book Filosofía de la amistad (Friendship Philosophy).

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They consider how friendships can emerge later in life, in profoundly altered circumstances from those of our youth, with people living through events like retirement, widowhood, reduced autonomy or to a greater or lesser degree, personal deterioration. All these can affect older people's ability to form and keep friendships, even if changes happen at any stage in life.

Filosofía de la amistadexplores the place of friendships amid daunting changes. These are not just the result of ageing itself but also of how one is perceived, nor will they affect everyone exactly the same way. Aging has firstly become a far more diverse experience, with increasing lifespans and better healthcare everywhere, and despite an inevitable restriction in life opportunities, a good many seniors enjoy far greater freedom and life choices than before.

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