If you spent any amount of time getting high with political science undergrads in the last 15 years, you’re probably familiar with the boiled frog concept. The theory goes that a frog placed in boiling water will immediately leap out again, but a frog placed in tepid water before being slowly heated to boiling point will barely notice the change and, in true English spirit, die out of politeness rather than complain. Unfortunately, no less a figure than the Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians at Washington DC’s National Museum of Natural History made his position beautifully clear on the veracity of the theory: “Well that’s, may I say, bullshit.”
Nonetheless, it’s proved to be a hugely expedient analogy in both political and psychological terms, with an irresistible climate change parallel; unsurprisingly, Al Gore borrowed it for his 2006 climate treatise An Inconvenient Truth. While the theory may not tell us much about amphibian cognition, it reminds us that climate disaster doesn’t necessarily start with Dwayne Johnson attempting to navigate a speedboat up the crest of a tsunami. It starts with a punch-up at a public swimming pool in southeast London.
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