Ancient Americans Followed Giant Frog Across Land Bridge

Recently discovered are the bones of this 10-pound frog.  Interesting as the animal is as yet another example of current species as smaller than ancient ones, it comes with additional questions.  For example, the skeleton was found in Madagascar.  Though there are giant frogs in Africa, these particular bones are not related to those frogs – instead, they are related to much smaller South American varieties.  Quoi?  Scientist are hypothesizing that a) theories of continental shift and how closely the continents were at that time may be incorrect and/or that b) the froggies crossed from Africa to the Americas on a land bridge, possibly via Antarctica.

Some of you may be familiar with another land bridge theory from your elementary days involving Native Americans crossing via the Arctic from Asia.  It may surprise you that this theory has been partially debunked, though not thrown out in its entirety (yet).  In case you’ve forgotten, let me refresh your memory a bit.  The Bering Land Bridge model, or Beringia model, claims that land in the Arctic was uncovered during several ice ages (when the sea shrunk) and allowed for different species to travel and mix between the Asian and American continents.  Fair enough – there is adequate fossil and evolutionary evidence to authenticate this claim for a variety of species going in either direction.  The second part of the theory is what’s more contested.  It supposes that people crossed the land bridge from Asia around 12,000 BC, discovered and explored the only path between two giant glaciers that led to more fertile land at the south (sometimes only 10 meters in width), and spread Clovis culture throughout the Americas, all the way down to the southernmost tip of South America, all within a 1,000 year period.  It is a bit unlikely, but for a long time it was the most reasonable theory.

There was some questionable evidence of earlier colonization from archaeological sites, but no one really took it seriously until Mesa Verde was analyzed by a whole team of archeologists from different countries.  This site showed evidence of human habitation about 1,000 years earlier than the earliest Clovis settlement up in North America.  If the Clovis land bridge people handn’t even gotten to South America yet, who were these earlier inhabitants, where did they come form, and what happened to them?   Theories blossomed – they came across following the Bering Land Bridge in boats and then  followed the coastline of the Americas south much more quickly than the land travelers.  They came from Australia in boats via Antarctic islands.  Some of them came across the Atlantic.  Of course, some of these theories were more reasonable than others, but for various reasons, they all lacked one thing – evidence.

And that’s what we lack for Mr. Frog now.   Who knows?  His bones may teach us to rethink everything we know about geologic drift, or everything we think we know about the population of the Americas.  But especially in relation to younger children who soak up information like sponges, it should teach us at least one thing – give tehm wisdom rather than knowledge.  The specific details of history and science are not really relevant, and, given the current rate of new discoveries and refinements, will change in their lifetimes.  But a method of analyzing, questioning, and researching specific data for themselves – that will serve them well indefinitely.

A New ‘Subprime’?

What with all the current investing hoopla about mortgages, ‘subprime’ has become a buzz word. Even Al Gore is jumping on the bandwagon – at a recent UN-sponsored event for investors and financial advisors, he used the word to describe investments which relied heavily on carbon use. The idea behind his speech relates to the spirit of capitalism-money is the means to effect change.

A similar pull was seen from the ground up in protests regarding investments that supported genocide in Darfur the past few years. Many school endowments were put under pressure to withdraw from investments which supported the regime. While this movement awoke people to the possibility of investment as a tool for change, it remains to be seen how much impact such change really imparted. I know at the Oven Glove, though a policy of not supporting genocide was put in place, very little of our invested money was withdrawn. Mostly we were already not investing in genocide, yay! But the overall result was to make me wonder how much impact happened in Darfur overall.

A part of what Al Gore is trying to do here is commendable. He’s going to the source. If the high-power investors themselves see a higher cost in investing in carbon now and dealing with the problems it causes later, they will make investment changes and many people will follow their lead. But again I wonder how much impact even high-power investment changes will have.  South American countries have always been between the rock and hard place of the US historical expansion model and current morals of rain forest preservation and rural protectionism. China, with its burgeoning industry and development, was notorious during the Darfur issue for not removing many of its investments from that area. With the need to modernize, can a growingly consumptive population giant like the PRC afford to ignore carbon? Should they have to?

Things that parents fear

I just recently am back at work today after spending the long weekend and Tuesday with my parents.  I had a really great time with them, even though we didn’t do very much.  Sure, we went to one museum and lots of restaurants, and played some card and board games.  I love my family.  But what I enjoyed most was just getting to sit and talk to them.

One of the things that came up – that always comes up –  is the significant other discussion.  This can be long and varied depending on who I’m dating.  During this particular visit, discussion revolved around my boyfriend’s family: where did they come from, what was their history, where had they lived, what was the general outline of their lives.  It makes sense at some level – it gives a better sense of Mike and who he is, and perhaps why he is who he is.  Still, it was rather disconcerting at times.

My dad describes the measuring and analysis and questioning in two ways.  First, no one will ever be good enough for his daughter.  Second, there always looms the possibility of a horrible, painful, devastating breakup.  And the second possibility only looms worse the the better they feel about the first.  Why is this worry so much bleaker than many of the others parents have for their children?  Sure there are little worries all parents have – about their children’s general health and well-being, about their ability to provide for themselves, about their happiness.

This blog quips that difficult breakups are a White Man’s Burden (and joy).   And there is a grain of truth in a bad breakup being something many of us love to hate, whether or not this love is a white man’s prerogative.  I guess I have a larger question in where it all started.  Is it just the melancholy of the Gothic novel?  Is it the unrequited love of the middle ages or before?  Does the whole thing have its roots in Greek tragedy? Did Marco Polo introduce the idea from his Asian experience with Indian serpent love-myths or the mournful courtesan poetry of China? Or is it something more than historical?  Is it something we need, or long to gripe and worry about, despite ourselves?