Frog in a Frying Pan
acrylic and collage on canvas
18″ x 24″
In reflecting upon climate change, this painting illustrates the proverbial “frog in the frying pan” concept. This is the idea that if a frog is in a pan of water and you raise the temperature slowly enough, the frog won’t notice it and will end up perishing. Alarming newspaper headlines on climate change make up the collage of flames beneath the frog.
While this hypothesis was eventually disproven in the case of frogs, it underscores a key psychological phenomenon that has kept humans from responding more vigorously, even as temperatures rise and the early consequences of climate change have become increasingly obvious. Daniel Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard, notes that our brains are ill-equipped to deal with distant or future threats.
Gilbert’s theory is that “…global warming occurs so gradually that it goes undetected by the brain. Though the human brain is very sensitive to chemical and psychical changes such as light, temperature, pressure, sound, size, and weight, incremental differences largely go unnoticed.”
So, the frog in the frying pan analogy is not so far off. One only wonders how hot it will have to get before we mobilize the massive efforts that will be needed to change the path of climate change, and preserve a livable planet for future generations.