by Chet Raymo
"There was wind in the willows as the Water Rat and the Mole rowed their boat along the river. They were on their way to visit Toad of Toad Hall. "It been a long time since we've seen Toady," said the Rat. "It's been a long time since I've seen any toad," observed the Mole. "Whatever can be the problem?" wondered the Rat. "Or frogs. Or newts. Or salamanders. The river bank is very quiet." The Mole shook his head. "We must ask Toad what's happening to the amphibians," said the Rat, his brow furrowed with concern.
Just then they rounded a bend in the river and saw Toad Hall, a handsome old house of mellowed red brick. They glided up to the landing and the Mole shipped the oars. "Toad is usually here to greet us," he said, looking about. "He is, indeed," puzzled the Rat. "But look, here comes the Badger shuffling down the lawn. Halloo, Badger."
"Well, Ratty, my dear little man," exclaimed the Badger. "What brings you and Mole to Toad Hall?" "To see Toady, of course," said the Rat. "I'm afraid that will be impossible," responded the Badger. "Old Toad has gone from bad to worse. In fact, he passed away just yesterday."
"Oh dear!" said the Rat and the Mole together. Then the Rat added: "The Mole and I were just observing that all the amphibians seem to be disappearing." The Badger gravely lowered his brow. "And not just here along the river. Disappearing amphibians is a worldwide problem. From Michigan to Australia. From Britain to Costa Rica. In the polluted environs of cities and in pristine nature reserves. Frog populations, especially, have declined over the past decade. And there seems to be more deformities among the frogs that survive- extra legs, that sort of thing. Scientists are all a-tizzy, wondering what's up. The U. S. Geological Survey has just released a new report confirming the problem."
"Oh, you know those scientists," sniffed the Mole. "They are always making mountains out of molehills. If they blow up a crisis, it helps get funding for their research. 'The Silence of the Salamanders.' 'Croaking Frogs.' That sort of thing. It makes good press."
"We'll see, we'll see," mused the Badger. "Scientists are convinced something global and catastrophic is truly happening."
The Rat scratched his head: "Anyone who lives along the river knows that amphibians are the least resilient to stress. Whatever is happening to the frogs may be in store for the rest of us."
"Time will tell," said the Badger.
The Rat and the Mole made their good-byes and got back in their boat. "Badger's such a worry-wart," said the Mole, as they rowed away.
"Hmmm," said the Rat.”