2012 – Stay in bed and save the planet

Hyla_arborea,_juv
January is already in its twenties and I find I keep on getting dragged back to 2008. Only yesterday I discovered that last year was the International Year of the Frog. How did I miss that ? I don’t know where or when this was decided but I can imagine the endless jokes about it being a good thing to do in a Leap Year.
Even more surprising than the fact that 2008 was international frog year was that there was also a 2008 frog of the year: the European Tree Frog (almost extinct in Belgium and posing here as the European Finger Frog). But in 2007 there was no international frog of the year but an international toad of the year (the Common Spadefoot). The reason for this seems to be that this is originally a German prize, named Froschlurch des Jahres, Froschlurch being a word covering both frog and toad. So the prize is really Frogtoad  of the Year. I am really, honestly and sincerely not making fun of any of this. I  think this is a wonderful idea. How can you not like the European Finger Frog ?
And the prize is surely more interesting than the Grammies, Emmies, Tonies or any other prize which sounds like a life-threatening snack sold in a over-coloured packet at supermarket counters. However i do find the Germans go a bit overboard, they also have a tree of the year, a mushroom of the year (the Blaue Rindepilz), a river landscape of the year, an insect of the year, a generic animal of the year and I forget what else.

But even if I didn’t know about the International Year of the Frog, I feel I did my bit, because I posted an anonymous poem called The Frog – almost. I also sort of addressed the issue of the International Year of the Potato and provided some interesting potato stats. But 2008 was also the International Year of the Reef, Sanitation, Languages and Planet Earth. I definitely contributed to confusion among languages, but I am not sure whether I had a positive effect on sanitation. Like most people  with access to electricity, fuel and air freight, I most definitely made Planet Earth a worse place. And I certainly did nothing for the Reef.

Grammies
2009 will among other things be the international year of the gorilla, the international year of natural fibres, and astronomy, reconciliation and human rights learning. I don’t expect to have a major impact in any of these areas but I was interested to discover that the year is also full of international days. 21 March, for example, is International Sleep Day and in autumn there is an International Day for Left-Handers.

In search of issues I could contribute positively to, I discovered that 2011 has already been singled out as International Year of Forests. How far ahead can International Years be proclaimed, I wonder ? Surely there can’t be any doubt that 2020 ought to be the International Year of Good Eyesight. Here is something I think I can start doing: 2010 is going to be the International Year for Rapprochement between Cultures, something I am whole-heartedly in favour of. Since, however, I have the feeling that many of the people who are most in need of encouragement to appreciate other cultures don’t know what rapprochement means or think it sounds suspiciously foreign, I shall take it upon myself to spend the next 345 days explaining the word to everyone I meet or, even better, thinking of an alternative.

jumping frog
And surely there are people who are already pondering which animal which would go well with the next Leap Year, coming up in 2012.

I typed “jumping animals” into a search engine and was surprised with the candidates which appeared. Here they are:

penguin jumpingjumping bearlynx jumping

I was expecting antelopes or fleas. (I am already prepared for the latter case: here is a study demonstrating that Dog Fleas jump further than Cat Fleas). This won a 2008 Ig Nobel Prize (other winners “The Role of Auditory Cues in Modulating the Perceived Crispness and Staleness of Potato Crisps” and “The Role of Armadilloes in the Movement of Archeological Material”. I really  encourage you to read the complete Ig Nobel list) .

But I have a better idea. What better way to help the planet  than to make 2012 INTERNATIONAL SLEAP YEAR so that we humans stay in bed for 366 days and give all the other species twelve well-deserved months of respite from us ?

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