Remember the first time you were old enough to chase a butterfly? It was so entrancing, the fluttering movements up, down, around until it alighted on a flower. There it did what it was created for while slowly and intermittently flapping its wings as it methodically did its pollination thing.
It was that moment when it was most catchable. Without a net, catching the flying flower delicately enough not to kill it was near impossible. You sneaked up behind it as stealthily as one your age could manage and with luck, you caught it in your cupped hands. Sometimes it would even patiently sit on your finger or in your hand. Then if you were a good kid you wanted it to go back to what it was doing, so you threw it up in the air waiting for it to flutter off back to the flower bed or up into the sky. But sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it wouldn’t go or tried to go and fluttered downward, not upward to the ground and eventual death.
You looked at your hand and learned something. There on your skin was an oily but colorful residue that once was on the butterflies wings. It dawned on you. WIthout the color, they couldn’t fly. And you were sad. A lesson hard learned.
Sadder still is that your children and grandchildren may never experience this gentle moment of the wilderness. Butterflies are disappearing faster than bees, and to make things worse in the agricultural world they are seen as pests, unlike the revered bee seen as necessary to sustain us on this planet.
George Carlin, bless his soul, once said, “Caterpillars do all the work, but butterflies get all the credit.” And there lies the rub. Before that beauty takes flight on wings like Picasso paintings, it goes through several stages. One of which is turning into a caterpillar. And yes that little critter works hard but it works hard at eating most any growing thing it can to store up the energy it needs to make that magical transformation into a beauty from the beast it was. My Calla Lillies, now gone, as a good example. Here is where the assault takes place on them. Let’s do the numbers.
Along with the bee-killing chemical companies about which I already shared thoughts with you, we have the ever-present issue of climate change to which butterflies are uniquely sensitive because they are so delicate. In 2017, the population of the Monarch Butterfly, the standard bearer for beauty in the butterfly world, dropped 15%. I’ll go you one better, the non-profit, “Friends of the Earth” says that the total Monarch population has dropped 97% (yes, ninety-seven percent!) in the past 20 years. The Guardian Newspaper screamed at us that if the Monarch was reduced to near extinction the world could face an “ecological Armageddon.”
While we battle with Mexico over political idiocies, here we find a common ground issue that Mexico can and should help with. A huge proportion of North America’s monarchs come out of the chrysalis and fly in virtual clouds worth of color into the sky. They come from caves in Mexico. Many proposals have been made for their protection before and after butterfly-hood but right now Mexico doesn’t seem to be in the mood to do the US many favors and the Monarchs, and eventually, our food supply suffers. But you can, and simply.
- Google Friends of the Earth
- Check out The Guardian Newspapers articles on bee and butterflies
- Demand that Monsanto and other companies change the formula for Roundup- and other similar pesticides, a switch I’m told involves only one chemical in the formula.
- Write the Department of State and appeal to its staff to put this on the desk of someone who responsibility is the Central America desk.
- Finally, write or call your Congressman’s office and tell him or her that your children and grandchildren deserve the same wonder that they, the elected representatives had when they were children and butterflies were abundant.
If you don’t, you will be reduced to taking them to hot, enclosed, and quite expensive “butterfly gardens’ such as one found in Washington, an ironic declaration on how government can fail, or Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. What they have in common, no matter how beautiful they are arranged, is the absence of woods and wilderness, the freedom of the outdoors, and that almost mystical experience of the encounter being between just the wide-eyed kid and the natural wonder, no crowds, screaming, impatient children, and aggravated parents all packed in too tight and having other places to get to that make it impossible even to conger up what once was–at least from my perspective.
He of kind heart and many memories, Bill Gralnick occasionally lets them loose on these pages rather than piling up pungent paragraphs that rail about government and politics.
He writes every Sunday nearly without fail on this site and his full writing and links to books can be found on his website: http://www.atleastfrommyperspective.net
And as he is wont to say, “Read! It’s good for both of us.”