People value whatever is extraordinary. On a recent visit to Costa Rica, for example, my wife and I were thrilled to glimpse beautifully iridescent Blue Morpho butterflies flitting through the forested foothills, their wings a luxuriant aquamarine. Like thousands of other eco-tourists, we’d willingly traveled two thousand miles in search of the exotic. What’s unfamiliar excites interest.
Now a report suggests that other butterflies we regard as garden variety, like the familiar Monarch, may soon become as rare as Blue Morphos. The latest census from Mexico indicates that the number of insects who successfully complete their annual migration has plummeted. Milkweed, which is the only foodstuff for Monarchs, is being eradicated from North American fields as farmers switch to genetically-modified crops like “Round Up Ready” corn and soybeans that are designed to withstand toxic chemicals that kill every other plant in the area. With no milkweed, the Monarchs are falling victim to progress. The southern forests where the butterflies overwinter were depopulated in the last count, with the orange-and-black visitors occupying less than three acres in the Mariposa Sanctuary, down from more than fifty acres just a few years ago. Soon, they may be gone.
Can you plant your own butterfly garden? Yes. Include more organic food in your diet. Demand that genetically-modified foods be labeled as such, so that shoppers can make smart decisions about what kind of agriculture they want to patronize and support. Many people would gladly pay a few pennies more for items that are less costly to the Monarchs, Morphos and other forms of life.
In the meantime, one wonders, when will our species begin to value what is common? How much of earth’s beauty will be lost forever before it’s considered rare enough to be saved? With eyes to see the riches of the ordinary, we can all be wealthy as monarchs.