Every summer we look forward to monarch butterflies flitting from flower to flower. But we’re now well into September and have seen only one or two. Days go by with no sightings. What has happened? It can’t be the lack of a food source near where we live. There’s lots of milkweed upon which the monarchs lay their eggs.
Not only monarchs, but other butterflies along with bees seem much diminished. And bees fulfill a crucial role as food pollinators. Why this decline?
Part of the answer is found in extreme weather; some recent winters have been unusually cold while some summers have been dry throughout much of the Texas and the mid-West of the US. These extremes have proven to be life-threatening for the fragile monarch.
However, the largest culprit remains our careless approach to the environment. Certainly, the slow decimation of the monarchs’ preferred wintering ground in Mexico has contributed. But here in the rest of North America agricultural practice must also be considered. Farm fields used to be separated by fence rows where wild flowers and small animals thrived. Recently, most fence rows have been bulldozed into oblivion creating enormous fields with little space for natural species to flourish. Hence, throughout the plains, monarchs find less and less wild flower nectar for themselves and less milkweed upon which to lay their eggs.
Scientists tell us natural habitats face a perfect storm of environmental problems. The existence of so-called weeds, such as milkweed, suffer from the widespread use of herbicides which eradicate weeds that hinder the growth of genetically modified seeds. Pressure to produce high yields almost compels farmers get onboard this biotech nightmare.
Added to this threat to plant diversity is the widespread use on engineered insecticides. These new generation pesticides effectively control sucking insects, some chewing insects, soil insects, and are also used to control fleas on domestic animals. They increase profit but decrease biodiversity and threaten to destroy not only butterflies but bees as well. In a sense farmers are in a bind, under enormous pressure to use whatever means is available to compete world-wide.
Surely there ought to be national and international regulations about protecting biodiversity. Neither monarch butterflies nor bumblebees nor chickadees nor sparrows seem very significant. They do not obviously contribute to GDP. But surely life is more than GDP? What about EDP, esthetic domestic product? After all wasn’t it Jesus who taught us about God’s care of the birds and delight in lilies and grass? (See Matthew 6:26-30) If He cares for them; shouldn’t we?
Sadly, most of us feel more devotion to the Almighty Dollar than we do to the Creator. But the Creator has made it clear, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof”. We hold land in trust, as His stewards. That means caring for the earth not thoughtlessly exploiting it.