Monday, October 19, 2015

Monarchs & Mexico

A repost from this blog, 2009.

"I understand more and more how population is the problem. I was asking almost every peasant I met how many children they have. They say 'I have eight, 12, 15, nine.' These people are in their 50s. I ask how many children their children have. They say, 'Oh, senor, there are so many that we can't count them.' And most of them are getting their living from the forest. They want to get permits to log in the forest."
- Homero Aridjis, Mexico's foremost authority on Monarch butterflies

The Monarch butterfly migration, from Canada to Mexico, is now in full swing.

This butterfly migration predates human existence in the western hemisphere. For thousands of years, millions of Monarch butterflies from the United States and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains have flow up to 3,000 miles to overwinter in a small forest area in central Mexico.

Now, however, the Monarch is seriously threatened. The reason: rapid deforestation of Mexico's high-altitude Oyamel fir stands which provide the rare micro-climate necessary to prevent the butterflies from freezing, but keeps them cold enough so that their reproductive systems remain dormant until spring.

The Mexican forest wintering ground of the Monarch was not discovered by scientists until 1975.

By the mid-1980s, scientists realized that rapid deforestation in the Oyamel fir forest was not sustainable, and could drive the Eastern Monarch butterfly to extinction. At that time, the Mexican government created a monarch reserve of approximately 62 square miles that consisted of no-logging zones at five known overwintering sites.

But local residents have largely ignored the restrictions, saying they are too poor to care about the monarch butterfly -- the trees must fall to put food on the table for hungry mouths.

"Maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing if the butterflies didn't come back. At least we could log," said one campesino.

Ultimately, humans and butterflies are competing for the same forest resources. Unless population growth is stemmed, and alternative economic opportunities are developed, the fate of the Monarch may be sealed.

Aerial photographs of Mexico's forest region where the butterflies hibernate show that that 30 years ago the forest was nearly 2,000 square miles.

Today, only a tenth of it remains. The largest tract today is 20 square miles, five times smaller than the largest tract 30 years ago.



Olde New England said...

I don't think Americans realize how weak are our attempts to minimize CO2, conserve water, use wind power etc. in the face of massive populations throughout the world where native peoples still live lives more similar to the primitive, rather than the modern world. We here can all drive electric cars, recycle everything, live in NRG efficient houses, but if the primitive cultures continue to live the way they do - breeding like crazy and not concerned about their environment - we better get used to seeing the extinction of a lot more species.

Oscar Cadena said...

As far as I remember, since back in the late 80´s a lot of TV and radio advertisements besides posters and even short documentaries where produced by the Mexican government to educate people about the Monarch Butterfly and the nesting area has been protected by authorities since back in the 90s and later declared human heritage by Unesco.

People that hurts the Monarch population have been prosecuted and exposed in national media since a few years ago, but… The state where the monarch butterfly nest is Michoacán, 10.2% of the population above 15yo can’t read or write, many belong to the native Purepecha, Nahuatl and maybe Otomies prehispanic cultures and have always lived from forestry and agriculture; as every native culture from everywhere in the world, they have been displaced from their land, besides all of that, Cartels runs a great part of the state, if you watch “The Border” you might get a glimpse of what is like to live in a narco-state, if you watch the “satiric” movie “El infierno” add woods, citizen self-defense vigilantes and soldiers controlling only the self-defense groups then you can start understanding what these people live every day, the fact that they just don’t give up and join the Cartel is quite impressive. To be honest, under the current government regime we are living, it’s quite probable that the Butterflies will prevail, contrary to the deforesters.

I don’t support deforesters, just wanted to add some background about Michoacán and some of their natives.