Another one bites the dust!
Long known to be in serious decline, the Monarch Butterfly has thrilled us through generations!
Once we were aware they were in trouble, we naively thought, let’s plant more milkweed, and all will be good. While this did help some small local populations, the impacts we as humans impose, worldwide, on natural systems far outweigh the small benefit of a few conscientious people planting flowers.
Deforestation on their wintering grounds and here at home, wide-scale habitat loss, pesticides, climate change, and so much more threatens them and countless other animals. The sad outcome is, recently, the Monarch Butterfly was officially designated as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which has become the global authority in assessing and reporting on the status of the natural world.
Through one of their reporting and assessment tools, called the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a directory has evolved, which has become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animals, fungi and plant species. To quote their website (www.iucnredlist.org), “The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. Far more than a list of species and their status, it is a powerful tool to inform and catalyze action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive.”
As this snippet indicates, this directory provides information about range, population, habitat, ecology, trade (legal and illegal), threats and conservation actions which will help inform necessary conservation decisions. It divides the status of species into nine categories, based on threat: Not Evaluated, Data Deficient, Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild and Extinct (meaning even in captivity).
The Monarch is known for its incredible annual migration, but now officially listed as Endangered (threatened by habitat destruction and climate change), its future seems uncertain. Scientists estimate the species’ population has dropped between 20 and 90 percent over the last several decades, depending on which subpopulation you are studying. This offers a dire warning to us.
But are the monarchs the only creatures in peril? Absolutely not! Across the globe, of the 147,517 species listed by the IUCN, 41,459 are threatened with extinction, and of these, 41 percent of amphibians are threatened, 21 percent of reptiles, 27 percent of mammals, 33 percent of reef corals and 13 percent of birds. Other categories are assessed as well, including crustaceans, sharks and rays, coniferous trees and various cacti and allies. All are in serious decline. The world is truly in a bit of a mess!
I guess, where I get frustrated is, I see much of what we hear as patronizing and just lip-service from a selfish and self-serving public. Leonardo DiCaprio recently criticized the President of Brazil for his policies, which are destroying the Amazon rainforest at an alarming rate, in favour of mineral extraction, big business and agriculture. In March of 2022, 430 square kilometres (166 square miles) were removed by developers and farmers. President Bolsonaro of Brazil pledged, in 2021, to end illegal deforestation by 2028, and he signed a global pact to stop all forest destruction by 2030. The problem is, from now until then, hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest will be gone, and then what?
By the way, what do you think Bolsonaro’s response to DiCaprio was? He essentially accused DiCaprio of being a false critic, who jets all over the world to tell others what they should do; and, he is right. Each of us claims we will do whatever we can to help save our planet, but frankly, with misguided governments everywhere, including here in Canada, industrial leaders out for self-gain, technology lagging behind, and a selfish public who still wants their toys, nature will not win.
When I sat down to write this column, I intended only to speak about the Monarch, but that’s the mistake we all make; we choose a cause and think that’s all we have to do. Nature is too complex to presume all will be well if we save one species; it won’t.
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.