My yearly summer jaunt up to the North Shore of Lake Superior used to run me home through a lazy blizzard of black and orange–not Iowa Hawkeye footballers, but Monarch butterflies on their way south and west. This year, I saw not a single Monarch, either on the road, or anywhere else on my lake-shore rambles. In fact I saw fewer winged insects of any kind than I can ever remember. One spectacular Luna Moth was plastered to the steps of the hardware store in Lutsen. And I plucked a smashed Buckeye butterfly from a side road after a thunderstorm. Yes, there were dragon flies in decent numbers, but that was it, except for, of course, mosquitoes. Plentiful as always. Too bad mosquitoes don’t pollinate, carry beauty on the wing, or unfurl long tongues like the huge blue dragonflies I fed one year with sugar water.
Yes, it’s too bad, isn’t it. But (shoulder shrug) what can we do? We, meaning all of us who permit a farm policy that pays farmers by the area they have under cultivation. And what’s wrong with that? says the defensive farm-supporter. Isn’t industriousness a virtue? Isn’t farming a multi-billion dollar Minnesota industry?
I call it greed. Environmental madness sanctioned by a powerful lobby. And, with all the Calvinist vigor I can muster, I predict we will pay, Big time. Not just with the loss of one of summer’s most beautiful and mysterious visitors, its treasured butterfly, but with illness generated by water running off fields planted to the edges of water ways, bringing us, thanks to Monsanto and other herbicide and pesticide fabricators, diseases and huge remedial costs. It is simply not good for us life forms to eat and drink what kills other life forms. Try repeating this mantra: Monarchs, Milkweed, Waterways, and Me! Monarchs, Milkweed, Waterways and Me.
I am not heavily invested in farming, but I like to eat decently. I appreciate drinking water that is not polluted with cancer-producing, insect-killing chemicals. I appreciate farming practices that reduce the need for chemicals by using crop rotation to discourage pest production. Remember how cold it gets in a Minnesota winter? That cold can kill off pests if they are not given the same corn crop, season season to fatten up on.
I appreciate farming practices that use natural means to clean water running off fields. And that natural way is allowing buffers of what we sneeringly call “weeds,” but are actually time-honored homes and food for winged creatures that benefit us: BEES for honey and pollination and MONARCHS.for beauty and inspiration. And a host of others.
Here’s a thought: email this blog with a note of approval from you personally to your congressional representatives. Let them know you support a farm policy that REQUIRES all fields be buffered with native plants to clean run-off water of chemicals. Tell them that you OPPOSE a farm policy that encourages farmers to plant one crop (especially that DEVIL CORN) year after year, without allowing fields to go fallow.
By doing so, you will significantly reduce the insane marriage of excessive plowing with chemical spraying. You will be supporting a return to saner and more life-supporting practices. BECAUSE YOU want to stay healthy, and we are finally figuring out that the whole world is in our hands. Yup, we are that powerful, and that deadly, and too much of the time, that stupid.
Don’t look in the mirror and see a thousand, a million dead Monarchs. And behind them, a thousand, a million sick and dying humans.