The Monarch Butterfly Effect
What will happen if the monarch becomes extinct?
Let’s start with the obvious: the monarch’s beauty. Who won’t miss that? The way they color our world. Charm our children. And remind us that even the smallest of things can inspire in big ways.
The enchanting monarch has been woven into our collective consciousness throughout the ages. For it to leave this earth forever would be one of the great tragedies of our time. But aesthetic tragedy would just be the beginning. No longer having the monarch integral to our precariously balanced ecosystem would quickly move to the catastrophic.
The reason is simple: When pollinators such as the monarch come to an end, so does our fragile food network. If there are no pollinators there won’t be any plants. No plants mean no food for animals. And not just the four- legged kind that give milk and provide meat. The human kind.
The harshest effect of no longer having monarchs in our midst means that the world as we know it will eventually cease to be.
Where Do We Start?
The best place to begin focusing our collective efforts is California, as it is pivotal to North American monarch migration. In just five years, the California monarch population has declined more than 85%. And that is after decades of slow but steady disappearance.
Since 1980, almost 97% of the California monarch population has simply vanished. At present count, there are only about 30,000. 150,000 worldwide. And there were tens of millions just twenty years ago.
Why Is The Monarch Disappearing?
There are a variety of reasons. But mostly, it’s because their normal migration paths have drastically changed due to the climate crisis, pollution and rampant development. The monarchs have lost an estimated 165 million acres of natural habitat, including a significant amount of their critical summer breeding grounds.
Then there’s the problem of milkweed. There’s not enough. It, too, has dwindled as a result of the changing environment and terrain. And milkweed is what monarchs eat. In fact, it’s all they eat. Between losing their breeding capacity and their only source of food, the monarchs are suffering starvation and dying off in droves every day.
Their situation is so bad that leading experts predict if something drastic isn’t done to reverse the current trend, the monarch butterfly will become totally extinct within 10 years.
What Do We Do To Save The Monarch Butterfly?
The most important thing is to recognize that efforts so far—even the most well-intentioned—have not been enough to make a real difference. Sporadic garden planting doesn’t fill the need for dense milkweed reseeding along the monarch’s ancient migratory path.
Which brings us to the next most important step: Support efforts that can actually fix the problem. Like large-scale efforts which will create pollinator feeding grounds that can not only begin to repopulate their decimated ranks, but greatly expand their numbers in the next few critical years.
Fortunately, there are several such efforts underway. One of the most innovative is the California Milkweed Highway which will be a network of nine commercial milkweed habitats that span California. Such habitats do more than just grow milkweed, they use cutting edge farming techniques, and they are renewable energy driven to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere.
You can check out their comprehensive plan at 150left.com. and their visual brand to raise awareness as to why this is so important for our food chain. Essentially, they will rebuild the monarch’s natural migratory pathway through an AgTech solution that applies new agricultural methods and technologies to a decades old problem.
Their efforts are forecasted to double the California monarch population in just three years and act as a sustainable, “pollinator backbone” to California food growers who supply 65% of America’s fruits and vegetables.
Once they complete the California highway, they plan to replicate it across the country where needed, and eventually around the world.
So, what will the ultimate effect be of saving the monarch from extinction? Nothing. The beauty of this butterfly effect is that nothing will change. The wonderful world as we know it will continue because the monarch butterfly will survive. And our precious interconnected food source will remain healthy and uninterrupted.
Ultimately creating a butterfly effect we can all live with.