Can you imagine a world without butterflies?
Homero Gomez Gonzalez was a Mexican environmental activist who dedicated his life to protecting the wintering grounds of Monarch Butterflies in the Western state of Michoacán, Mexico. He was found dead—murdered, in a well two weeks after he disappeared in January 2020. Originally a logger who was born into a logging family that inhabited El Rosario, a village near where the Monarchs winter, he became a guardian of the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Mexican federal law outlaws logging in the site, which is chock full of pine and fir forests. Illegal logging and avocado farmers have made incursions into the area. What they see is pesos from sales of logs and avocados.
Millions of Monarch butterflies make a 2,000-mile journey each year from Canada to winter in this area in Central Mexico. They depend on the warmer weather, and the fir and pine tress to multiply to sustain their species. Over the last couple of years, the population of Monarchs has increased significantly, by some estimates last year by 144 percent—growing spatially from 6-14 acres.
Upon hearing of Mr. Gonzalez’s death, the President of Mexico, Lopez Obrador, always keen to make promises and sound concerned, said that he wanted to halt attacks on defenders of the environment and promote “peace and tranquility”.
Recently, Raul Hernandez Romero, a part time tour guide for butterflies in the same area, was also found dead from injuries sustained from a sharp object, so much for ‘peace and tranquility and the musings of a fairy godmother.
Perhaps what’s needed is to call President Lopez Obrador to task, flood the area with tourists, deploy a specially trained environmental army to protect the workers on the reserve, install observational cameras for all of us to see what’s happening on the ground, create a permanent visitor center that’s linked to butterfly reserves worldwide.