End of the Monarchy


Monarch, Sketch by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, RVJart.com. I made this sketch 20 years ago when monarchs were plentiful.

I have seen exactly one monarch butterfly this summer. As recently as 3 or 4 years ago this was the dominant large butterfly species here in Vermont. I would see countless monarchs fluttering over the meadows and roadsides. Not any more.

There have been many media reports over the last couple of years about the decline of this species. If you are paying attention you are witnessing the extinction of a species right before your eyes. Have you heard of the term Anthropocene?  The Anthropocene is a proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems.(1) This is a significant event.

Sustainability should be the idea foremost on your mind. What kind of world are we leaving for our children? The recent battle over GMO (genetically modified organism) labeling is a case in point. Vermont passed food labeling laws that would have required explicit labeling of GMO’s in food. The food lobby immediately got Congress to pass watered down National laws that will be “studied” for years to come. The food lobby do not want you to know what is in your food. Their interest is in protecting corporate profits.

Yes the scientists say that GMO’s are safe for humans to eat. To look at the big picture is a different story. The reason that Corporations like Monsanto developed GMOs is to make farming more profitable. They develop seeds that produce plants that can survive the spraying of herbicides, so that the weeds die but not the crop plant. Those weeds include the plants, like milkweed for instance, that the monarch butterflies need to survive. By you buying GMO foods you are supporting this practice of spraying millions of tons of herbicides on the earth.

Organically produced foods, another point,  are considered by the scientists to be no more beneficial than non-organically farmed crops for human consumption. For the earth it is a different story. Millions of tons of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are used on non-organically farmed crops every year. These chemicals don’t discriminate between harmful insects and beneficial insects, like bees, and  birds and amphibians. This is to say nothing of the runoff and overspray that goes into our rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Remember Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring?

Safe for human consumption does not mean safe for the earth and it’s wild inhabitants.

I am saddened by the passing of this beautiful butterfly into extinction. Because of it’s beauty it’s absence is noted. There are now thousands of species going extinct around the world while we live our lives, not paying attention. Remember this word; Anthropocene if you are ever lucky enough to see the last monarch.


Ps. The BBC released a feature today on the issue:

The notion that we have entered a new geological age is real and should be formally recognised, according to an international report.

The verdict comes from a panel set up to judge the merits of adding an Anthropocene (“Age of Humans”) time segment to the history of the Earth.

The group delivered its preliminary evidence and recommendations on Monday. 

Read more: The Anthropocene