Can you imagine a world without monarch butterflies? I certainly can't and I'm sure my mom also never envisioned this possibility, when she decided in 2014 to write a children's book, Esmerelda's Magical Journey, about a tenacious little butterfly migrating from North America to Mexico. As a first grade teacher hatching monarch butterflies in her classroom and teaching about their metamorphosis and great migration, she witnessed the joy and learning these special insects brought to young children. Their story of perseverance was inspiring to all, including herself when she became homebound with a terminal illness. Like the monarch, she used all her strength to hang on to the time she had left and make the most of it. Also like these beautiful butterflies, she faced an uncertain future and an untimely end.
Last month, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature placed monarch butterflies on the Red List of Endangered Species. It is very possible that in our near future monarchs will become extinct; a fond memory from a more stable ecosystem gone by. A combination of deforestation in Mexico where they spend their winters, climate change and pesticide use destroying the milkweed they thrive on has had catastrophic effects on their populations across the country, with the western population having dropped by more than 99 percent.These prolific pollinators play an integral role in our ecosystem, enabling many flowers and fruits to flourish. Their extinction would not just be the sad loss of a beautiful creature, but would impact our overall food system greatly.
Although my mother's book had already been completed earlier this year, I knew it needed an update to include the important message of conservation. There are many ways we can act to reverse the decline of the monarch population in North America. From planting native milkweed in our home gardens to choosing not to spray pesticides, we can help! As a mother now with two young boys, I know the purity and power of a child's desire to be a helper. Esmerelda's Magical Journey will not only teach children the exciting transformation process of a caterpillar into a butterfly and how to persevere in spite of a challenge, but also empower them to help future butterflies thrive in a more welcoming ecosystem. Our children deserve a planet as vibrant as the one we have enjoyed. I know my mother would have agreed wholeheartedly, and in her memory let's teach our eager young learners how to take care of it.