Deanna S. won 3rd place for her butterfly poem. The writers contest was hosted by the Indianhead Writers Group of Shell Lake, Wisconsin. The event took place at Spooner Agricultural Research Station in Spooner, Wisconsin, on October 19, 2009
I love butterflies… because of their color. Some are purple, some have black and orange. One day I saw a butterfly hatching out of a cocoon. The cocoon cracked and the butterfly’s wings were dripping brown liquid… and then it stretched its wings. Two hours later it flew away.
I just finished reading a blog on WordPress that understands the connection between the environment and human health. Please visit www.ConservationBytes.com and read the article Sick environment sick people.
Biodiversity becomes critical when one thinks of the monarch butterfly and what the butterfly is teaching us. Degradation of the environment can kill the butterfly and growing food to monoculture and genetically engineered crops is directly linked to the butterfly and all other pollinators let alone human health.
Scientific America recently reported that monoculture is harming pollinators because bees, butterflies and other insects need biodiversity of nectar plants for health. People too need biodiveristy of crops for nutrition with a full range of vitamins and minerals. Reducing a crop to only certain growing and selling characteristics degrades the nutritional value of food.
It was 2008 when I met Jose Rodriquez, a nine year old barefooted souvenir seller, in San Agustin, Colombia. He was standing in the plaza. The church bells were ringing and the sky was ablaze in an orange sunset. I was on my way to Mass at the old adobe Catholic church near the square. I stopped and asked, “What are you selling?” He responded, “Real butterfly cards.” He asked my name and I answered, “Brenda Estella.” Curious I questioned him, “Where did you get the butterflies?” Jose responded, “I catch them. Sometimes the butterfly is old and the foreigners who ask me to catch butterflies don’t want them. I save what I can, pull off the wings, attach them to paper with glue and sell butterfly cards to tourists.” And so began my undercover work into butterfly pouching and smuggling in Colombia.
My employer is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). We investigate to be sure exporters have the proper license to export endangered species on the Appendix II butterflies list. At times the thieves are active scientists or retired scientists who research butterflies at universities around the world. Others are pouches who snatch endangered species for private collectors in Europe, Japan and the United States. Many times a poacher will get to know and hire a local peasant to do their field work. I asked Jose, “How did you get involved with butterflies?” He said, “A man from Miami comes to Colombia twice a year and buys what I have collected. Often he pays me eight dollars for each butterfly and he buys a lot of insects.” To a peasant this is enough money to support a family in a country that is economically depressed. Child labor is common in Third World countries. I asked, “Do you expect to see him anytime soon?”
Jose answered, “Matter of fact, he is here in our Andean village now.” San Agustin is home to orchids and an archeology park of stone sculptures dating between AD 100 and 1200. The park is now a UNESCO’s World Heritage Place. The mountainous village at 7,000 feet is also home to coffee and banana subsistence farmers. Agricultural doesn’t pay as much money as coca leaves for export. Drug wars have torn San Agustin apart with fear, drug lords and animal poachers. I know my prey is Federico Perez, a wanted butterfly thief, and I am ready to start surveillance. In this high tech world, I use a laptop computer for research, documentation, and staying in touch with CITES. I use GPS for finding locations and a high power camera lens to photograph the enemy without his knowing. I have to pretend that I am a butterfly collector and gain his trust before I am able to persuade him to show his collection.
I learn he is staying at Senora Munos home where we both have lodging. At dinner, we struck up a conversation and got acquainted with each other. Mrs. Munos announced, “Senorita Estella is a butterfly collector.” After dinner Federico asked, “So what are you really doing in San Agustin?” I answered, “I am here to collect an Emperor and take it back to the United States.” Federico in a coconspirator kind of way asked, “Would you like to see my butterfly collection.” I said, “Yes,” and he went to his room to fetch his collection. Federico showed me not only the Emperor but some endangered species on the Appendix II butterflies list. He told me, “This is my last night. I am boarding a plane in Bogota tomorrow for Miami.” Obtaining the critical information I needed, I called my employer, CITES, who will meet him at the airport with a warrant for his arrest if he doesn’t have the proper license for exporting butterflies. Federico caught the plane the next day and landed in Miami without incident. The customs agent on duty had already been alerted to the butterfly sting operation and searched his luggage. Within the pages of a book, The Dangerous World of Butterflies, the agent found the butterfly collection and no license for exporting them. CITES agents were on him within a minute and took him into custody. This is now one less poacher on the streets but my job in Colombia is not over yet. We are in a Third World country doing our best to save the beloved butterfly from extinction.
Happy Tonics exhibited at Soup Stock III at Little Footprint Farm, in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, on 19 September 2009. The annual event was hosted by Mike Brenna at his sustainabile farm. I loved the beautiful biodiversity of crops in the gardens. Mike is growing Oneida corn, a traditional tribal corn, that is grown by the Oneida Indian Nation near Green Bay. The Oneida originally came from New York State and corn seed came to Wisconin in 1992. I originated in New York State also and so like the Ojibwe, Oneida and the white flint corn, I migrated to Wisconsin in December 2006.
I was thrilled that Mike shared three ears of Oneida white flint corn with Happy Tonics. We distributed a small amount of seed at a seed saving session at the Lac Courte Oreilles Sustainable Living and Wellness Fair, on 25 September 2009, at the Lac Courte Oreilles Convention Center. You can view my video of event and a migration story of the monarch and food safety issues at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ7vl9qJIAA
We will use seed as a teaching tool at events and when we are presenting at conferences. Seed will be planted in 2010 with the grow out intention of seed saving for our native seed distribution program.
We are honored to announce that Mary Ellen Ryall, Executive Director, has been given a scholarship to attend the 13th Annual Food Security Conference, 10-13 October 2009, in Des Moines, Iowa. The focus is on Commodity to Community: Food Politics and Projects in the Heartland. Visit www.foodsecurity.org to learn more about growing healthy farms, people and communities.
Happy Tonics along with many other organizations around the USA are working to promote growing our own food closer to home using green methods and far less energy. Happy Tonics a nonprofit organization is committed to sustainability of our food, the monarch butterfly and Mother Earth. We are deeply committed to biodiversity of native crops and Say No to GMO! Farm Aid has created the Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering. Visit www.farmaid.org to learn more. According to Farm Aid, “Due to the extremely unpredictable nature of genetic experimentation, new food toxins, allergens or diseases can and have resulted from genetic engineering.”
We have a choice in how we feed ourselves and our families. Pick up a hoe and tend the earth. Mother nature will provide if we work with her.