Several Sundays ago, the Tribune ran two separate stories, one about the decline in the monarch butterfly population, the other regarding the recent onset of a mysterious disease affecting California’s tidal starfish population.
The monarch story quite clearly identified the culprit: A ubiquitous brand of herbicide that is often on colorful springtime display at local hardware and bigbox stores nationwide. The use of this herbicide on milkweed — the monarch’s principal habitat — has reduced the butterflies’ numbers by well over 50 percent. The cavalier promotion of this poison tends to mask the catastrophic damage that its use — and the use of many other herbicides and pesticides — is having on our planet’s environmentally sensitive and interdependent ecosystems.
Bee colony collapse is now threatening to destroy the very insect that pollinates our crops and causes agriculture to flourish worldwide. Experts point to insecticides, in varied forms, as the likely reason for this catastrophe. Is it a stretch, then, to think that these caustic products will continue their devastating impact when they finally reach innocent marine flora and fauna such as the withering starfish? Hardly.
Which species will next succumb to this irresponsible man-made blight?
The time to ban the wholesale production and use of these products has arrived.