Monarchs clustering on fir trees; Credit: Sandi and David Whitmore
Scott Steen, president and CEO of American Forests, was part of our tour group. He also emphasized the need to get governments working together with biologists, foresters, entomologists and general citizens — not just on the monarch situation, but on all types of environmental problems. “We can’t be satisfied with winning small battles, while we are losing the war,” he says. “The monarchs, like nearly 80 percent of the animal species in North America, are dependent on healthy forests. But if we want to have diverse wildlife populations for future generations, we also have to stop destroying their food sources with our chemicals and carving their habitat into smaller and smaller disconnected pieces.”
On one of our last nights in the mountains, we gathered on the hotel rooftop to witness the ceremony of El Palo Volador, “the pole flyer.” One by one, to the sound of a pan flute and a slow drumbeat, four young men dressed as eagles climbed a tall cedar pole to a small platform and wound loops of rope around their waists. A narrator below explained how this prayer-like tradition originated with the Mazhaua people, later incorporating a tribute to a local saint, San Pedro Tarimbaro.
“We hear an ancient call that brings hope to the modern earth,” the narrator said. “A call to places where the earth ends, to places where nothing is impossible. All of this enriches and renews the earth, as the cycle of life continues.”