I love PBS, but their monarch butterfly show tonight was AWFUL. Here's why--and hang on, it gets bumpy:
1) The Incredible Journey of the Butterflies. The silly title suggests they seek an audience that is uber general--they don't even mention WHICH butterfly. Or, they seek 5 year old kids (not a bad thing in these ecologically troubled times) or old people who collect butterfly plates, flags, wind spinny dealies, belt buckles, spoons.... Maybe a more appropriate title would be Migration by Faith: Monarchs, or Migration in Peril: Monarch Butterflies. Perhaps they didn't want to scare anyone off with visions of doom and gloom. Perhaps that's a load of crap.
2) Let's talk about the ecological issues, shall we? The show gave us two glimpses of the monarch's threatened existence (by us--not even taking into account that perhaps the recent bad winter in MX that killed 80% of one roost could be attributed to global warming): an airplane crop dusting and killing a butterfly, and poor Mexicans trying to eek out a living by illegally logging the forests these insects depend on for winter protection. That's it? And only a few minutes? The whole show smacked of "ain't they just beautiful delicate little things miraculously flying 2,000 miles--hey, can you fly? Nope, didna' think so, chump."
3) So, what about MILKWEED? What about the fact people spray and pluck and otherwise DESTROY the very life source of monarchs. NOT ONE MENTION of milkweed in 55 minutes of pretty dainty little video. NOT ONE. If part of the dealio is that monarch habitats are threatened, let's also look to what we can do in North America--besides traveling to Mexico in late October and buying as many souvenirs for your older relatives as possible.
4) I needed some science--especially considering this was a Nova production. I needed more than "who knows how they navigate: sun, magnetic field, genetic je ne sais quoi." I needed something ethical and moral about pesticides and treating native species of plants as weeds. I REALLY needed something more than the final cop out of "though the species isn't endangered, this unique migration is--and isn't it whiz bang cool? It's part of our culture like the Mona Lisa and Mozart." I like the cultural appeal--I admit we need much more of this connection between culture and nature--but maybe we should play that up more, too, and not just in Mexico with villagers shooting off fireworks to celebrate the Day of the Dead (though thank God they at least did this). Let's show more Monarch Watch in Kansas. More school kids in America and Canada. More gardeners. More restored prairies. More poems and stories and songs that reference the monarch.
5) And I hate PBS for showing a monarch get caught and wrangled in a spider web and another drowning in a stream. (Perhaps I'd have liked this IF the appeal to save them was greater, thus making me want to go outside right now in this 0 degree agony and dig in some milkweed.)