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Opinion

Monarch butterflies: symbol or symptom?

By Jeremy Kerr      

Environmental threats transcend borders and the prime minister is signalling that responses should too. The U.S. committed to building a milkweed corridor for monarchs along interstate highways. Joined up thinking on issues like this is needed.

Biodiversity is a necessity, not a luxury. Monarch butterflies are among 300 Canadian butterfly species, 800 bee species, and a host of moths, flies, and birds that help pollinate crops and flowering plants. Different organisms, less obviously beautiful, contribute to other indispensable ecosystem services. Monarch butterflies have evolved into a symbol of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and their populations have plummeted, writes Jeremy Kerr. Photograph courtesy of Jacopo Werther
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OTTAWA—It’s a strange day in Ottawa when our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto chat about butterfly biology and conservation at a press conference. Or perhaps not: monarch butterflies have evolved into a symbol of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and their populations have plummeted. But are monarchs a symbol? Or a symptom? One thing is certain: monarch butterflies are ultra-marathoners. Their annual migration covers a staggering distance

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