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Saving monarch butterflies stirs the 'poetical soul' of Homero Aridjis

Homero Aridjis, one of Mexico's top environmentalists and poets, has led the battle to save the habitat of monarch butterflies, Pacific gray whales, and sea turtles.

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Drug wars make headlines. Butterflies do not. Yet even as the drug-related violence in Mexico continues seemingly unabated, each year millions of monarch butterflies perform a mysterious and incredible feat overhead.

Every fall they propel themselves from the United States and Canada to a patch of high forest in central Mexico – and then back in the spring. It's not clear how they find their way, or how long they have been at it.

But what is clear is that they are under threat.

Homero Aridjis, arguably Mexico's most prominent and articulate defender of the monarch butterflies, says standing up for them has been the "environmental cause of my life."

Mr. Aridjis literally grew up with the beautiful orange-and-black insects, climbing the hills in his native Michoacán State as a boy to see them "explode from the tree branches when the sun hit them," he says.

He also has been a pioneer defender of the environment in general, raising public awareness and speaking out with the authority of an award-winning poet and novelist on everything from sea turtles to gray whales to air pollution in Mexico City.

"I believe that ... human beings bear a huge responsibility to all other species to preserve our planet's biological wealth," he says in a recent Monitor interview.

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