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

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No one in Mexico has made a more important contribution to protecting that country's environment – "an effort that has had ripple effects throughout the world," says Lester Brown, the US environmentalist and founder of the Worldwatch Institute.

When Aridjis was 10, a shotgun accident left his life hanging in the balance. "My near-death experience permeates my life and sensibility as a writer," he said later. He lost interest in hunting birds as his budding conscience intervened and sparked a passionate concern for the environment.

"I understood that somehow my own survival was connected to theirs," he says.

Aridjis's work as the founder of the Group of 100 – an association of prominent artists and intellectuals that includes Octavio Paz and Gabriel García Márquez devoted to protecting Latin America's environment – has been particularly note-worthy, says Mr. Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington, D.C.

In 1986 the group, led by Aridjis, persuaded Mexico's president to issue a decree creating the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, an area 60 miles west of Mexico City that hosts the majority of overwintering monarchs from the US east of the Rockies and Canada.

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