“We are all like the monarch butterfly...”   Storytime 2006

Flyer (PDF) Cards (4/pg) for event Event Info Pictures History and Resources








Friday, September 8, 2006
Jamaica Pond, Jamaica Plain
Call in case of bad weather



You are cordially invited to become a friend of the Monarch Butterfly which came to national attention as an indicator of the negative effects of toxic pollen generated by genetically engineered food sources, especially corn. The pesticide-laden pollen drifts in the wind to the milkweed plant which is the sole source of food for the monarch butterfly larvae.

Recent scientific reports have shown conflicting results; however, concern is in order since one serious study from Cornell University showed that nearly half of the larvae died when consuming toxic pollen on the milkweed.

The Monarch Butterfly annual migration cycle is one of the most glorious feats of nature. (For further educational information there are several sites that can be found online by searching “monarch butterfly” or by calling toll free to (888)PGMonarchs.

To connect with other local monarch butterfly lovers in the Boston, MA region call (617) 983-1183. We will be actively connecting to other organizations concerned with genetically engineered foods and the effect of these novel food sources on soil, insects, pollen, and ultimately on human health.

This 6th year we are starting a tradition in Boston, MA to say goodbye to the Monarchs as they head to California and Mexico. Each year this event will become larger and have additional educational displays, music, speakers, costumes, masks, games, and family entertainment. You are encouraged to invite your civic groups, schools, family and friends to our Celebration.

The founding members of this group include scientists, artists, educators, doctors, parents, musicians, poets and dancers. Everyone is welcome to bring his or her monarch butterfly related expressions to this annual event.

We are specifically interested in this particular member of the butterfly world since it seems to be in a unique position to act as an indicator (much like the old-fashioned, yet reliable, "canary in the mine.") for trouble in our agricultural methods.)

This year we will have a new display about monarchs. Madeline Champagne will send a "viewing box" with larvae, chrysalis (and if we are lucky, a live butterfly ). THE DRUM CONNECTION will join us again for ceremonial drumming. Marianne Donnelly will tell Butterfly stories and facepaint kids.

Actions you can take:

Read all you can about this amazing creature.

Talk to others about this wonderful butterfly.

Create an art piece to wear or share at the next celebration.

Plant butterfly-attracting flowers in your garden.

Follow the issue of genetically engineered foods closely.

Voice your concern in writing to your local representatives, newspapers, local newsletters, speaking venues and any other way of gathering more support for this growing watchdog effort.

Encourage those who are doing the “grunt work” regarding this issue.

Donate money or time to an organization involved in the food safety issue. We suggest the Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, Sierra Club, or any of the monarch butterfly educational foundations you’ll find online.

Visit the very informative web site dedicated to the genetically engineered food issue: www.thecampaign.org.

Visit monarchbutterfly.rwinters.com for more about our annual event and other activities.

Pictures of past events
Click on picture for higher resolution

History of the Celebration

This family event was founded in 2001 by Marianne Donnelly, a local Boston educator and performing artist, to bring attention to the monarch butterfly as the creature most likely to indicate possible harm from genetically engineered (GE) food production. Specifically, the pollen from genetically engineered corn blows onto the sole source of food for this butterfly’s larvae, milkweed, which grows around corn fields.

Cornell University and others produced scientific studies which showed that more than half of the larvae died after ingesting the toxic pollen. Although conflicting results have been found, with industry sponsored studies showing no harmful effect; it is the concern of the founder of this event that the larger issue of how this novel food production may potentially be harmful to not just butterfly larvae, but, to humans as well, will be lost, and this event, produced annually, provides a forum for an ongoing discussion about this concern in a friendly family fun festival that honors the migration of this creature and inspires others to be aware of the butterfly and of the issue of genetically engineered foods too.

The founder intends to keep an open mind about ongoing research and understands that it may take decades to definitively understand the impact both negative and positive of genetically engineered foods. In March 2000 a City Council resolution was passed in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, urging the Food and Drug Administration to slow down the approval process for genetically engineered foods, and to require labeling of foods so consumers can make an informed choice.

This form of food production is unlike selecting two of the best from within a species to produce a better food item, it relies on selecting information from the genetics of one species and inserting that information into another species (i.e., frost tolerance from fish inserted into vegetables.) Or, in the case of the toxic corn pollen, inserting into the genetics of the corn, a pesticide, that cannot be cooked out or tempered. Every part of the “pesticide corn” has pesticide. What will be the cumulative result of eating lots of foods with pesticide inserted into the genetic information of these foods? How can we follow this complex question? How can we make it understandable to regular people? How can we separate the harmful effects from the beneficial effects?

This event accentuates the positive story of the butterfly’s amazing migration, and hopes to instill wonder in young people about the beautiful way this, and all, creatures adapt. The scientific data on genetically engineered food is somewhat scarce but this is a place to keep the question raised year after year until some answer emerges.

Ideally, this event will be replicated in other cities and states across the migratory path and this butterfly will continue to be the wisely chosen “mascot” for this issue. Pacific Grove, California has an annual celebration of the butterfly for the past sixty years or so. This was the initial inspiration for starting one in Boston. Although the California event is not publicly concerned with the GE food issue, one cannot look at this creature, knowing what is going on, and not want to ask, how will this ultimately fare for the insect and for our human digestive systems as well.

A deliberately small, acoustic, rain or shine, short time span (two hours) , event with dancing, face painting, costumed butterfly people, scientists updates on the GE issue, flute playing, drumming, and other celebratory means is the ideal format. It should emulate the butterfly’s gentle, delicate and ancient ways. It should be free and cause no disturbance with amplification (since the butterfly is silent) and cause no trash because there should ideally be no vending at all.

2001’s first event was a week after “September 11.” Officially we withdrew the event as a token of our sorrow for what happened; however, ten of Ms. Donnelly's friends still met at the Parkman Bandstand in Boston to meditate on the Butterfly and to ponder how this issue will remain in the minds of people against the backdrop of the events to follow 9-11.

2002 – With some discussion with Harvard entomologists the event was attended by about 20 people and Glen Morrow, the editor of the Storytelling newsletter, came and performed a piece from “Sweet Thursday” about the butterflies of Pacific Grove, CA. People enjoyed his work and the facepainting and the dancing and learning about the GE issue.

2003 – Madeline Champagne, former president of the Mass Butterfly Club, and a serious butterfly expert, gave a fabulous presentation of the life cycle of the butterfly, and brought her viewing boxes of the chrysalis and caterpillars of her collection of monarch. Craig Harris, drummer-writer, provided some festive ceremonial drumming and Marianne tied it all together. About 30 people came.

2004 – We were joined by the Drum Connection, Alan Tauber’s Arlington, MA group and the festive drumming encouraged us to dance and enjoy the sunny windy day. Madeline brought the viewing boxes and many children were in awe of the story of how a butterfly evolves. Marianne did a story adapted from Native Original People about “why the butterfly does not sing.” The event was a bit better organized and we discovered what we need to do for the following year’s fifth annual event: namely put out a schedule of events so people don't just wander in for a free face painting instead of being part of the event in total.

2005 – Hurricane Ophelia was off the Boston Coast with an undetermined course so by noon we decided reluctantly to cancel because of the potentially risky winds. Brave Stephen Baird went to the pavilion to check the sign we had placed announcing the last minute cancellation.

2006 – Finally! We had great weather and about 60 kids and 25 adults. The Drum Connection played and told the kids about the drums and the culture of the music. Madeline Champagne kindly fixed a “viewing box” which I brought from her Foxboro “hatchery” so the kids could see live chrysalis and caterpillar. (A few days later I released two fine female monarchs). The Jamaica Plain Pond added to the beauty. The talk about genetically engineered foods was short, but, effective. I asked the adults if they knew about or understood what g.e. foods were and most said no. This proves that information needs to keep going out. This science continues to be unregulated and no one is aware of how much our daily foods have changed on the cellular level over the last ten years. I encouraged them to go to the site www.thecampaign.org which has archived information and policies around the world about this topic as well as daily actions to take as well as a fantastic contact-congress list. They actually answer a phone and return emails. Stephen Baird took 100 photos and some are on this site. Marianne told stories and face painted the kids in addition to creating this annual event. Next year we will be at J-Pond again in September since it is more accessible.

Others who have helped are Li Min Mo, Cambridge storyteller; Beth Meditz, Arts Teacher; Stephen Baird, Community Arts Advocates; Will Stackman, Puppet Showplace; Naomi Pierce, Entomologist, Harvard University; Robert Winters produced our flyers; Boston Parks and Recreation permitted our event without charge and helped clean the site prior to each event.

Read John Losey’s study in May 1999 Nature Magazine p. 214

www.thecampaign.org P.O. Box 55699 Seattle. WA 98155 (425) 771-4049 has a detailed ongoing mailing of what is happening on the genetically engineered food issue around the world and they can add you to an email update list which I have received for over a year and really enjoy knowing someone is keeping up with the numerous developments that don’t make the regular news. Well worth getting their emails.

Friends of the Monarchs, P.O. Box 51683, Pacific Grove, CA 93950, (888) PGMONARCHS OR (831) 375-0982
Ro Vaccaro p.g.monarchs@aol.com has links to related issues for monarchs.

School Programs with Madeline Champagne (former president of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club known lovingly as the “Butterfly Lady”) available with her viewing boxes of chrysalis and larvae of Monarch Butterflies and detailed history of Butterflies by calling 617-983-1183.  Also available storytelling programs with environmental themes by Marianne Donnelly, performing artist and founder of the Annual Monarch Butterfly Migration Celebrations of Boston Massachusetts (617) 983-1183.