Endangered BC butterflies a symbol of climate change, students told

Butterflies send message

Butterflies were released into Vernon's Polson Park on Thursday as a symbol of climate change.

In an event staged by youth climate activists and the Fresh Outlook Foundation, 70 painted lady butterflies that had been raised by students at Beairsto Elementary School were released into the green space.

Co-organizer Natalie Fux of W.L. Seaton Secondary said butterfly species in general are in decline around the world, and the iconic monarch butterfly, which migrates from Canada to Mexico each year is down 99% since the 1980s.

Jo de Vries with Fresh Outlook says the project is one of many involving students and teachers that will be showcased at the upcoming Youth Climate Action Summit May 31 at the Vernon Rec Centre.

Beairsto teacher Fiona Brown said her students and others raised the butterflies from caterpillar to chrysalis and butterfly over a period of a few weeks.

"It was a really fun project, and the kids really enjoyed watching the life cycle of the butterflies," she said.

The kids chimed in with a chorus of: "It was so cool!" at the event in Polson Park.

Fresh Outlook's de Vries says the public is invited to view student projects at the summit from 10 a.m. to noon in the rec centre auditorium.

Topics range from water conservation to community gardens, tree planting, bee keeping, hydroponic gardening and more. There will also be youth activist speakers telling participants "how they can get involved to make lasting change."

Fellow Seaton students Polina Ignatyeva and Ava Marginson co-ordinated Thursday's event.

"These vital insects are highly sensitive to climate change ... In the Okanagan especially, following recent forest fires, there is less native ground for butterflies to thrive on," said Ignatyeva.

In the Okanagan alone, three butterfly species are endangered – the Behr's hairstreak, half-moon hairstreak, and Mormon metalmark.

Habitat loss is a major concern, with 68% of antelope bush lost, according to the Okanagan-Similkameen Stewardship Program.

"Taking action and making change doesn’t have to be initiated by the government,” says Marginson, “nor does it have to be grand. It starts small, with a community eventually having a change of heart.”

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