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2 the Outdoors: A virtual butterfly release

Local environmentalist uses creativity to continue his message.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic ground society to a halt, the work of environmentalists across the globe could not afford to do the same. Their mission is far too important, and they know it. 

For years David O'Donnell of Eastern Monarch Butterflies in Clarence has conducted monarch releases across the region. Stymied by the restrictions in place, O'Donnell was undaunted. He decided to do a virtual butterfly release with numerous environmentalists.

"I thought, maybe I'll do 20-25 individual organizations, each release one butterfly, and then link the videos together and call it 'Western New York Emerging,'" O'Donnell said. 

Credit: Terry Belke
Monarch Butterflies are a metaphor for change as well as a symbol of hope.

O'Donnell found a silver lining cancelling his many public programs. He said launching the video on his Eastern Monarch Facebook page allows his message to reach a larger audience.

"When I do butterfly releases like for the garden walk or out in the farmer's market, I get a nice little crowd, but not everybody gets to see it," he said. "So here we'll have individual organizations, and it will send a very nice message, that, once again, that we need to co-exist with the environment. "

Mother Earth never discriminates. In this time of social unrest, the message of "WNY Emerging" is also one of inclusion. 

"I wanted to get more diversity," O'Donnell said. "There's a lot of wonderful people and organizations of color and different diversities, that are engaged just as much in the environment as anybody else."

His ambassadors could not be better. Monarchs have an incredible life cycle, and their epic migrations are awe inspiring. In a period of turmoil they are messengers of hope.

"Butterflies and monarchs in particular have always been a great metaphor, a positive metaphor for change, and it's a perfect time to be doing this," O'Donnell said. "It gets people out into the environment because the monarchs are a great uniter between people and the environment."

Credit: Terry Belke
Monarch Butterfly annual migrations covers thousands of miles.

O'Donnell hopes that the pandemic will inspire others to reevaluate our connection with our precious planet.

"We kind of need to reset or reboot life, and really start coexisting with nature, because it's simply unsustainable the way that we've been going the last few hundred years," he said.

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