This past week saw the loss of a giant in the world of sports, namely Kobe Bryant along with eight others. Although, this tragedy warranted much of the coverage that it received, it obliterated another tragedy that occurred, the disappearance of environmental activist Homero Gomez Gonzalez of Mexico. Homero, once a logger himself in the town of Ocampo in central Mexico, was one of the most vocal opponents of illegal logging and strongest defenders of Mexico’s monarch butterfly population. He was a tireless campaigner for the conservation of the monarch butterfly and the pine and fir forests where they hibernate, which earned him the wrath of criminal gangs involved in illegal logging activities in the area. Homero was last seen in El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Preserve, the sanctuary he opened in November and managed as part of a strategy to stop illegal logging in the area, provide key habitat for the monarch butterfly and to help promote ecotourism to the area. Reports of his disappearance surfaced on January 13th and at first it appeared that he might have been kidnapped as his family reported being contacted about a ransom. But, unfortunately, yesterday it was reported that his body had been found floating in a deep well near his beloved monarch preserve. As of now, it has yet to be determined whether or not Homero was the victim of foul play, but many believe the violent cartels present in the area are responsible.
The tragedy of Homero Gomez Gonzalez's death is two-fold. First is that the world has lost a tireless defender of monarch butterflies. Secondly, is that his demise may scare off others from taking over his job and continuing to work to end illegal logging. It is easy for me, living in an area free from violent cartels targeting environmentalists, to engage in activities to support the continued survival of local pollinators. But, how willing would I be if every day that I fought for the continued survival of local pollinators I also put my own survival at risk? There is something very admirable in people like Homero Gomez Gonzalez and we should do everything we can to honor folks like him who put service above self. I am not sure that I am made of "the right stuff", but I will continue to do what I can to keep Homero's name and mission alive while hoping that justice will be done.
Unfortunately, I am also pretty sure that Homero Gomez Gonzalez's death has most likely taken a few additional seconds off the world's Doomsday Clock, which on the 23rd of January was moved to just 100 seconds before midnight. This move by the science and security board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists occurred just two years after moving the metaphorical minute hand of its Doomsday Clock to within two minutes of midnight — a figurative two-minute warning for all humanity. Their stated reason for adjusting the time again so soon was the escalating danger to humanity of two simultaneous existential dangers—nuclear war and climate change. But the good news is that the clock can be turned back. We just need to take action! We need to celebrate our strong environmental leaders and hope that other brave individuals or governments will be willing to not only fill the gap left behind by Homero and others, but be willing to go a step further and thereby add a few more precious seconds to our clock. Remember Homero and his legacy, pass it on. To learn more about the Doomsday Clock, click on the image to the left.