The Glass Wing

Lucca CarlevariniMay 26, 2020NatureInterfaith Connections

When I was six years old, I traveled to Costa Rica with my family. I made a fantastic discovery! A butterfly with transparent wings. This butterfly was so amazing and eye-opening, my mom and I had never seen anything like it. It really showed me what nature could be.

This magnificent insect is called the glasswing butterfly. The reason that their wings are nearly-invisible is that they barely reflect any light. When rays of sunlight strike the exterior of Lepidoptera (the Greek word for “scaled wings” and also the name for the order of butterfly and moth species), one or two beams are reflected, but the majority of the light can cross straight through the wings, unhindered by the surface. You might be questioning why any butterfly would desire to be invisible. It turns out that the life of an insect that is prey to birds, toads, rats, and other small rodents is greatly improved by being difficult to see. Birds, in particular, struggle to track a glasswing butterfly while it is in flight because birds don't recognize glass as a barrier. Instead, reflections in glass look to them as open space, so they don't notice the butterfly at all. This discovery in Costa Rica gave me an entirely different view of nature. Science is nature; without science, I would never have been able to find out why the glasswing butterfly has transparent wings.

I became more trusting of science. It inspires me, and I love learning every facet. It is my "happy place" when exploring my home upstate, which is full of trees, insects, and animals. I am so lucky to be able to have two homes, one in the country and another in the city. This lifestyle gives me a diverse experience in a metropolitan city and in the wilderness. Besides the beauty of science, I also love the gory facts, collecting bones, researching blood, and bacteria.

I have always been open to new ideas, some directly connected with nature. I joined a small science group in New York City, which taught me about the current state of the earth, plus how I can affect our future. I started reading books about what climate change is. Being aware of how I was affecting nature around me, I started recycling more and was mindful of how much plastic I used. For example, I stopped going to my favorite bubble tea spot because they use hundreds of plastic cups a day with Saran Wrap-sealed tops and plastic straws. I realized the amount of waste I was contributing to landfills because the chances of it being recycled are slim, and I wanted to go there too often!

The reason why I believe recycling or avoiding plastic is an essential step to mending our environment is that it has been determined that approximately 100 million marine animals are killed each year from plastic waste. That is only marine mammals. These large numbers don't even take into account land animals. The Worldwatch Institute predicts it could be as much as 51 percent. Also, methane, a greenhouse gas, is a tremendous source of pollution and can be caused by domesticated animals. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions; however, in actuality, this could be a meager number because other organizations think it's even more. If this continues, the cycle of life of nature will be disrupted.

I also ponder one question: how might nature have thrived and grown if humans hadn't taken over the food chain? At the moment, enormous factories keep domesticated animals in small cages, and the amount of pollution that these animals produce is sickening. These discoveries unlocked new curiosities, and I sought opportunities to find an improved standpoint in society. My family and I are passionate about not buying factory-farmed meats and do not frequent fast-food restaurants. We instead support small upstate farms that are free-range and hormone-free. When shopping at these farms, we see the cows, chickens, and pigs living kind, comfortable lives amongst each other in grassy fields. That is not convenient for most people. But for the long run as a human race, I believe we will all have to make bigger sacrifices that are even less convenient, if things don’t change. The glasswing butterfly relies on poisonous plants that are threatened by pollution, and they might not have the nutrients to live. This won't only happen to glasswing butterflies; many other animals and butterflies will be affected by damage like this.

The climate is rapidly changing because of pollution, and the beauty of nature is directly affected by this. The butterfly seems so fragile, yet they are crucial to the circle of life. A butterfly’s procreative development, and development across all life stages, is triggered by temperature. The butterfly relies on the climate, which affects the insect's body temperature, which encourages it to find a mate, and increases fecundity and the ability to lay eggs. As our environment changes at such a drastic rate, butterflies are becoming confused; their instincts are no longer correct. Unfortunately, this has been depleting their population slowly, and they will most likely become extinct and die off. If there are no butterflies, then there will be fewer flowers, and many plants will be nonexistent. We need to listen; we need to pay attention to what is happening to nature and make changes in our lives. We will no longer be able to live like we do now, and we will have to make even more extreme sacrifices if we continue on this path.

Without the beauty and wonder of butterflies in nature, a child, like me, won't be able to have the same experience when I was six that sparked my love of science. I'm inspired and excited to become an influential part of repairing the natural world we live in and to help save the nature the world relies on. Science is my belief system; I use it for everything I do in my day-to-day life. It helps me find reliable sources, and much more. I hope to make it possible for children to see the beauty of science and nature like I did as a child.

Lucca Carlevarini is 12 years of age and lives in New York City. In her free time, she likes to read, create experiments, and do tons of art. Lucca’s dream is to try to help save the world from itself and become an aerospace engineer and is in a band.