We are a species that increasingly has omnipotence without omniscience. (Bryan Walsh)
The British government is currently conducting studies to develop a National Pollinator Strategy for 2014 following an urgent and comprehensive review of the loss of around one third of honeybee colonies during the previous year. Predictions of another harsh winter ahead have led Friends of the Earth and other environmental campaigners to name 2013 as the year of the bee and call for immediate action during the autumn to avoid further catastrophe.
There has been a long decline in honeybee populations in the UK that have dramatically affected food production. Honeybees play a crucial role in around a third of the food we consume and the continued loss of entire colonies could mean that the likes of berries, cherries, and watermelon could disappear from our diets. There are different estimates for the economic value of unmet pollination demands; the government acknowledges that the damage is in the order of hundreds of millions of pounds and campaigners such as Friends of the Earth estimate that it could cost farmers nearly £2 billion to manually pollinate crops.
A coherent bee action plan will be necessary to address the complex threats to honeybees and prevent extreme Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Environmental campaigners are pressuring the British government to do more in restricting pesticides after recent refusals to support new European regulations. A number of other causes, such as parasites, lack of nutrition due to the monocultures of commodity crops and climate change would also need to be addressed. A new study conducted by scientists at the University of Southampton and published this month revealed that air pollution from exhaust fumes is exacerbating the problems for honeybees by preventing them from locating pollen and nectar.
Immediate actions are a necessary response to the current crises, but they will not be enough to solve them without a radical transformation of how we connect to our environment. The plight of honeybees is yet another example of human impact on the survival of other species. Bryan Walsh suggests that “honeybees are suffering because we’ve created a world that is increasingly inhospitable to them”. We have the power to reshape the planet without understanding the full implications of our actions on the balance of different ecosystems. In damaging our shared home we threaten our own survival as well as of other species.
A broad range of individuals and organisations, including leading business such as Waitrose and the Co-operative, have called for action in addressing the crises concerning the decline of honeybee populations. Ākāśa Innovation encourages more organisations to see the world anew and shift towards a net positive impact on people and planet. We support transformations that start from a full understanding of our impact on social and environmental ecosystems and work towards collaboration on creating sustainable futures.