We Need a Plan Bee

Photo: Odin Aerni/Unsplash

Photo: Odin Aerni/Unsplash

The recent UN report on the alarming rate of biodiversity loss shows how this threat is inextricably linked to the climate crisis and how both are endangering our future. 

“Our boundless consumption, short-sighted reliance on fossil fuels and our unsustainable use of nature now seriously threaten our future,” said Robert Watson, chair of the UN IPBES commission on Biodiversity Loss, and former chair of the UN commission on Climate Change. Professor Watson went on to say, “We are undermining the entire natural infrastructure on which our world depends.”  

The scale involved is staggering and difficult to comprehend — one million species or 25% of animal and plant groups face extinction in the next few decades. One way to understand the link between the twin dangers of biodiversity loss and the climate crisis is to look at how one tiny part of the natural world can help mitigate the dangers of both threats, if we let it. And today, on UN World Bee Day, it is especially appropriate to look at how pollinators play a crucial and unappreciated role in our daily lives. 

There are 25,000 species of bees, the most important pollinator, and they play a vital role in supporting a major proportion of the human diet and maintaining key ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).  For example, bees pollinate the trees and forests that help mitigate climate change. 

According to IPBES, wild pollinators play a crucial role in our global food and nutrition security.  Up to 75% of global food crops rely on wild pollinators even in the presence of managed bees.  These include fruits, vegetables and seed, nut and oil crops. Coffee and cocoa plants and almond crops are highly dependent on wild pollinators.  These pollinators support $577 billion worth of global food crops and also contribute to the production of medicines, biofuels, cotton and timber. 

But these tiny creatures who play such an important role in our lives are under tremendous threat from us. In North America, 25% of bee species are in danger of extinction and in Europe, 37% of bees have declining populations. According to IPBES, the main threats to pollinators are intensive farming, pesticides, environmental pollution, invasive species and climate breakdown. 

Agriculture, especially animal agriculture, is a major source of GHGs and intensive farming practices that rely on monoculture cropping, pesticide and herbicide use. These are all threats to the pollinators that are so important to our daily lives. In addition, intensive farming and deforestation destroy their wild, natural habitats. 

So, what do we do?  Policies and practices to reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, more sustainable agricultural practices, reduced deforestation and the savings of wild spaces for pollinator habitat are all steps in the right direction.  For example, pesticides such as neonicotinoids have been banned for outdoor use in Europe.

 So, on World Bee Day, spare a thought and say thank you to those buzzing insects that are helping to save us from ourselves.

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