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Posts Tagged ‘pesticides’

So, it turns out I read a lot of weird news stories at work, probably because I am often still half away in the morning and procrastinating my important tasks until after that second (or fourth….) cup of coffee.  Writing emails is hard, y’all. And while reading those weird news stories (or just scolling through buzzfeed) it’s been pretty surprising to see the stories popping up about…bees. Especially in places like Business Insider or, yup, buzzfeed.

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Suddenly we all care about bees!

I’m going out on a limb with this post, because I’ll be the first to admit that agriculture is one of my weak areas when it comes to environmental fields.  It’s not something I’ve spent time working on, so my knowledge base is cursory.  Yet, it’s such a hot topic that I couldn’t leave it alone.  See, the buzz in the news is about Colony Collapse Disorder, an affliction first identified in 2005 that causes entire bee colonies to – well – collapse.  It’s been on the rise in recent years, with reports this summer of massive bee losses in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  During the years from 2006 – 2011, bee populations in commercial honeybee farms have reported losses of up to 33% (that’s 1/3 of their hives) from the disorder.  What’s causing it?  Studies have linked a certain category of widely used pesticide, neonicotinoids, to the bee deaths, citing both the impact of the pesticides on bees as well as the near-perfect tracking between increased use of these pesticides and the bee deaths.  Evidence is strong enough that in Europe, the E.U. placed a two year moratorium on use of the pesticides beginning in April 2013, and a coalition of beekeepers have actually sued the US EPA to do the same.

But they’re just bees, right? I mean, who cares about them? They sting people and pollinate flowers and, whatever.

Wrong.  Bee populations are experiencing a massive decline worldwide, which is seriously bad news for agriculture. That is, the food that you and I like to eat. Cherries, blueberries, almonds, peaches, apples, soy, and worst of all, COFEE – are among the crops impacted because they are dependent on bee pollination.  USDA summarized the impacts with this chart:

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Yeah. Read it, and then go hug a frickin’ bee.

I’m a bit in over my head in terms of coming up with a bottom line for this post (sorry guys, I’m honest), largely because I also have many unanswered questions.  How strong is the link between these pesticides and bee populations? How widely used are these pesticides? Do we have effective replacements?  But, as far as I can tell, this is another tick in the box for moving beyond our chemically-dependent agro-business practices (within reason, of course – I recognize that going back to subsistence farming isn’t really an option) and more towards options that don’t do this kind of longterm damage.  Ecology teaches that populations affected on a widespread scale often have a rough time recovering after a certain percentage of the population has been decimated.  It’s probably a pipe dream to hope that we could be more proactive in the future to prevent this kind of loss, but at least there’s a lesson in here: sometimes, the consequences of our decisions mean real losses for business and for us.  I mean – it’s on the Lululemon bags, for crying out loud – what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.

Comments are welcome from anyone who has expertise in this area – or who wants to chime in about the impacts of the declining bee populations on agriculture and what we can or should do about it.  As always, keep it friendly.

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Last week, a book that sparked the grass-roots movement and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) turned 50! Salley O’Malley is 50! 5-0.

She kicks, shimmies and shakes

The book is Silent Spring, and the author was Rachel Carson.  Carson was an unsuspecting fighter, and was the first to write about disproportionate use of pesticides in communities.  The Natural Resources Defense Council commented that the fight on pesticides is ongoing till this day and that Silent Spring brought an incredible awareness to the issue. Carson was born a gifted writer, and had a passion for writing at an early age.  She attended the Pennsylvania College for Women and earned a master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins (she did not start Spinach, that was us).

Carson never intended for Silent Spring to be the political punch that it was.  She only lightly recommended that the pesticide DDT be banned, but did not call on political figures to take action.  Instead, Silent Spring sparked research on the chemical while the chemical industry condoned her, and even J.Edgar Hoover performed a private investigation on her.  Many criticized Silent Spring for its unsettling tone; USA Today reported (great video at this site too!) that Carson developed breast cancer while writing Silent Spring and that led to some of the dark and strong language in the book.  Carson passed away only 18 months after the book was published. Her intention for Silent Spring was to show people that if they harm nature, nature could harm them back.  I think we’ve all seen this time after time, disaster after disaster across the world.

My favorite Rachel Carson quote:

“Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”

Have a great weekend, and get outdoors to appreciate the fall foliage. Cheers.

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