Many environmental problems can feel overwhelming.
Even if you can inspire action on a local level, to cut carbon emissions for example, the impact of those cuts is usually masked by the juggernaut of “business-as-usual” elsewhere.
When it comes to bees, however, “thinking local” has the potential to have immediate, tangible results.
Because bees are such a central part of every single ecosystem, regional efforts to protect them can have a direct and visible impact on their numbers. And because pollinators are central to our own well-being, it’s a fair bet that such measures will have broader ecological and economic impacts too.
Perhaps that’s why regional and local efforts to protect our bees are proliferating.
Here are some of our favorites.
Europe bans neonicotinoid pesticides
Despite opposition from several member states, including the UK, Europe has voted to implement a 2-year precautionary ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides with flowering crops favored by bees. Whether or not that will be enough to reverse the tide of deaths remains to be seen, but there are reports that previous temporary bans of neonicotinoids in parts of Europe already lead to rebounds in bee numbers. Now we get to test out the theory on a continental scale.
London promotes beekeeping
Cities haven’t traditionally been thought of as strongholds of beekeeping. Yet as industrial monocultures have lead to decreased biodiversity in the country, many bee advocates have suggested that the gardens and parks of the city could provide an ideal alternative. That’s why many people rejoiced at the launch of Capital Bee, a $60,000 fund to support community groups interested in beekeeping.
The London Beekeepers Assocation, however, dismissed the idea as yet more “bee bling”, suggesting that promoting wildflower plantings and increased forage opportunities should be prioritized over increasing the number of actual colonies. (It has to be said, this always felt like a “both/and”, not “either/or” issue to me.)
Paris goes pesticide-free
Speaking of healthy urban bees, studies have shown that bees in Paris are healthier and more productive than their rural counterparts. Exactly why that is remains the subject of much conjecture, and it is most likely that a combination of factors are at play.
While researchers found that Paris hives contained as many as 250 different types of pollen, compared to 15 to 20 different types in the country, they also point to the fact that the City of Light has been officially pesticide-free since 2004.
Chicago promotes green roofs
Increased forage opportunities in parks and gardens is welcome, but what if all those black asphalt roofs also became a living ecosystem of plants? That’s the idea behind efforts to green the rooftops of Chicago. From Wal-mart to City Hall, green roofs have been sprouting up across the city. And because green roofs also filter storm water and reduce the need for energy consumption, there are additional benefits to be had in terms of ecological health. (Yeah, bees don’t like climate change either.)
Bhutan goes 100% organic
Everything is connected, so efforts to save bees must be considered as part of a broader shift toward environmental sustainability. Like green roofs or reducing pesticide use in cities, reforming our agricultural practices is one of those measures that can return multiple dividends in terms of reduced groundwater pollution; fewer greenhouse gas emissions; richer, more biologically active soil, and the protection of bees and other important species.
So news that Bhutan is aiming to become the world’s first 100% organic country should be celebrated as a major step for the protection of bees too. Likewise, the organic efforts of the Indian states of Sikkim and Kerala should create geographically expansive safe havens for bees and other species—not to mention provide an example for farmers and agricultural experts elsewhere to learn from.
By Sami Grover