The call to ‘save the bees’ has done a couple of circuits of the globe now and to those who can see the bigger picture, this crisis highlights issues that affect not just bees, but the entirety of life on Earth. It is becoming clear that we need to change our ways.
Here are three things – the ABC – I believe we need to re-think most urgently:
Agriculture – chemical farming is the number one killer of bees and birds, by pesticide poisoning and by herbicidal destruction of wild food sources. We need GM crops like we need to get hooked on heroine: the agri-chem-GM model is exactly that of the drug pusher, with promises of a better life turning to dust as the price rises with every dose and not-so-veiled threats if you consider kicking the habit. If you are gullible enough to believe the GM industry’s sales pitch, I have some beach-front property in Arizona you may be interested in.
There is plenty of food for everyone: the problem is lack of education and the politics of distribution. Learning to grow healthy food – along with principles of nutrition – should be as integral to a child’s education as learning to read. If you think more GM or more pesticides is the answer, then you are asking the wrong question. If you think massive grain monocultures can solve the problem of starvation in Africa or Bangladesh, then you have not been paying attention to reports of crop failures in Texas.
Biodiversity – is nature’s way. Mono-cropping may be cheap in the short term, but in the long term it is incalculably expensive, both to the health of the soil and of the people. Organic gardening is the way forward – nobody sprays the jungle, yet it feeds millions of creatures. Permaculture, forest gardening, aquaponics, all have a part to play in our future of abundance for all, if we kick the grain habit in favour of a multi-layered, many-flavoured, vegetable-based diet with wild and free-range protein supplements.
Conservation – Wild places are the lungs and kidneys and liver of the planet: they purify, recycle and replenish and we need more of them. Natural habitats must be conserved and protected and re-created where they are lacking. Nowhere have we ever truly improved on nature. Alongside this radical ABC, we also need to re-think beekeeping, which provides a metaphor for our overall treatment of nature since Victorian times. We have been taught to put bees in boxes designed not for their convenience but rather for ours, while applying medications designed to mask the problems we have created for them. We have shipped them around to service the mono-crops we have decided we needed – contrary to their natural world of diversity and naturally-evolved flora.
We all must now take responsibility for the abuse suffered by the planet and work to make it a better place for us and for the bees.
Phil Chandler is a tutor at MyGardenSchool, where he teaches a course in Natural Beekeeping For Gardeners. He has devoted his life to the plight of the declining British honeybee, and is author of The Barefoot Beekeeper, a book that champions sustainable, low-impact, low-cost, chemical-free, small-scale, ‘organic’, natural beekeeping, using simple equipment that almost anyone can make at home. http://www.biobees.com/