TakePart Launches Yearlong 'Save Our Bees' Campaign
Fifty-two years ago today, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring began appearing in The New Yorker in advance of the world-changing book’s publication. The opening chapter was called “A Fable for Tomorrow,” a cautionary tale about a planet where pesticides had silenced the birds. And the bees.
“The apple trees were coming into bloom but no bees droned among the blossoms, so there was no pollination and there would be no fruit,” Carson wrote in 1962. “No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life in this stricken world. The people had done it themselves.”
Tomorrow has arrived. While Silent Spring helped galvanize the modern environmental movement and led to bans on DDT and other deadly pesticides, the fight is far from over. For much of the past decade—for much of the past several decades, as TakePart Food Editor Willy Blackmore learned while researching an upcoming feature—honeybees, which pollinate a third of the world’s food supply, have been dying in massive numbers.
Some 10 million hives worth $2 billion have been lost in the United States alone in recent years. Just to pollinate California’s $4 billion almond crop, for instance, requires the services of 60 percent of the nation’s commercial beehives. There are now about 2.5 million bee colonies left in the U.S., down from 6 million in 1947 and 3 million in 1990. “We are one poor weather event or high winter bee loss away from a pollination disaster,” Jeff Pettis, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wrote in a report published last year.
If the consequences of this apian apocalypse are clear, the causes are complex. In study after study, scientists have identified a witch’s brew of agricultural pesticides and fungicides that they believe are weakening bees’ immunity and making them susceptible to parasites and diseases. A new class of agricultural chemicals called neonicotinoids has emerged as a prime suspect in the "bee-mageddon." The European Union in 2013 banned neonics for two years, and legislation is pending in the U.S. Congress to restrict their use around bees.
There’s more to it than that. Some bees are starving to death as industrial agriculture has deflowered the landscape of the plants that feed them nutritious nectar. The varroa mite, a parasite straight out of a horror movie, continues to be a top bee killer. Wild bees are also important to pollination, but urban development and a dearth of bee-friendly gardens are putting them at risk as well.
Today TakePart begins a yearlong campaign to bring back the bees by raising public awareness of their plight and the crucial role they play in our ecosystem. The campaign will work with nonprofit partners to empower people to take action to support legislation and regulatory proposals to limit bees’ exposure to neonicotinoids.
Check out the Save Our Bees campaign page for updates and information on how to help the bees. As Rachel Carson might say today, “The people can do it themselves.”