“Before and after: entire colonies of bees have collapsed in the US”
Can you imagine a world without millions of different species and ecosystems: without rainforest, prairies, wetlands, and forests? This will be our world if we, as humans, continue to tear away at the biodiversity we know today. Biodiversity is the “variety of living organisms that exists in an ecosystem or on the planet as a whole, being the biological wealth of the earth” (Clowney, 514). The decisions and actions of humans not only impacts the species, but affects the health and well-being of mankind as well. The benefits of biodiversity are “providing chemicals, energy, fibers, food, medicines, raw materials, and wood… and helps with the quality of air and water, the fertility of soils, the degradation of wastes, and the control of pest population” (Clowney 514). One of the main ways in which humans are destroying the world’s biodiversity is by stripping the species’ habitat from them, the elimination of pest species, pollution, introduction of exotic species, overexploitation, and climate change; therefore, causing the species to go extinct (Cowney 516). We are eliminating forests through deforestation, slowly wiping out the bee population with pesticides, and over fishing and hunting certain species. We are forcing these species to adapt around our selfish wants by finding new food sources and trying to survive their new predators. We are beating biological extinction (the natural process to the evolutionary process) to the punch and cutting the rope by introducing artificial extinction. An extinction where species have no chance of adapting, no chance of living. As Holmes Rolston III states, “Our duty is ‘not to play the role of murders’” (Clowney, 532). We are thinking of only our needs and wants, and not taking into consideration the lives of others, even if it is a tiny insect that we have never seen in our life. Nevertheless, the destruction of such species for our own personal benefit, at the end of the day, is still considered “murder”. We have a duty to consider and protect as many species as we possibly can, which may involve thinking outside of the box and putting the needs of these species before our own. After all, we must not forget the golden rule: do to others as you would want done to you. When humans ignore this rule, species and ecosystems suffer. According to discovery.com, humans have caused 322 species of animals to go extinct within the past 500 years. And on top of that, according to endangeredearth.com, 41,415 species are on the IUCN Red List, with 16,306 of those species on the verge of extinction. Some may think that 41,415 isn’t a lot of species in comparison to the millions of species on the earth, but many forget that the extinction of one species can alter our ecosystem. Life works in a cycle, and when one of the components is missing, the chain is greatly impacted.
The relationship among biologically diverse ecosystems in nature are very complicated and delicate. Each part of nature has another part or three (or more) with which it is intertwined. Bees are a small link in the chain of life; however, they fit into the delicate balance and play a very important role. There are around 250,000 species of plants currently known, and of those 250,000, around 130,00 of them are dependent upon the pollination of bees. Among those 130,000 are alfalfa and clover, which the beef and dairy industries rely on as well as many fruits and vegetables. In fact, nearly one third of all fruits and vegetables depend on the pollination of bees. This means that about one bite of fruits and/or vegetables of every three is the result of a bee pollination; in short: bees are essential to maintaining biodiversity. However, as early as the mid 1990s, reports began surfacing that showed massive declines in bee populations. It was not until the mid 2000s that this began to become a serious issue as the consequences of this decline began to be realized.
One serious indicator of this problem is seen among beekeepers’ hive populations. It is what is known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Hive populations are on average around 30,000 bees, but more and more recently beekeepers have come to find the bees missing or dead, losing anywhere up to 90% of the hives. This massive decline is primarily caused by the use of pesticides such as Neonicotinoids on crops. Neonicotinoids are insect neurotoxins which cause death, memory loss, and/or effect the bees’ sense of smell causing them to be unable to find their way back to their hive. In much the same way that canaries in a coal mine forewarned impending danger to the miners, the massive decline in the bee populations should be a flashing red light to our world regarding many of the harsh agricultural practices present in today's society. Studies have shown that should an entire bee population that focuses on pollinating one species of plant die out in an area, the remaining bee populations will take over the pollination of the plant; however, it will result in a one third decline in seed production. In a world where most of the crop yields rely on the pollination of plants via bees, this is a future we do not want to see come to light. Environmental scientists and bee activists have been keeping a close eye on this problem for more than a decade, but it is still a big problem. Despite being informed of the problem, little has happened to change practices, which begs the question: can this problem be fixed now that scientists are urging a precautionary approach or is the problem too far involved to be rectified without a mass overhauling of the agricultural practices? This is a problem that is bigger than just the United States, it is an international problem.
So what impact could you possibly have with such a big problem? The answer is that you can start small. Start by calculating your carbon footprint or your footprint on the world (http://www.myforest.co.in/offset_your_carbon_footprint.php ). Secondly, researching different organizations that help fight biodiversity like Applied Environmental Research Foundation and WWF Global can give you a better understanding of the issues surrounding biodiversity. Applied Environmental Research Foundation is a “registered non-governmental organization that aims to demonstrate the conservation of biological diversity through the active participation of local communities combined with the use of research techniques” (AERF.org). AERF has numerous supporters and collaborators that aid the organization with research and activism; for example, German Mission India, University of Kent, BGSU, University of Miami, etc… With the help of this organization, funding goes into applied research in order to “ to produce knowledge that will help find real solutions to problems” (AERF.org); meanwhile, you can contribute to this research by volunteering and interning with this organization. You can also, help this organization’s mission by sponsoring a forest, in which you choose a form of membership and the amount of acres you wish to help. In addition, there are many small changes you can make to your lifestyle that seem small, but can contribute greatly. For example, buy “good wood” (wood that is sustainably legal), avoid endangered fish and focus on fish labeled with MSC (due to the fact that 80% of biodiversity is in the sea), buy organic products, plant a variety of vegetables/trees/flowers in your lawn to make it more diverse, stop killing weeds, and conserve your consumption.
One specific way to contribute to fighting the big problem of biodiversity is to focus on the declining population of bees. You can start with signing this petition (http://avaaz.org/en/save_the_bees_global/ ), which is to stop the use of the Neonicotinoid based pesticides, and you can also stop using it yourself. Another way to help is to plant bee friendly plants (asters, wild flowers, goldenrod, sunflowers, and even dandelions), buy or plant organic goods, research more about bees (http://www.helpsavebees.co.uk/bee-family-tree.html ), use bee friendly hygiene products that support and help bees http://www.beefriendlyskincare.com/pages/about-us , help make bee roads (which are a series of wild flowers http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/12/bee-road-pollinators ) , support your local bee keepers, or even become a bee keeper yourself. You not only should educate yourself about biodiversity and the current state of the environment, but also inform those around you. Whether this be a colleague or even your children there are documentaries and even movies like the Bee Movie that anyone can watch. Helping the environment isn’t just researching and being knowledgeable, one needs to change things in their day to day life, even if they are minute. In the end these small contributions are helpful to the big picture of biodiversity, and not just with bees but with so many other things. Do we really want to live in a world where we destroy nature? It’s our duty to use the earth wisely, and by deforesting and using pesticides we are doing the exact opposite. So the next time you spray weed killers and pesticides, buy lumber, or even plan the layout of your garden or lawn, think about how this could affect the environment and in the end biodiversity.
Clowney, David, and Patricia Mosto. Earthcare: An Anthology in Environmental Ethics. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. Print