Bees- the most critical indicator species of environmental vitality- are rapidly declining as the result of a variety of complex, interconnected anthropogenic activities that have given rise to the greatest threat humanity has ever faced- climate change. Climate change is detrimental to global bee populations by causing many flower species to bloom earlier or later than usual, thus inhibiting bees’ primary food source. Considering approximately 90% of all plants require pollination to thrive, this means that addressing the primary culprits of climate change is necessary to ensure the long-term prosperity of global bee populations, and ironically, one of the leading contributors to climate change and bee habitat destruction is industrial agriculture.
The Global Food System
The global food system is largely one of social and environmental injustice whereby industrial farmers who grow commodity crops outpace subsistence farmers who grow specialty crops, also known as fruits and vegetables. This is because specialty crop farmers aren’t eligible for the programs that subsidize commodity crop farmers when prices dip in the market, leading to overproduction- and, subsequently, overconsumption- of commodity crops. Commodity crops are highly subsidized food stables that are easily processed into junk foods that are not only directly contributing to the obesity epidemic in America, but also indirectly contributing to malnutrition in less developed countries. These commodity crops are primarily grown in monocultures, one of the most inefficient farming methods due to the inhibition of plants’ genetic diversity which causes a sharp increase in the number of parasite and pathogen species that can effectively target the crop. As a result, decreased genetic diversity in monocultures, in conjunction with much greater pesticide use compared to polycultures, have a substantial effect on pollinator species on a global scale. Therefore, we must pay much greater attention to the direct effect of industrial agriculture on bee colony collapse because not only do its methods and processes negatively impact bee populations but also it has altered the way bees are raised and managed, making them significantly more prone to diseases via pesticides and genetically modified crops.
In conjunction with the complexities of our modern global food system are a host of other interconnected challenges that must be addressed in order to ensure the prosperity of bees worldwide. These challenges include a rapidly growing human population that inevitably demands healthy, nutritious food as well as the ability to reap the benefits of the modern industrialist system, which subsequently increases the proportion of global land that is deforested to grow crops and build cities for the benefit of humans but with blatant disregard to the destruction of the biotic life we depend on for survival. Thus, the problem underlying these inextricably linked anthropogenic activities that have led to bee population decline is, simply put- human attitudes. In order to not only save the bees, but also to stop global climate change, put an end to malnutrition and the energy crisis, revive biodiversity, restore the oceans, and ultimately save our planet for generations to come, human attitudes toward the environment and all life that inhabits the Earth must evolve to realize that humans were not borne to dominate the Earth but to coexist and live in harmony with all the planet has to offer. Otherwise, we will not only be causing bees to go extinct, but we will cause our own extinction as well.
The Future of Our Planet
Bee survival is not the key to a better future; it is key to a future period. As a pollinator species, not only are bees important for their direct impact on the food chain that ultimately ensures that life on Earth will be able to continually thrive, but also this specific ecosystem service is vital for ensuring biodiversity persists among plants and animals alike. Thus, bees play an especially important role in the future of our planet and humans as a species that represents the evolution of the human psyche. Of course, humans will not even be able to exist at all if bees were to go extinct, but ensuring that bee populations remain healthy and abundant in the future allows bees to serve as a natural representation of the long journey the relationship between humans and the environment has taken to finally reach the point of symbiosis.