If your only encounter with bees has been on the wrong side of a stinger, allow me to introduce you to these creatures, Planet Earth style. Honey bees never sleep, have hair on their eyes, build perfect hexagons, and can reverse their brain aging when taking on the jobs of younger bees. They study angles of the sun to find where the good pollen is and they communicate through competitive dance routines.
Bees are fascinating and one in every three bites of food depends on bee pollination, which makes the fact they are disappearing an even harder pill to swallow. Around the world, honeybee population loss has been swift and devastating, attributed to everything from pesticides to phone signals. But the root cause of their disappearance is also the most obvious: our climate is changing and we’re frantically trying to slap Band-Aids of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, mutant vegetables and antibiotics on the problem.
To be an advocate for climate change policy is to be an advocate for local, chemical-free farming. In his book Oil and Honey, 350.org founder Bill McKibben explains that due to the rapid rate at which our planet is heating up, currently one degree hotter than average globally and locked into at least another half-degree increase, we need immediate and global political action to have any real chance of slowing things down. But even if we do figure out this conundrum, we’ll need larger and lasting cultural shifts returning to more sustainable norms. Growing and buying our food locally will be one of the most important.
Step one: get a new generation of young people interesting in farming, which is easier said than done. Traditional farming is laborious, demanding, not all that profitable, and dictated by increasingly erratic weather patterns and access to large plots of fertile land. As an industry, it’s not as sexy as tech or fashion, either. But the times they are a-changing, and so is farming.