The Earth Organization is an international, independent, non-profit group which seeks to reverse the dwindling spiral of the plant and animal kingdoms and our environment through education and action.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Unsung Heroes

"The Unsung Heroes"
Published in the Namib Times,
By Marcia Stanton

That little yellow and black critter buzzing around your yard is one of the greatest heroes our planet has ever seen.  You may say she’s annoying and perhaps even scary, but the fact is that you need her for your survival. Albert Einstein said that if she “disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live."

She is the bee: the most effective plant pollinator on earth.

Bees - along with beetles, butterflies, birds and bats - are responsible for pollinating the earth’s plants.  Without them, over 30% of crops and 90% of wild plants would die.  Humans and animals rely on plants for survival and if we destroy plant pollinators, we destroy plants and ultimately most of our food and oxygen.

These natural crop pollinators provide us with free agricultural labour that would otherwise cost US$250 billion.  Bees ask no salary to do their work and they put in plenty of overtime hours. How do we repay them? We eradicate these incredible little volunteer labourers with pesticides and we effectively retrench them permanently. 

We’ve been throwing caution to the wind for too long using pesticides without comprehending the long term affect.  Now bees face a major crisis called Colony Collapse Disorder and one of the main causes is long term pesticide use.  Scientists have detected over 121 different pesticides in samples of bees, wax and pollen.

As a result, it has been estimated that 50% of the bee population has already been wiped out and specialists are concerned that bees are heading for extinction. Losing this many bees greatly increases the chance of a major world food supply crisis.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, bees alone pollinate 71 of the 100 crop species responsible for food security. 

Bees are irreplaceable and the fact remains that there are simply not enough humans in the world to pollinate all the world’s crops by hand.  One bee colony pollinates up to 300 million flowers per day.  A human could never keep up as the only way for a person to pollinate is to use a feather brush to place pollen on each individual flower.  This is a labour intensive process that drastically increases the cost and decreases the yield of food production, ultimately causing much higher food prices and food scarcity. Globally, it costs US$5.7 billion per year for the lower crop yields and increased production costs caused by bee decline.

Although scientists do not know precisely how to avert the disaster, they have suggested a precautionary approach until more is known.  As a result, this year on April 29th, the European Union voted to place a two-year moratorium on three pesticides that could pose an acute risk to bees.

Now more than ever we need to remember the unsung heroes of our planet and proceed with caution on how we treat them.  Let their plight remind us to stop tinkering with things we don’t fully understand.

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