What if someone said to you... In one year all the bees on earth will be gone... Scary? It should be. Is there a way to prevent this ?
Bee friendly cities? Why bee friendly cities?
Well... Bees contribute directly to the pollanation of many plants globally. So what if our urban environments and modern agriculture techniques are detrimental to their health and well being?
At the moment, our rapid urban expansion and planning policies are creating vast areas that are windy, hot and sparsely or monoculturally vegetated.
In addition to this our agricultural system relies on vast areas of single species vegetation. This means that bee colonies must be shipped vast distances to service these different areas. These large monocultural farms normally dont full fill the bees nutritional needs so their diets need to be supplimented.
On top of this, many of our bee species are selected for their ability to produce the most honey possible and therefore possibly losing the genetic diversity required to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
As our population increases so does our agricultural demands. So what if we could use our urban environments to provide the diversity of vegetation requried to help support local bee populations? Thus helping to ensure the diversity of bee species.
What if we use this to also help our urban environments through increased green spaces, and cooler, calmer andmore controlled urban environments? What if we also use it to increase awareness of our local flora and fauna? What if it helps provide healthier cities through the absorption carbon and other environmental chemicals?
In summary, I am calling for a rethink on urban and building planning to provide a more biodiverse, cooler, calmer healthier urban environment that helps protect bees and other pollanating insects.
As Albert Einstein said: "if the bee disappeared of the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live". So for the sake of my children, this is one theory of his I do not want to test.
Grassroots neighborhood organizations
What actions do you propose?
The actions are based on increasing biodiversity, increasing environmental awareness, reducing harmful emissions, and reducing harmful environments.
The actions within this proposal are diverse and wide ranging. There is no simple single solution, but rather a range of measures that can help mitigate the problem. These actions will also be able to be implemented by all levels of society. As this is a global problem, the specific solutions will also vary from location to location depending what is most suitable in that location.
The actions can include:
- Increase and encourage local biodiversity and actively research and monitor local biodiversity.
- Implement green corridors and reservations.
- Research and educate people about their local animal and plant and insect species.
- Design buildings and urban environments to accomodate plants and green spaces.
- Design buildings and urban spaces to reduce wind.
- Lobby to reduce emissions of substances that dramatically affect the biodiversity including pesticides, petrol, herbicides.
- Research into alternatives to pesticides and herbicides to provide a better result for farmers and biodiversity.
For example, some ways to increase biodiversity within an urban environment may be as simple as adding more diversity to the local sidewalk planting and street tree planting. Other ways may be to partially reinstate the meadows that were a common site pre World War Ii through the use of green roofs on existing buildings. A less extreme way would be to encourage people to plant indigenous plants to their region.
A few ways to encourage environmental understanding and education could be to implement study of the local environment throughout school, provide university funding for further research into fields of local biodiversity, and also develop and encourage local interest groups with specialised knowledge about their environments.
Who will take these actions?
These actions have are able to be performed on a number of diffferent levels allowing for the maximum community participation possible. The most important thing is that the actions are implemented by local people for their local environment.
The most basic levels being community engagement and education through the school system, community interest groups. These groups can be assisted and encouraged by being educated about their local environment and taught to recognise and understand and use / maintain some of the flora and fauna in their area. They can also help lobby government to implement changes to help their local environment.
The actions can also be performed by more specialised participants including professional, governmental and university organisations. These groups can implement legislation changes, conduct high level research and assist the public on their options in regard to environmental design and chemical usage.
The breadth of possible community participation allows for a level of pride within a community in regard to the health of their local environment which will help to sustain and maintain the project.
Where will these actions be taken?
The aim of the proposal is to work mainly in urban regions in order to reclaim some of the underutilised biodiverse space.
The action principles have the opportunity to be adopted globally by tailoring then to suit local conditions.
For example, both Sydney and New York have similar problems in relation to urban wind, heat , loss of biodiversity, and huge loss in bee hives over the last year. However, both cities have very different climates so a solution suitable for New York may not be suitable for the Australian climate.
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
Reducing emissions is certainly an important part of reducing the effect of global warming. I hope this proposal is not read in a way that it seems it doesnt not appreciate emission reduction technology. Reducing emissions is great and should be encouraged.
However, the aim of this proposal is not so much to reduce emissions directly, but rather to look at a different angle to the larger problem of climate change and adaptation. I am looking at the problem from the point of view of biodiversity and the possible rapid and exacerbated effects of climate change if biodiversity is ignored. If we ignore biodiversity, we could lose species that are more resistant to change, or disease, or whatever gives them an edge in a rapidly changing environment. And this eventually may make the difference between being relatively ok and complete disaster.
What are other key benefits?
What are the proposal’s costs?
The cost of implementing such a program is unknown and may vary worldwide. Given the community based approach and some clever use of technology, the cost may be fairly cheap compared to the possible consequences if it is not done.
More research needs to be done about this.
The time line for implementing this can start immediately. There are things that can be initiated today such as education, lobbying, researching and planting indigenous species.
Things that may take longer include research initiatives, school education initiatives and legislation changes.
There is no end to this project. It will be an ongoing project that will require continual community engagement in order for it to be successful. The eventual aim is for it to be a lifestyle choice that comes naturally.
- BBC Radio 4 - On the trail of the American Honey Bee. 28. March 2013. Presenter: Dr Adam Hart.
- Ted Talk - A plea for Bees. Dennis vanEngelsdorp.