“What’s been dubbed the ‘carbon tunnel vision’ has clearly taken hold, keeping us on our toes with national targets and tickable actions, and leading us to believe that carbon trading and greenwashing will save us from impending catastrophe.”
I’ve always loved bees – not only for their undeniably magnificent appearance, but also for their importance to our broader natural ecosystems and food production.
They have grown on me over the last few years because they have such a hard time surviving these days, whole bee colonies are collapsing everywhere.
Did you know that the global collapse in bee populations is leaving vast tracts of arable and horticultural land so desperately unpollinated that people in southern China and elsewhere are having to manually pollinate their crops?
Did you know that due to bee shortages in South America, a system called “migratory beekeeping” was introduced, in which bees were driven from plantation to plantation on trucks, released to be pollinated, silenced, and to the next location?
This one is quite interesting, as it means that avocados and the like aren’t technically strictly “vegan” because their production relies on arguably unsustainable mass beekeeping with questionable animal welfare standards.
Anyway, a few years ago I decided to join the local beekeeping club to learn more about it and get my own bees. The idea wasn’t to make money selling honey, but to have bees simply because I enjoy them and want to see them thrive.
As Mull is one of the last places in the UK not to be affected by the nasty Varroa mite I was happy to wait until a local colony became available lest I risk introducing Varroa to the area.
It had been almost three years of being on a waiting list until last July I finally received the long awaited email that a starter colony of hairy, hardy little black bees led by a very attractive queen was available.
So I duly ordered all the equipment – a beehive, protective gear, etc. – and the collection day came. Unfortunately not my protective equipment. Long story short, I managed to get my new crew out of their carrier and into their new home, but my face looked like a zombie tomato when I was done.
Despite an interesting start, we got along well. I left them all their treasure as it was only their first season and I spent a lot of time watching them. You are even more amazing than I ever imagined.
Did you know that all worker bees are female and the sole purpose of the male bees, the drones, is to mate with the queen and that’s it? They don’t take care of the baby bees, they don’t collect food.
Someone told me that they just seem to sit around in the hive, eat and get fat. Now you’re going to be smiling and wondering what I’m getting at – and it’s not what you think!
Because in the fall or early winter, when food sources run low, something extraordinarily brutal happens. The worker bees start kicking the drones out of the hive, starving or freezing them to death. They use brute force where necessary, eating wings and legs off drones that persistently try to get back inside.
It is a silent massacre initiated by a larger entity working towards the “greater good”. The survival of the whole justifies the death of the individual when they have served their purpose.
However, this does not necessarily mean that the colony disregards or undervalues the contribution of the individual.
The drones are just as important to the colony’s survival as the worker bees and queen bee, but when their cycle is complete they must be sacrificed so that there can be a future generation. The colony as a whole is more important than its individual members.
As Allan Savory, arguably the father of the modern concept of wholeness, would say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And nature and all species that are part of the natural environment, including humans, function in wholes and patterns.
Many of us tend to focus on the details rather than the whole. This makes it very difficult for us to see the big picture, and this silo thinking can sometimes lead us to think that we can solve a bigger problem by simply dealing with the details.
We think of nature as a machine where you can simply upgrade or replace a gear to make the system work better.
But that is not possible in nature because a part is not independent of the whole and the relationships between the two are often far too complex for us to understand the possible unintended consequences of our actions.
The current political call to tackle climate change is a fabulous example of the lack of imagination and understanding of what surrounds us.
What some are calling the “carbon tunnel vision” has clearly got us, keeping us on our toes with our national targets and checkbox actions, and leading us to believe that carbon trading and greenwashing will save us from a looming catastrophe we have yet to do fully understand.
But it’s fine because as long as we can tick the boxes and allow companies and investors to buy carbon credits so they can claim to be net zero emissions without having to change their practices, we’ll be fine .
It is sad to think that our species as a whole has lost its loyalty to generations to come. We are willing to ignore problems for as long as possible, and when we finally have to address them, we try to “solve” them by capitalizing on them.
In the meantime, we blame previous generations who didn’t know, but despite knowing, failed to acknowledge the gravity of our own inaction because the status quo was good for many of us. Why rock the boat of comfortable living?
To overcome the environmental challenges we face, we must step back and realize that carbon credits and zombie forests are not going to save us.
Like the drones and the worker bees and the queen working hard to give the next generation the best chance of survival, we all have a role to play whether we like it or not. Only when the parts play their role will the whole succeed and endure.
We can learn a lot from bees.