From Einstein to economics

If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left.

Such an apocalyptic view, from the mouth of a rather respected gentleman, has set many scientists, agriculture experts and others atwitter. For me it’s been a rather worrying thought, but one that I’ve trusted ‘the experts’ to sort out. Head in the sand approach maybe, but I don’t think I’d be alone in this. Similarly, there are many who see climate change and other environmental issues as being the realm of environmental organisations. There are signs that this attitude is shifting – see for example NCVO’s Big Response project – and we’ve written elsewhere that climate change is actually a driver for the sector.

So is the bee crisis a driver?

It is clearly discussed as something that has wide implications, as the bee is cited as contributing "some £26bn to the global economy".

In the UK alone, honeybee pollination is valued at £200m. Mankind has been managing and transporting bees for centuries to pollinate food and produce honey, nature's natural sweetener and antiseptic. Their extinction would mean not only a colourless, meatless diet of cereals and rice, and cottonless clothes, but a landscape without orchards, allotments and meadows of wildflowers – and the collapse of the food chain that sustains wild birds and animals.

There is an obvious outcome which is that, with the pollinators gone, crops that rely on them would fail then. Cue food provision issues and global resource constraints.

But what caught my attention recently was a line in a recent Guardian article:

"Bee scarcity...is an economic problem caused by economic forces"

Economic forces? The very thing that leads pretty much every paper you look at. So if this crisis is connected to the economy, then it is something we should all be concerned with.  

The idea is that it is an effect of society’s disconnect with local, seasonal produce. As a growing percentage of the population expects fruit out of season and from halfway across the world to be available whenever they stroll into the shops, so these ‘market pressures’ are impacting on the poor bees.

So an issue that initially seems a mile away actually comes down to what we choose in the shops? It seems to me that ethical consumerism grows in importance. I like this as it makes me feel like I can do my bit.

This leads neatly onto my next concern. If ethical consumerism is so important, what ripples could a failure in green consumerism have?

Last updated at 14:58 Tue 08/Jun/10.
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How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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