Last week, the United Nations released a report highlighting the precarious state of natural pollinators around the world.
The media coverage that followed largely focused on the economic impact, threat to human food supply, and threat to public health likely to occur, if these trends continue.
As an amateur beekeeper, what I believe received significantly less attention, however, was the prominent role humans have played in creating the conditions responsible for pollinator decline. Some have said, that Albert Einstein reflected upon the importance of bees:
“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination; no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
Counting Our Losses
Einstein’s quote highlights the gravity of the situation from a simple, physical point of view. What it doesn’t touch upon, however, is how the loss of natural pollinators coincides with our ongoing disconnect from nature. As we become increasingly disconnected, we literally risk losing our humanity.
In addition to catalyzing much of the life on this planet, pollinators serve as tiny paint brushes that Nature uses to bring color into a colorless world. In doing so, they are – as Ecology Professor Vera Imperatriz-Fonseca points out – “a source of inspiration for all of us in art, music, literature, religion, and technology.”
Nature – the Great Teacher
Nature is not just a cruel mistress, She is also a Great Teacher. If we watch and listen, She provides us with examples we can use, not just to survive in this world, but to also help understand our purpose and potential.
Honeybees, for example, go through several distinctive stages of development during their lives. Life for a honeybee begins as an egg which then develops into a larva, a pupa, and eventually into an adult bee. In this process, the honeybee is constantly transformed. Only in the end does it recognize its true purpose and potential.
Becoming Fully Human
As a species, I believe, we are at a crossroads in our own development. We can continue to treat Nature as something to be mastered, exploited, and consumed – the root causes of global pollinator decline – or we can begin to think about our lives, and those around us, as a series of interconnected relationships. If can’t move beyond this paradigm of self centered, voracious consumption, we will inevitably parish.
People often talk about saving the bees, saving the whales, or even saving the Planet. Saving any, or all, of these things, starts by taking a very critical and painful look at our behaviors and ourselves.
Each of us, as individuals, needs to reflect upon how our unbridled consumption and desire for comfort deleteriously affect other living things on this Planet. When we do, we start to realize that we are part of Something much bigger and more beautiful than ourselves.
This Something is pleading with us to consume less and give more. It is challenging us to move away from our animalistic tendencies and toward something more fully human. By listening and responding to this plea, I believe, like the honeybee, we have an opportunity to be truly transformed and to continue on the journey toward achieving our full purpose and potential.