Bees are dying, and you should care

By Dan Riley

(Lyman Duggan/Flickr)
(Lyman Duggan/Flickr)

Like many people my age, my morning routine consists of waking up, actually waking up, cursing existence, grabbing some coffee and checking up on the global bee population. You can imagine my horror this weekend when I discovered that for the first time in history, bees had been added to the endangered species list; specifically, seven species of native Hawaiian bees. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the primary causes of colony collapse are pesticides, loss of habitat and climate change — all man-made causes, of course.

There are practical reasons to care about bees dying. We’ve all seen “Bee Movie,” we all know pollination is important. According to the US Department of Agriculture, “about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce.” The extinction of any animal has severe consequences for the world’s ecosystems. But what if we did not need bees to live? Would it be okay to just let them die?

I am not an especially zealous Christian, but I did attend a Catholic high school, which means I took four years of theology. Out of those four years, one philosophical concept stuck with me: stewardship. It was derived from the second creation story in the book of Genesis, in which God creates Adam and sets out to create a companion for him. Before finally creating Eve, God created all of the animals and Adam individually named them: “bear,” “wolf,” “lion,” and so on for millions of species, or so the story goes. The process of naming the animals is symbolic of humanity’s role over the animals: we are the caretakers of creation, responsible for the wellbeing of all life.

Religion and symbolic mythology aside, it is a nice idea. Our role as the dominant species is to care for the other species of the world because we have the intelligence and the compassion to do so. However, we have become so used to being bombarded with tragic news that we have become numb to it. It becomes easy to fall into the mindset of “Oh, the environment is collapsing? Bees are dying at an alarming rate? Well, I have an essay due on Tuesday so I’ll just have to purge that unpleasant knowledge from my memory until a more convenient time arises.” We don’t have time for nice ideas like stewardship. Deadlines on syllabi are more tangible than duties to wildlife. Also, most young people alone do not have the influence to actively fight against bee extinction. We do not have the capability as individuals to care for the species that share Earth with us.

But, we have a responsibility to stay informed on the status of our planetary roommates. We have an obligation to care. Apathy is just as guilty as climate change for the deaths of thousands of living beings. Caring can go a long way. A little over 50 years ago, there were only 417 nesting pairs of bald eagles left. Public outcry, led by Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” led to government regulation that allowed for a dramatic recovery. In 2006, there were 9789 nesting pairs. For obvious reasons, the American people and U.S. government had a special interest in saving the bald eagle. Collegian readers may be shocked to know that none of the world’s 196 sovereign nations selected the bee as the symbol of their country. No one is watching out for the little black-and-yellow guy.

But we can care. That’s what caretakers do. For students, the job right now is to study. We don’t need to be out saving animals one at a time. But when we join the world as academics, professionals and scientists, we can all be stewards. We can all hold up the lives of insects, mammals, birds and fish as something that matters. So today, take the time to care about the wellbeing of the animal kingdom.

That being said, mosquitoes can burn. Damn the consequences.

Dan Riley is a Collegian columnist who can be reached at [email protected]