The A, Bee, C's of food supply threats

If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot's inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers. Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh. (James 3:3-12)

This passage comes to mind with recent news from the United Nations Environment Programme. Apparently a number of factors—pollution and other human-related activities being the most common—are responsible for a worldwide decline in bee colonies. Bees and other plant pollinators are the smallest link to our worldwide supply of food, and as they go, so goes the human race.

The report notes,

  • More than a dozen factors, ranging from declines in flowering plants and the use of memory-damaging insecticides to the world-wide spread of pests and air pollution, may be behind the emerging decline of bee colonies across many parts of the globe.

  • Scientists are warning that without profound changes to the way human-beings manage the planet, declines in pollinators needed to feed a growing global population are likely to continue.

  • New kinds of virulent fungal pathogens—which can be deadly to bees and other key pollinating insects—are now being detected world-wide, migrating from one region to another as a result of shipments linked to globalization and rapidly growing international trade.

  • Meanwhile an estimated 20,000 flowering plant species, upon which many bee species depend for food, could be lost over the coming decades unless conservation efforts are stepped up.

  • Increasing use of chemicals in agriculture, including 'systemic insecticides' and those used to coat seeds, is being found to be damaging or toxic to bees. Some can, in combination, be even more potent to pollinators, a phenomenon known as the 'cocktail effect.

  • Climate change, left unaddressed, may aggravate the situation, in various ways including by changing the flowering times of plants and shifting rainfall patterns. This may in turn affect the quality and quantity of nectar supplies. 

There’s much more, and I encourage you to read through it. If so, you'll find supporting evidence and recommendations, all of which remind us that the smallest of God’s creations are often the most important. But then, such has been revealed to us in scripture. Science is only now able to explain how and why this is the case. And if we’re wise, we’ll heed the implications of what this news has to teach us. As the passage from James reminds us, there is an order to the world, and, like it or not, the smallest loss of one element of the created order can and will have (and, apparently, already is having) terrifying consequences to this already fallen world.

For more information from the UN on sustainable development, visit here.

For information on what the Church is saying about agriculture, and how you can help, visit here.

And for a human look at what bee die offs can do to local farmers, and we the people who eat their food, spend a few moments and watch this video:

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About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.