David Suzuki: We Must Save the Honeybees and Here's How You Can Help
Many environmental campaigns over the past 50 years have aimed at getting people to care for imperiled species in wild, far-off places. The focus in Canada has often been on large, photogenic, culturally important animals, with bonus points for campaigns that include alliteration, bumper sticker-friendly slogans and plush toys. This has been a sensible and often successful strategy.
Over the past few years smaller, charismatic critters closer to home have buzzed into the spotlight: bees. About a decade ago, beekeepers in Europe and North America started noticing serious declines in honeybee populations. Bees have lost much of their natural habitat to urbanization and industrial agriculture and face increased stress from climate change-related drought and severe winters. These threats, coupled with the global spread of diseases and pests and a dramatic increase in the use of agricultural pesticides like neonicotinoids, have resulted in unprecedented losses for beekeepers. (Because bees and other insects provide ecological services like pollination, it makes no sense to declare war against all just to eliminate or control the few nuisances).
The honeybee decline has been big news partly because they make delicious honey, but more importantly because they’re pollinators. About three-quarters of flowering plants and more than a third of food crops worldwide depend on pollinators—from bees and butterflies to hummingbirds and bats. As a result, governments across the globe are developing strategies to protect them, including Ontario with its recently proposed Pollinator Health Action Plan.
Public attention in Canada has largely focused on domesticated European honeybees, but research indicates the honeybee crisis is part of a wider problem affecting hundreds of lesser-known but crucially important wild bee species.
Of about 800 wild bee species in Canada, more than 90 percent have a “solitary” lifestyle rather than living in large, social colonies. Two-thirds of these are ground-nesters, including bumblebees, mining and digger bees that make nests in soil and under leaves and rocks. The rest are cavity-nesters like mason and carpenter bees that burrow in hollow stems, twigs and logs.
Although honeybees get the headlines and most of the credit for pollinating flowers and crops, studies show that wild bees can be two or three times better at pollination and some, like mason bees, can be up to 80 times more effective.
The good news is that the honeybee crisis has galvanized interest in all pollinators, inspiring thousands of groups and citizens worldwide to establish new spaces for them, from wild bee hotels and rooftop honeybee hives to pollinator gardens in parks and schoolyards.
As our communities grow, pollinator habitat is fragmented into increasingly disconnected patches that disrupt natural pathways, making the potential of connected networks of habitat within cities especially fascinating. Oslo’s Bumblebee Highway, Seattle’s Pollinator Pathway and Hamilton’s Pollinator Paradise are all great local initiatives.
Establishing an urban pollinator corridor is also at the heart of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Homegrown National Park Project, which since 2013 has created more than 50 pollinator-friendly patches along the path of a creek now buried beneath Toronto—from small guerrilla plantings to a network of flower-filled canoe planters in schools, cafés, churches, parks and yards.
This spring, the foundation will launch the Great Canadian Butterflyway Project, to inspire bee-friendly urban innovations and neighborhood-scale pollinator corridors across the country. Through videos, tips and other resources, the project will profile projects nationwide that are bringing nature home, one pollinator-friendly planting at a time.
You can become part of the growing movement to protect pollinators. Head to the library (or check out this link) to research the amazing diversity of wild bees and other pollinators in your community. While you’re there, learn what flowers and shrubs best support those species and what might work in your yard or on your balcony. Then check out what local groups are up to.
Want to show wild bees some love? Create a sanctuary in your yard or garden by leaving a sunny patch of bare soil for ground-nesters. Add some pithy stems, sticks and wood debris for cavity-nesters. And be sure not to disturb the nests over winter.
Will the buzz generated by media stories and pun-filled campaigns save the bees? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we can all help by making bees welcome in our yards and neighbourhoods.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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