Guest Post by Drew Toher, Public Education Associate at EarthShare member charity Beyond Pesticides
It’s been over a decade since beekeepers first sounded the alarm on unsustainable declines in honey bee populations. Over the last year, 44% of managed honey bee colonies were lost, one of the highest rates to date. And if honey bees are dying off at unprecedented rates, even with support from beekeepers, what might the losses be to bumble bees and other native pollinators? Unfortunately, preliminary research shows they’re also in serious trouble.
There is a growing scientific consensus that a class of systemic, persistent insecticides called neonicotinoids are the most significant contributing factor to outsized declines in managed honey bee colonies and wild pollinators. Although the manufacturers of these chemicals continue to misrepresent the crisis, scientists, consumers, and policymakers are beginning to see through the fog.
While the federal government has taken some small steps towards protecting pollinators through a National Pollinator Health Strategy released last year, continued declines are evidence that this action didn’t go far enough. In response, states like Maryland and Connecticut, and communities like St. Paul, MN, Seattle, WA, Boulder, CO and many more are taking substantial action to protect pollinators by restricting the use of bee-toxic neonicotinoids.
How does real change happen? From the bottom-up, with passion, hard work and perseverance. Grassroots change occurs when local residents join together and engage with the political process in their community and state. Local groups, like Bee Safe Boulder in Colorado, and coalitions like Safe Grow Montgomery and Smart on Pesticides in Maryland, exemplify this approach.
By successfully harnessing the voices of concerned individuals, including health and environmental groups, scientists, beekeepers, and local and regional businesses, advocates convinced policymakers to earnestly address pollinator declines in these communities.
In Boulder, neonicotinoids were restricted from use on all city property. In Montgomery County Maryland, residents won restrictions on a range of pesticides hazardous to pollinators and human health on both public and private property, and at the state level, the passage of the Maryland Pollinator Protection Act ensures bee-toxic chemicals will be removed from the shelves of hardware stores and garden centers.
To start your own campaign to restrict toxic pesticides in your community, begin with your passion, and find other people interested in making a change with you. Form a group of committed individuals, and give yourselves a name. Hold monthly strategy meetings and brainstorm innovative ways to reach out to the community. Traditional organizing techniques include petitions, canvassing, email campaigns to local leaders, letters to the editor, marches, and other events.
It’s also important to sit down with local and state officials to get their take on the issue. Go to meetings armed with peer-reviewed science, and examples of similar action other states and localities have taken. Stress not only that pesticides are hazardous to pollinators and human health, but also focus on the positive, cost-effective alternatives to their use. Propose a policy change, and remember your commitment to persevere, as it will come in handy when you hit an inevitable speed bump in your movement.
For more details on how to start your own movement, see our fact sheet here. Use Beyond Pesticides’ BEE Protective campaign webpage as a resource. We’re here to help, with information on pesticides and alternatives, organizing strategies, and moral support. If you’re already active, or want to start protecting pollinators in your community, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-543-5450.