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Daily News Blog

17
Jun

National Pollinator Week Starts Today with Opportunities for Action Every Day of the Week (June 17-23)

(Beyond Pesticides, June 17, 2024) Every year, Beyond Pesticides announces National Pollinator Week—this year beginning today, June 17—to remind eaters of food, gardeners, farmers, communities (including park districts to school districts), civic organizations, responsible corporations, policy makers, and legislators that there are actions that can be taken that are transformative. All the opportunities for action to protect pollinators, and the ecosystems that are critical to their survival, can collectively be transformational in eliminating toxic pesticides that are major contributors to the collapse of biodiversity. This is why Beyond Pesticides starts most discussions and strategic actions for meaningful pollinator and biodiversity protection with the transition to practicing and supporting organic.

In launching National Pollinator Week, Beyond Pesticides makes suggestions for individual actions to increase efforts to think and act holistically to protect the environment that supports pollinators. The impact that people have starts with grocery store purchases and the management of gardens, parks, playing fields, and pubic lands. The introduction of pesticides into our food supply and our managed lands has contributed to a downward spiral that is unsustainable. The good news is that it is now proven that we do not need toxic pesticides to grow food productively and profitably and that these chemicals are not required to manage ballfields, parks, and public spaces.

That is why in very realistic terms Beyond Pesticides says that pollinator protection starts with organic practices. Pollinators—bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other organisms—make a critical contribution to plant health, crop productivity, and the preservation of natural resources, but their existence is threatened by their pesticide-contaminated habitat. Throughout the week, Beyond Pesticides will suggest actions that can be taken to promote the health of pollinators. Although these actions can include the establishment of pollinator-friendly plants, the first step is providing a safe place for pollinators to live, eat, reproduce, and take refuge from predators and adverse weather. In this context, pollinator conservation begins with organic management of their environment.

A great way to get grounded in Pollinator Week
See the keynote talk by David Goulson, PhD from Beyond Pesticides 40th National Forum, Forging a Future with Nature. In his book, A Sting in the Tale (2013), Dr. Goulson writes, “We need worms to create soil; flies and beetles and fungi to break down dung; ladybirds and hoverflies to eat greenfly; bees and butterflies to pollinate plants to provide food, oxygen, fuel and medicines and hold the soil together; and bacteria to help plants fix nitrogen and to help cows to digest grass. . . [yet] we often choose to squander the irreplaceable, to discard those things that both keep us alive and make life worth living. Perhaps if we learn to save a bee today we can save the world tomorrow?” He is also the author of the Sunday Times bestseller The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Planet (2019).  And in his most recent book, Silent Earth: Averting the Insect Apocalypse (2021), he writes, “We have to learn to live in harmony with nature, seeing ourselves as part of it, not trying to rule and control it with an iron fist. Our survival depends on it, as does that of the glorious pageant of life with which we share out planet.”

More background
Pollinators––bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other organisms––make a critical contribution to plant health, crop productivity, and the preservation of natural resources. However, pesticides consistently act as a key contributor to dramatic pollinator declines. Much research attributes the decline of insect pollinators over the last several decades to the interaction of multiple environmental stressors, from climate change to pesticide use, disease, habitat destruction, and other factors. Roughly a quarter of the global insect population has disappeared since 1990, according to research published in the journal Science. Monarchs are nearing extinction, and beekeepers continue to experience declines that are putting them out of business. We continue to lose mayflies, the foundation of many food chains, and fireflies, the foundation of many childhood summer memories. The declines in many bird species likely have close links to insect declines. Recent research finds that three billion birds, or 29% of bird abundance, have been lost since the 1970s. In a world where habitat loss and fragmentation show no sign of abating, scientists have concluded that the globe cannot afford to continue to subject its critically important wild insects to these combined threats. 

Toxic pesticide residues also threaten ecosystem functions needed to support life, frequently found in soils, water (solid and liquid), and the surrounding air at levels exceeding U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. The scientific literature demonstrates pesticides’ long history of adverse environmental effects, especially on wildlife, biodiversity, and human health. Notably, pesticides are immensely harmful to pollinators. The pervasiveness of pesticide exposure combined with climate change threatens global species biodiversity. The globe is currently undergoing Earth’s sixth mass extinction, with one million species of plants and animals at risk. With the increasing rate of biodiversity loss, it is essential to provide protection from pesticides by adopting organic agriculture and land care methods. A study in the journal Nature found that, “The interaction between indices of historical climate warming and intensive agricultural land use is associated with reductions of almost 50% in abundance and 27% in the number of species within insect assemblages relative to those in less-disturbed habitats with lower rates of historical climate warming.”

Over the last decade and a half, increasing scientific evidence shows a clear connection between the role of pesticides in the decline of honey bees and wild pollinators. In the U.S., an increasing number of pollinators, including the American bumblebee and monarch butterfly, are being added or in consideration for listing under the Endangered Species Act, with specific chemical classes like systemic neonicotinoid insecticides putting 89% or more of U.S. endangered species at risk. Pesticides intensify pollinators’ vulnerability to health risks (such as pathogens and parasites), with pesticide-contaminated conditions limiting colony productivity, growth, and survival. Past research finds that notorious bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides kill bees outright, resulting in a range of complex damage, including their ability to impede bees’ olfactory senses and adversely affects their vision and flying ability. Other chemicals like glyphosate weaken bees’ ability to distinguish between colors. A 2018 study found that commonly used neonicotinoid insecticides begin to kill off bumblebees during their nest-building phase, as exposure makes it more difficult for a queen to establish a nest. Exposure to neonicotinoids results in bumblebee colonies that are much smaller than colonies not exposed to these systemic insecticides. Spray applications of various agrichemicals affect the visitation patterns of pollinators through a range of different processes. Neonicotinoid exposure decreases pollination frequency, resulting in fewer social interactions as the chemical alters bumblebee feeding behavior and degrades the effectiveness of bumblebees’ classic “buzz pollination” process. A study published in 2017 determined that fungicides also play a significant role in bumblebee declines by increasing susceptibility to pathogens.

Organic practices require not only refraining from the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, but also taking positive actions to promote biodiversity. Providing organic habitats can protect pollinators, and all species, including humans, that depend on their ecosystem services.

We launch Pollinator Week 2024 with our webpage of actions below. Everything here you can find on our webpage, National Pollinator Week Kicks Off with a Week of Actions!

Monday
Pollinator Protection Starts with Organic Practices
The week of June 17 is National Pollinator Week, which allows us to recognize—and take action to protect—these vital ecosystem members. >>Tell your Governor to adopt organic practices on state lands.

In addition, millions of miles of roads, utility lines, railroad corridors, and other types ofrights-of-way (ROWs) are treated with pesticides to control unwanted plants and insects. Some states have addressed the risk of using pesticides along ROWs by developing integrated pest management (IPM) programs, restricting when and where pesticides can be applied on ROWs and/or providing no-spray agreements. Planting native vegetation, using mechanical, biological, and least-toxic vegetation control methods are effective in reducing and eliminating toxic pesticide applications.

What can we do? Encourage your community to develop an integrated roadside vegetation management program for roadside management. Cut, girdle, mow or use grazing animals whenever possible as a mechanical means to eradicate unwanted vegetation. Establish a roadside wildflower program that plants native flower and grass species, especially those that are attractive to bees and other pollinators. Avoid pesticides such as 2,4-D, glyphosate (Roundup), dicamba, picloram, and triclopyr for roadside management. Look to our Pesticide Gateway page for more information! 

🐝  Monday’s featured image: “Bumble and Lupine” by Barbara from Bend, OR!
 
Tuesday
Become an organic parks advocate in your community.

Envision an organic community where local parks, playing fields, and greenways are managed without unnecessary toxic pesticides, children and pets are safe to run around on the grass, and bees and other pollinators are safeguarded from toxic chemicals. At Beyond Pesticides, this is the future we envision and are working to achieve.

Our Parks for a Sustainable Future program is an in-depth training assists community land managers in transitioning two public green spaces to organic landscape management, while aiming to provide the knowledge and skills necessary to eventually transition all public areas in a locality to these safer practices.

Beyond Pesticides is interested in working with you to encourage your community to transition to organic. Our training program starts small, with two pilot sites, but often becomes the basis for broader change to land care practices throughout the entire community.

Sign up to be a Parks Advocate today to let us know you’re willing to speak with local leaders about the importance of this program.

Wednesday
Juneteenth and Environmental Justice
As Pollinator Week coincides with the Juneteenth celebration, the time is now to renew our commitment to environmental justice while seeking the adoption of transformational policies and practices that recognize the urgency to address disproportionate harm inflicted by toxic pesticide use.  Those fighting for environmental justice understand that the harms inflicted by toxic chemical production and use cause disproportionate adverse effects on people of color—from fenceline communities near chemical production plants to the hazardous and inhumane working conditions in agricultural fields, to the elevated risk factors for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) from toxic pesticide exposure.  

In a 2022 interview with Southern Environmental Law Center, Robert Bullard, PhD – known as the father of environmental justice – defines environmental justice as the embracement of “the principle that all communities, all people, are entitled to equal protection of our environmental laws, housing laws, transportation laws…civil rights laws, human rights laws, and health laws and regulations.” Earlier this year, Dr. Bullard co-wrote a report for the Brookings Institute entitled, US pesticide regulation is failing the hardest-hit communities. It’s time to fix it, that describes U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) failure to live up to its environmental justice commitments as laid out in various presidential directives under the Biden Administration.

You can speak up for environmental justice and urge EPA and other federal agencies to adopt meaningful programs that take out of the pipeline of production, use, storage, and disposal hazardous chemicals that are having disproportionate adverse effects in people of color communities. >> Take action by telling EPA that it needs to make environmental justice connections.

Become an advocate for targeted support for small-scale organic farmers facing unprecedented uncertainty. See Agricultural Justice to learn more about the origins of Beyond Pesticides and a commitment to organic land management principles after witnessing farmworker occupational and living conditions. See Keeping Organic Strong to learn about our priorities for equity and the environmental justice benefits of an organic food system.

Two organizations you can support on Juneteenth:

  • Consider supporting Sanctuary Farms in Detroit, Michigan. A message from jøn kent, co-founder of Sanctuary Farms: “Sanctuary Farms is a sustainable organization that focuses on closing the food loop through two main objectives: cultivating organic produce and creating nutritious compost. We cultivate the land through our composting and permaculture (no-till method) gardening practices. With these goals we want to foster a thriving community on the lower eastside of Detroit where people are safe, healthy and connected to their local environment and food by actively being involved in closing the food loop.
  • Consider supporting the The Black Institute: The Black Institute (TBI) isn’t a think-tank, it’s an action-tank. Through a “head, heart, and feet strategy,” TBI injects new ideas for achieving racial equity and environmental justice into the policy realm. An Eco-Friendly Parks for All (EFPA) coalition partner, The Black Institute is a leader in advancing organic land management legislation in New York City that bans toxic pesticides. [Poison Parks] 

Thursday
Identifying and Planting for Pollinators
With pollinators responsible for over 80% of the world’s flowering plants, it’s no wonder we are fighting to protect them. Pollinators are important members of various land ecosystems, therefore how we manage these ecosystems and landscapes plays a critical role in long-term pollinator health. The expansion of urban, suburban, and agricultural areas reduces pollinator habitat and access to food, while intensive chemical use harms these beneficial organisms. Pesticide applications expose bees, birds, butterflies, and more to acute and sublethal levels of pesticides, which can result in reproductive abnormalities, impaired foraging, and even death. Please see our brief introduction to pollinators here! 

You can play a role in protecting pollinators simply by making an organic garden with colorful, bee-attractive flowering plants, pledging it as pollinator-friendly, or even organizing your community, schools, or local government to make choices that foster pollinators. Don’t have a garden? Windows and balconies are also great places to feature plants to encourage pollinators to stop by! Backyard trees, gardens and beekeeping are great ways to support biodiversity and pollinators. Intentionally providing water, food and forage to pollinators will encourage and boost pollinator populations in your community. 

It helps to review Organic Lawn Care 101 best practices and know your weeds—simple steps to convert your lawn to organic! Check out the BEE Protective Habitat Guide for more information; the Do-It-Yourself Biodiversity resource offers hints about increasing biodiversity; and the Pollinator-Friendly Seed Directory.

Additionally, check out the short film “The Seeds That Poison,” a Beyond Pesticides’ feature video highlighting the hazards associated with a major use of bee-toxic pesticides—seed coatings!  

Friday
Time to Spread the Buzz!
In view of EPA’s failure to protect pollinators from pesticides, the lives of those essential insects, birds, and mammals are increasingly dependent on state and local laws that under threat of U.S. Congressional action in the upcoming Farm Bill. The Farm Bill covers many areas—ranging from the supplemental nutritional assistance program (SNAP) to trade—and one provision that the pesticide industry would like to include is preemption of local authority to restrict pesticide use. This attack on local governance would undercut the local democratic process to protect public health and safety, especially important in the absence of adequate federal protection of the ecosystems that sustain life. >> Tell Your U.S. Representative and Senators to support a Farm Bill that promotes a sustainable future.

What else can we do? Order a Pesticide-Free Zone sign to showcase your organic yard or garden, share resources with your community, and share photos of pollinators on social media of with the hashtags #PollinatorWeek or #ProtectPollinators—then submit them to our Art Page! 

The banner highlights art submissions from members of the public to our Art Page! 🐝 Today’s featured image above: “Bumble and Lupine” by Barbara from Bend, OR!

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