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Going Further Afield

July 22, 2015

We can’t let go of the honey bee matter. Yes, we know its way afield for most readers. But stay with us as the discussion turns political.

When you research colony collapse disorder, you find that it’s quite real and that scientists know the cause. It’s a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids.

These chemical compounds are extraordinary. A single bee can be exposed and fly back to the hive and kill all the other bees, including the queen.

In nature, there are terrible diseases, pathogens and viruses that can be deadly, but there’s always a certain percentage that survives. Some are exposed and not infected. Some are infected and recover. Pick a plague and this is true.

But with neonicotinoids – not so. It just over. Exposure equals death.

Now consider this: There was never ever a flip side crisis that necessitated the creation of this compound in the 80s.  We didn’t have too many honey bees. In fact, the existence of honey bees was not and could never be a public health threat. What threat? Too much honey? Too much beeswax?

So we didn’t really need this chemical compound then, and we don’t need it now. There are, in fact, dozens of other chemical compounds that serve adequately as pesticides.

So, why not ban neonicotinoids? Why not just say in New York, we like our honey bees and we disallow the use of the specific chemical compound that is killing them.

How hard could it be to do that?

Well, perhaps someone would oppose the action. Perhaps they’d say: Hey, we really need it. And if you ban it, we’ll be harmed.

But who would say that? Farmers?  No, this action is being taken to help farmers. They need honey bees and other pollinators. Fewer bees means reduced propagation and smaller yields.  Farmers are seeing that already. They are concerned. They support efforts to protect bees.

So if there are no institutional opponents to the ban, except maybe the chemical companies, why not do it?  In fact, why hasn’t it been done already? This is the real quandary this post explores.

In this regard, recall what Cuomo said when he banned fracking. He said he had to do it because the risk to the environment was too great.

By the same reasoning, why doesn’t he act now to ban neonicotinoids?  This isn’t a situation in which there is a debatable, potential risk. Instead, there’s ongoing, severe damage to the environment.

And where are the enviros? Why isn’t this a crusade for them?

Back to the risk from fracking. Had it been sanctioned, it would have happened in a narrow band through the Southern Tier. That’s where developable reserves of natural gas exist in New York. And had it been sanctioned  per the approach Cuomo outlined to the Times in 2012, it would have been limited to test wells in very rural areas.

Say that it proceeded and say that the state’s promised, rigorous oversight was a complete bust – what would have happened then? Well, there would have been groundwater contamination in Conklin and Lisle and Big Flats.

That specific prospect – of groundwater problems in some of least populated regions of the state – was enough to mobilize a massive contingent of environmentally-conscious people. Cuomo said it himself – it was the most high charged public policy debate he’d ever seen. It was indeed remarkable and forced him to back off on his plan to join every other state in the nation in engaging in fracking for both economic and environmental benefits. Natural gas is, of course, cleaner than coal and using it instead of coal has helped the US dramatically cut emissions of green house gas.

Now please – somebody is going to think this post is meant to take a rhetorical jab at anti-frackers. In fact, we’re taking our hat off to them. They flat out won the fracking debate. They earned their victory with brilliant, committed political activism. Nobody can deny that.

It’s just that we can’t figure out why they felt that it was imperative to stop fracking with its potential risks, but they are now yawning at the senseless, preventable eradication of bees with much more immediate and dramatic consequences.

With a fraction of the resources and effort, the enviros could force to Cuomo ban neonicotinoids. They could do it tomorrow. And wouldn’t this actually do more to help the environment than banning fracking?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    July 22, 2015 3:49 PM

    Look up the word eusociality. Save the bees!

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