Alternating black and yellow stripes are routinely used to signal a warning.
So somehow it’s fitting that across North America bees are disappearing.
In some cases, a parasitic mite might be killing them off. In others, antibiotic-resistant bacteria might be to be blame.
And the expansion of the so-called African “killer” honeybees — imported by beekeepers — might also be pushing out the pollinators.
But it’s not just the bees at risk.
So are bats and other pollinators, according to the US National Research Council, which issued a report last week.
One thing for sure: if pollinating bats, birds and bees die off, there’s no way cheap Mexican labour can take up the slack.
It takes 1.4 million honeybee colonies to pollinate California’s 220,000 hectares of almond trees, for example.
Without them, they will die.
And so will other crops and wild ecology.
The problem is that we don’t know the scope of the problem.
Generally, pollinators don’t draw researchers.
“Despite its apparent lack of marquee appeal, a decline in pollinator populations is one form of global change that actually has credible potential to alter the shape and structure of terrestrial ecosystems,” entomologist May Berenbaum of the University of Illinois recently told Reuters.
But the scarcity of pollinators is just one sign humanity is pushing the Earth towards another mass die-off.
This week, the World Wildlife Fund published a report that evaluated each nation’s impact on the environment.
Since 1970, the planet has lost one-third of its plant and animal species.
And humanity’s footprint exceeds the Earth’s ability to regenerate itself by roughly 25 per cent, according to the fund’s report.
“Effectively, the Earth’s regenerative capacity can no longer keep up with demand — people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources,” states the report.
We’ll double that capacity by 2050.
Climate-changing emissions make up 48 per cent of humanity’s footprint. Carbon dioxide emissions have increased 900 per cent from 1961 to 2003.
Canada is one of the top five worst polluters.
It placed fourth, behind the United Arab Emirates (first), the US and Finland.
“Canadians are probably eight times more profligate than the planet can actually sustain,” Steven Price, a senior conservation policy director for the fund, told the Globe and Mail. “We’d be in trouble if the rest of the world acted like us.”
To stave off catastrophe, dramatic action is needed to blunt the impact of industrial society on the planet.
Last week, Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government announced legislation that would put off setting any hard national emission targets until 2025.
Harper’s power base is oil-soaked Alberta, which is currently in the midst of a drought that many believe is beginning to rival the dustbowl conditions of the Great Depression.
Some say the oil industry has sucked down the water table. Others blame global warming. Still others wave it off, saying it’s a natural climate cycle.
It really doesn’t matter.
The warning signs are everywhere. And we just choose to look away. (RM)