Bee the Change: 10 Simple Steps to Save Bees
Adapted from the Friends of the Earth blog
Bees and other pollinators are essential parts of the food system, and are necessary for about 75% of our global food crops. Honey bees also contribute over $15 billion to the US economy.
That’s why EarthShare member Friends of the Earth was so alarmed to discover that between April of 2016 and March of 2017, beekeepers lost a stunning 33.2% of their bee colonies. This follows a recent trend of alarming bee population decline.
Neonicotinoids, the most commonly used class of insecticides, are a key factor in bee declines. The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for reviewing and evaluating the dangers of all pesticides, but the Trump Administration has proposed cutting the budget for those programs by 20%.
“Without protections from an adequately funded EPA, beekeepers stand little to no chance of getting the help they need, and this dire problem will only get worse,” said Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “With bee populations declining at such an alarming rate, the EPA should be getting more funding, not less, to protect our critical pollinators.”
Everyone can do their part to save bees and other pollinators that we rely on for one of every three bites of food we eat. You can take the following eight actions to be a pollinator champion:
- Call Congress. The EPA is tasked with ensuring all Americans have access to clean air and water, is already operating with limited funds. They also regulate the pesticides that are killing bees. Call your members of Congress and tell them to preserve EPA funding.
- Ask your city to pass pollinator protection policies. Friends of the Earth and the Responsible Purchasing Network released a new guide called Buyers Bee-Ware to help you make a difference in your community. Encourage your city to follow the example of places like Eugene, OR that have passed neonicotinoid bans.
- Plant native vegetation to attract pollinators using the Xerces Society’s “Pollinator Friendly Plant Lists.” This step will increase the biodiversity of your yard or garden while providing forage for bees, butterflies and birds.
- Mow the lawn less often to let clover and other flowering weeds grow. These will provide a nutritious habitat for bees and other pollinators. Avoid products that are meant to kill these beneficial plants.
- Grow organic. Avoid fungicides, insecticides and other toxic pesticides whenever possible in your yard. To control weeds, use mechanical methods (like barriers or physical removal) and biological methods (like placing nematodes and other microorganisms in your garden).
- Buy organic. Buying organic products ensures that you are not consuming neonics or promoting their use. Organic farms support up to 50% more pollinators than conventional farms.
- Educate your neighbors. Circulate educational materials to teach your peers why pollinators are so important and encourage others to adopt bee-friendly behaviors.
- Provide nesting sites for bees. Giving pollinators nesting and living space on your property. Ask your local beekeepers association for advice and instructions.
- Relocate (rather than destroy) hives. Contact a removal service or a local beekeeping organization to help with hive removal if it is becoming a safety hazard on your property.
- Advocate for green rooftops in your city. Green rooftops are a great way to create pollinator habitat in urban areas! Ask your city council to provide incentives for residents to make their rooftops diverse, pollinator-friendly habitat to support these critical species.
Rachel Skaar is a Montanan, outdoorswoman and conservationist.
Shirin-Yoku: The Benefits of Forest Bathing
By Allie Wisniewski, American Forests (cross-posted at the American Forests blog)
No, it’s not what it sounds like — forest bathing doesn’t actually involve an exterior physical cleansing. However, it does facilitate a cleansing of the mind and inner body. Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese practice that translates in English to “taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” What exactly does that entail, if not a bathtub in the woods?
According to the definition of the term, coined in 1982 by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, forest bathing “refers to the process of soaking up the sights, smells and sounds of a natural setting to promote physiological and psychological health.”
To give you an example of its uses, sufferers of chronic tension or anxiety could turn to forest bathing for some much needed relief. David Yaden, a research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, says, “There have been studies comparing walking in nature with walking in an urban environment and testing people on their mood, different aspects of depression, and in some cases, brain scans. In the natural setting, people are more relaxed and less stressed.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. After years of research, there is now a vast collection of scientific evidence that proves that forest bathing helps:
- lower heart rate and blood pressure
- increases the ability to focus
- accelerates recovery from surgery or illness
- increases energy levels
- improves sleep quality
- reduces stress hormone production
- boosts the immune system
- improves mood and betters overall feelings of wellbeing
It might sound too good to be true, but eco-therapy is truly taking the wellness world by storm. Shinrin-yoku is becoming increasingly popular among prominent health communities. Forest bathing is the new yoga, and now you can even sign up for guided classes to facilitate the authenticity and effectiveness of your immersive experiences. Ready to become a forest bathing master? Consider enrolling in a weeklong certificate program in forest therapy.
Shinrin-yoku is a relatively new revelation in the scheme of things, but Ben Page, a certified forest therapy guide and the founder of Shinrin Yoku Los Angeles, is confident that it will continue to take off. “I think of it like a tree growing. It is still a young practice, but there are new branches forming all the time.”