The Bruntland Report, also known as Our Common Future, was published in 1987 by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development. It was the first international document to discuss the interconnected nature of the environment, society, and economy in the context of sustainable development. In Copenhagen, one organization sets a shining example of development that acknowledges the responsibility of present generations to future generations through strengthening these three development frameworks simultaneously: Bybi, which literally means “city bee”, is a sustainable urban honey industry that promotes inter-generational equity. It takes people from the fringes of society, such as refugees seeking asylum in Denmark or homeless individuals and teaches them a skill set: making honey. By providing an opportunity for these people to work, Bybi stimulates the economy for current and future generations. Also, Bybi brings people together and educates them about the importance of bees for all aspects of life. Because of course the increased presence of bees in Copenhagen does great things for our environment.
Equity is important for every species, not just humans
Baker discusses the normative principle of intergenerational-equity, pointing out that; “once the interests of future generations are taken into account, then concern for many features and aspects of the non-human natural world can be generated. This would include concern for other species, which may be essential prerequisites for future generations to meet their needs” (Baker, 41). Indeed, bees are one of the most important species.
Why are bees so important??
Well, bees certainly do more than just produce honey. Agriculture depends greatly on the honeybee for pollination. In fact, honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination. Astoundingly, a single hive collects more than 66 lbs. of pollen per year. In other words, without honeybees, biodiversity would decrease, as would agricultural yield. So basically, without honeybees food security would become a serious problem overnight, leaving humans with little left to survive on. Therefore, by promoting a healthy honeybee population we are effectively feeding the next generation by maintaining the sustainable yield, or the regenerative capacity of natural systems.
Now more than ever it is important for humans to support honeybees because they are threatened by a myriad of modern problems such as monoculture, disease, urbanization, and habitat destruction. In recent years, colony collapse disorder, or CCD has concerned beekeepers around the world. It is not known exactly what causes CCD but some ideas include pesticides, genetically modified crops, radiation, pathogens, and much more. While the reason behind the disappearance of our bees is not certain, it is likely anthropogenic. That being said, as humans have contributed to the loss of honeybees we must also work to preserve the species for our own sake. According to Oliver Maxwell, the director of Bybi, “right now bees won’t survive until people are here to look after them. So the people need the bees and the bees need the people and that will continue as long as it is necessary.” YouTube video about Bybi: “A New Buzz in Copenhagen”
Beekeeping as a worldwide model for sustainable development
Bybi is just one example from a strong international movement to save the bees. It works for Copenhagen and it could likely work for many other cities with enough green space to sustain a honeybee population. In fact, while doing research in Cameroon I personally witnessed the importance of sustainable apiculture firsthand. It was not much different than Denmark. A few Cameroonian bee farmers had the will to educate people on how to keep bees without damaging natural resources and they started a huge movement. Previously, it was common to use naked fire to smoke out bees, which often led to devastating bushfires. With the innovation of affordable smokers and other tools, the bee industry is in much better shape. Today, the effort to save the bees is underway all over Western Africa and honey production provides a sustainable income for local people. These worldwide initiatives to save the bees like Bybi and ANCO (Apiculture and Nature Conservation of Cameroon) just go to show that beekeeping is an incredibly successful model for pursuing sustainable development that drives inter-generational equity.
To learn more about ANCO, watch this video on the founder Paul Mzeka who was awarded the United Nations Forest Hero award in 2011 and was the first person to teach me about the importance of apiculture. Or read this article.
To view the sources used to develop this blog post, visit the reference page.