Writing & Research: Aaron M. Weis

In our academic endeavors, there are those classes that we would not have otherwise taken, but that we ultimately have to in order to obtain that highly coveted and ostensibly sacred degree. As of late, that course load has included the likes of my German classes in order to meet my foreign language prerequisite, however, I have to admit, that thus far, the biggest take away that I have ever received from my collegiate pursuits have been from one such class.

Back in my community college years, I cannot emphasize enough how mortified I was at the end of my Anthropology class to come to the realization that of all species on earth, it is our very own in homo sapiens, that is the most destructive to the planet overall. It is a sort of paradoxical irony that we classify ourselves as twice as wise, and yet, we alone are responsible for more deaths than any other species. Not only that, but we are at the same time responsible for scarring our only home through deforestation, in addition to our contribution to climate change, and that only offers but a surface level glimpse or scope as to our seemingly destructive nature.

Conversely, at the very same time, there are those that quite the opposite is the case that are categorized as keystone species, as a direct consequence of the tremendous role they play in the larger ecosystem of life, or in the grand scheme of things, so to say, and one such exemplification is that of the bumblebee.

On that note, I must reveal my own personal disposition in that I am part of that rare personality type that is extremely concerned about and passionate about the more pressing global issues that we face as a collective whole; matters such as overpopulation, the threat that nuclear weapons pose, poverty, homelessness, sustainable developments, balancing population and resources, providing clean water for all, and of course, the topic of climate change.

It’s funny, but I recently made a post on my Facebook pertaining to this, which was a silly little meme that said, while the general populace is in mass hysteria over the race of Ariel in, The Little Mermaid, I am trying to shift the conversation back to the problem of climate change, like, okay Ariel, the whole world is going to be under the sea if we can’t get a grip on this.

So, at the same time, I cannot stress enough how thoroughly disappointed I am as a citizen of the United States in regard to the way we have nationally gone about addressing this huge problem. Scientists are gravely warning us that is perhaps the greatest threat that we face as a people, and yet, since 2016, we have withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, essentially dismantled the EPA, and taken other courses of action that, on the most rudimentary level, promote a basic message that we think that this concern is a hoax, when all the scientific and empirical data shows otherwise.

Now, generally speaking, when the conversation of climate change is brought up, these are the types of things that usually come up. That, and other key points such as fracking, carbon emissions, the depletion of fossil fuels and other natural resources, pollution, and other more man-made contributions that lend themselves to this issue. However, what is usually left to the wayside is the matter as to the large role that cattle play in how the methane gas they generate constitutes for over 20 percent of this problem, and that of what is of particular interest to me, and the main point of this article, and it is that of the significant role that bees play in this equation.

That being said, it thoroughly fascinates me that some of the greatest scientific minds of the last hundred or, so years have been thoroughly cautioning us about the importance of bees over the years. Since the 1800’s with Darwin’s, The Origins of the Species, we have received such subtle hints as, Hence, we may infer as highly probable that if the whole genus of humble-bees became extinct or very rare in England, the heartsease and red clover would become very rare, or wholly disappear, from Darwin himself. In addition, many other scientists have added to this conversation making such general observations as, “You will probably more than once have seen her fluttering about the bushes, in a deserted corner of your garden, without realizing that you were carelessly watching the venerable ancestor to whom we probably owe most of our flowers and fruits (for it is actually estimated that more than a hundred thousand varieties of plants would disappear if the bees did not visit them), and possibly even our civilization, for in these mysteries all things intertwine,” as well as that of, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man,” which has been attributed to Einstein in recent years, although there is much speculation as to whether or not he actually ever made such a comment.

With that being kept into consideration, the research coming out of York University, and more specifically that of the work being done by pollination biologist Ph.D. Victoria MacPhail, in this regard comes as profoundly troubling.

According to various sources, such as SciWorthy, MacPhail’s research reveals that the population of Bombus pensylvanicus, or in other words, the bumble-bee is at a greater threat or risk than has otherwise been perceived. Using various different databases, her insights indicate that in the last ten plus years alone, dating back to around 2007, that this species population has seen a decrease by some 80 percent which is a stark juxtaposition to the 100-year timespan reaching from 1907 to 2006.

MacPhail’s overarching goal or mission statement in her efforts is to see what is referred to as citizen-science utilized in an effort to overturn these staggering numbers, and as soon as possible. This is largely due to the fact that such findings as reported above indicate that the species Bombus pensylvanicus, or the bumble-bee has essentially become what is known as critically endangered, which is the stage that comes right before complete extinction.

Hopefully, the combined efforts of MacPhail, citizen-science, and others in the scientific community can lead to a successful collaboration that results in our curtailed this very problematic concern.