The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) will begin pledging for their statewide “Save the Bees” campaign next fall at UCR with the goal of influencing legislators to ban the use and sale of pesticides called neonicotinoids.
These pesticides, otherwise known as neonics, are detrimental to bee populations, and, given our reliance on bee pollination, bee populations declining could have severe consequences concerning our food supplies. CALPIRG’s campaign is focused on spreading awareness about the consequences of not protecting bees.
“30 to 40 percent of our bee colonies are dying off each season and that just shouldn’t be happening,” said Laura Caldera, secretary of the UCR CALPIRG chapter and “Save the Bees” campaign coordinator. “We lose a lot of our food products.”
People rely heavily on crops which are reliant on bees for pollination. According to the CALPIRG website, “We rely on bees to pollinate 71 of the 100 crops that provide 90 (percent) of most of the world’s food.” Examples of these products include almonds, apples, strawberries and alfalfa, a crop which dairy cows depend on.
These statistics are backed up by research from the National Resource Defense Council, or NRDC. According to their website, “In 2015, 42 percent of honeybee colonies in the United States died.” Some potential causes for this are global warming and pesticides. The NRDC are trying to push this issue to the top of legislative agenda in Washington and are lobbying the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to eliminate or scale down the development of dangerous agrichemicals by companies like Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta.
This CALPIRG initiative aims to get enough signatures on their petitions to pass laws banning neonics statewide. “The ultimate goal is to get the whole country, but we obviously have to start small and just get California to ban neonics,” said Caldero. “We want to save the bees. We would also like lobby days to go up to Sacramento and speak to officials personally to tell them our students care about this issue.”
Many on campus are likely familiar with CALPIRG, as every quarter they send students to speak to classrooms to raise awareness about their campaigns in hopes of persuading students to pledge support. Choosing to pledge adds a $10 fee to quarterly tuition, which goes to staffing and training, as CALPIRG focuses on student engagement. This campaign in particular is coordinated with the help of Environment California, which works closely with the NRDC, and Bee Friendly USA.
While several factors may be contributing to bee deaths, such as global warming and parasites, pesticide use has one of the most direct impacts on bee colonies. This is why the campaign is focused on banning neonics. Caldero says that, without bees, produce supplies will be negatively impacted. “We won’t have pollinators,” lamented Caldera, “We’re not going to have our beautiful flowers. We would not have coffee or apples or broccoli. We wouldn’t have honey. It’s our food” that is going to be most affected.