The California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) at UCR tabled last Wednesday, Nov. 21, as part of the CALPIRG’s statewide “Save the Bees” campaign, which they started carrying out last May. The campaign is meant to raise student awareness of pesticides, namely of the nicotine derivatives they contain known as neonicotinoids, colloquially called “neonics” by CALPIRG. These neonics are lethal to bees, and on Wednesday CALPIRG asked students if they would take part in a photo petition to ban them.

Laura Caldera, a second-year psychology major and campaign coordinator for “Save the Bees,” told the Highlander that “bees are dying at an unprecedented rate. We need to bring that rate down because they’re making our food, 70 percent of it, but the ecosystem is at risk with the chemicals in our pesticides.” With the campaign Caldera hopes to make UCR “bee-friendly certified.”

CALPIRG’s pitch on Wednesday to passersby was that “If there are no bees, then there would be no Thanksgiving.” Andrea Sanjines, the event coordinator for the tabling, said that CALPIRG “wants to encourage the assembly of California to pass legislation banning bee-killing pesticides, and we plan on doing that by gathering photo petitions on Wednesday.” The photo petitions were taken in front of a banner with the “Save the Bees” pitch written across, and in total 180 photo petitions were collected from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. according to Mya Ho, UCR alumni and CALPIRG member.

During tabling, Ho further explained to the Highlander exactly how the neonics end up killing bees. “The neonics in pesticides end up both disorienting the bees’ and weakening the bees immune system,” Ho said, “and in pesticides today the neonic concentration can be up to 500 times the concentration pesticides had of DDT in the past.” DDT, or dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, is an environment-persisting insecticide that was banned in the U.S. in 1972 due to health and environment hazards.

According to Ho, CALPIRG at UCR plans to compile the photo petitions into a collage that will be forwarded to Jose Medina, the Assemblyman for northwestern Riverside, in order to encourage legislative action to ban neonics. Miguel Ramirez, a third-year anthropology major and CALPIRG chapter chair, mentioned that CALPIRG wants all other states to lobby for the same neonics ban. Ramirez said this has been done in part by CALPIRG’s partnership with Environment America, an environmentally-friendly interest group that, according to its website, aims to “research the challenges confronting our environment and educate the public about what’s at stake.”

CALPIRG meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Pentland Hills Fox Hole.