“We’ve decimated our forests, wildlands, polluted and overfished our rivers and oceans; all the key ecosystems that not only serve as a home to our planet’s biodiversity, but also make life here for us possible.” Leonardo DeCaprio, Actor & Environmentalist
Simply put, biodiversity or “biological diversity” is the “diversity among and within plant and animal species in an environment.” In the bigger picture, it considers every species on earth. On a smaller scale, you can see biodiversity within a single ecosystem, let’s say a creek or a community garden. Identifying species and understanding their relationships to one another is one of our greatest challenges. From your own backyard to biodiverse hotspots like the Amazon, researchers estimate that there are between 3 and 30 million species on our planet, the vast majority of which have not yet been identified.
Everyone knows about the extinction of dinosaurs. But a meteor doesn’t need to hit Earth in order to kill off an entire species. Did you know that our planet is actually experiencing a sixth mass extinction right now? With dozens of species becoming extinct every day, global biodiversity has declined 50% in the past 40 years. That means we have lost half of all species on Earth, in a tiny sliver of time.
Why? Unlike previous mass extinctions, the current loss of biodiversity is caused almost entirely by people. Human activities contribute to habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change. But without these species, ecosystems can’t function as effectively, putting all of our lives at risk.
Our biodiversity crisis has put tremendous pressure on some of the most vital organisms on the planet: pollinators. In fact, The U.N. estimates that 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species are on the brink of extinction including bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and bats. These types of animals transfer pollen from one plant to another, allowing plants – including the fruits and vegetables we eat daily – to reproduce and thrive.
In fact, bees and other pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat.
Bee pollination contributes significantly to world food production, adding more than $15 billion to the US economy and over $217 billion to global economies. Yet bees are dying at an alarming rate. Between 2014 and 2015, beekeepers lost 42.1% of their hives, which is the second highest annual loss recorded to date.
The survival of pollinators is crucial for the survival of other plant and animal species. What’s causing these important critters to die off? A growing body of scientific evidence links pollinator declines to pesticide use, particularly a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids or neonics. In order to protect the health of our environment and all it’s inhabitants, we must re-examine and eliminate the widespread use of pesticides and fertilizers.
The good news is, there are incredible individuals and organizations out there who are dedicated to protecting our pollinators. For example, our partners at Friends of the Earth are very involved in the quest to #savethebees, actively petitioning big businesses to cease the use of these toxic chemicals. They’ve already been successful in getting more than 65 retailers, including Home Depot and Lowe’s (the two largest garden retailers in the U.S) to eliminate the use of neonics from plants and off-the-shelf products.
And our partners at the Center for Food Safety just landed a major victory for both bees and consumers. Through one of their current campaigns, they’ve successfully encouraged major popcorn retailers, like Pop Weaver, Pop Secret, and just recently, Preferred Popcorn, to phase out neonics from their entire supply chains. Not to mention, their latest win included a commitment from Preferred Popcorn to launch their first certified organic popcorn line.
All too often, ecosystem services such as pollination are taken for granted. Did you know that just 16 oz of honey requires 1,152 honeybees to travel 112,000 miles and visit 4.5 million flowers? That distance and number of flowers visited is typical for a day’s work in the life of a pollinator, yet we rarely stop to express gratitude for their hard work.
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We can all be part of the solution to the pollinator crisis. From our backyards to communities, we must do our part to save pollinators, the planet and preserve biodiversity by cutting back on pesticide use, growing native plants and getting involved politically in our communities. Check out the Center for Food Safety’s guide to find pollinator-friendly plants that are native to your area.
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Due on Monday, October 24, 2016 at 6 am PT
With the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth, we have launched The Pollinator Toolkit. The goal is to aid students in eliminating neonics from campuses and to support pollinator life and the health and wellbeing of our planet. Your school is the perfect place to create a biodiversity-rich habitat. It’s time to roll up your sleeves, get down to business, and lead the movement to #protectthepollinators on your campus.
Use The Pollinator Toolkit to take the first steps toward integrating pollinator-friendly habitats on your campus.
Upload a PDF document that includes your report and responses to all questions. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Annie’s Organic Mac & Bees Pasta
Annie’s Organic Tomato Soup
Annie’s Organic Cheddar Bunnies
Annie’s Organic Honey Grahams
U-Konserve Glass Water Bottle
Acure Ultra Hydrating Body Wash
Raw Elements Herbal Rescue Lip Balm
NonGMO Project Verified Tote Bag
Baker Creek Organic Spinach Seeds
Organic Planting Kit: Terra Cotta Saucer & Organic Peat Moss Pellets (3)