Saturday, December 6, 2008

Social Apiculture

A few weeks ago, another uncivil "discussion" "broke out" on Bee-L between a complex array of factions: Commercial vs. non-Commercial beekeepers, chemical vs. non-chemical beekeepers, mechanistic science types vs. holistic science types vs. tradition-based types. All seemed to speak passed each other, accept their own position uncritically, and failed to see the partial realities of their own positions. Again, I will do something that some might see as a bit arrogant, that is, weigh in, as a novice beekeeper (but trained social analyst) on how I see some of the issues.

I am convinced that many of those involved in this debate, on all sides of these issues, fail to really take serious the implications of the global socio-environmental changes that have occurred over the last few decades. The structural and ecological changes brought on by the global 'treadmill' of production may mean that present apicultural techniques, whether based on mechanistic experimental science or "old traditions", may not work, however you understand working. Mechanistic entomological studies that control for extraneous factors may neglect the synergistic effects of multivariate factors produced by a globalized local environment. Other beekeepers who call for more 'natural' approaches are asking us to use 'natural' techniques in a globalized environment that is no longer natural, whatever that means.

What all this is beginning to mean to me is that beekeeping can no longer be an activity strictly focused on hive management techniques and our bees' immediate foraging environment but demands we also stay alert to the larger global environment and the impacts of the political economy. The latter means taking a more activist role as well. Sustainable beekeeping means working toward a sustainable environment, creating political/economic structures where bee survival is more probable, whether the bees be managed by commercial, sideline or hobby beekeepers. But this approach calls on us not to see the political/economic status quo as neither inevitable, nor desirable. Can we create an agribusiness model that makes pesticide and herbicide use, as well as habitat destruction, less necessary? Can we create a global political economy in which economic growth and its negative externalities of unsustainable resource use and waste are not necessities? Can we modify Western culture's belief in 'human exceptionalism'? In sum, how do we manage bees sustainability while "managing" ourselves in an increasingly globalized 'unnatural' environment? The answer is not 'primitivism' but, in my view, an activism based on a critical social apicultural.


Jim Stovall said...

Not arrogant at all. A justified call for more intelligent beekeeping.

I have posted a link to this article on

Jim Stovall

Abelisto said...

Thanks for the support. My feelings of being a little too arrogant stems from the fact that I am a new beekeeper with much to learn.