Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bees and the Enduring Conflict, Part II

If the Treadmill of Production theory is correct, and if the treadmill economy is impacting the health of honeybees, than we are left to find solutions that are not in the current interests of any human being, whether rich or poor, whether an academic sociologist or a migratory beekeeper. All of us in growth economies have an interest in preserving that economy, which increasingly makes environmental withdrawals (e.g. resources, habitat) while increasing waste additions. We may delay the negatives, or ship these negative consequences off to developing countries, but ecological destruction globally will continue.

In a growth economy, social problems are dealt with by expanding the economic pie, rather than in cutting up the pieces more equally (redistribution). Expand the economy and you feed the poor. Expand the economy and you provide more jobs for the unemployed. Expand the economy so that scholarships are provided for education. Corporations can keep their profit with enough surplus so that no one is left out. (At least in theory and in rhetoric!) But increasing growth also means what I've said above-- increasing the amount of withdrawals from the ecosystem, and increasing the additions (i.e. waste) pumped back into it.

All of us might like to jump off the this treadmill but it isn't in our interests. My salary as an academic depends on the tuition of my students, endowments by generous donors, state and private aid to students, student loans, and research and teaching grants which all depend on the expansion of the economy. Migratory beekeepers find themselves stuck on the agribusiness treadmill and the realities of economic growth which, while no doubt negative for the health of the honeybee, is necessary for the economic survival of these relatively small family-run concerns. Hobby and Sideline beekeepers who use standard beekeeping equipment (whether natural beekeepers or their chemical-using brethren) are dependent on the success of commercial beekeepers on the treadmill, since the companies that provide them with equipment and bee packages primarily live off the purchases made by larger treadmill outfits. This demonstrates why pointing the finger at migratory beekeepers, and blaming them for honeybee decline is so unfair and almost hypocritical. If the treadmill of production theory is correct, the "enemy is all of us!."

The question, then, is it possible to stop or slow down the treadmill and what can we do, in the meantime, to save the honeybee? This calls for more than simply scientific/technological solutions, but to some type of social structural, cultural, economic and political changes that are well beyond any one of us to do and totally against our short-term interests.

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