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Pollinators in a Pickle

When I started MEADOWSCAPING FOR BIODIVERSITY in 2013, I was hugely concerned about the environment, in general, and loss of wildlife and wildlife habitat, in particular. In the past year, I’ve become more well informed about pollinators, and, thus, more concerned about the fate of pollinators and the loss of food supply and habitat for humans and wildlife–from the tiniest microbes under the surface of the soil to bees and butterflies, whales, and elephants.

The problem with sharing this kind of information with the public is that people have a great deal invested in denying the facts–it doesn’t matter the how badly inaction on the issues will affect them–people would rather complain and hang onto the semblance of a “sane” world.

Of course, the semblance of a sane world includes lots of people dying of cancer. The sane world also includes people keeping so busy with daily activities that they don’t have time to read the ingredients on the cans and jars they buy for dinner. Most folks will do anything to raise funds for cancer research yet will refrain from stopping use of proven cancer-causing toxic chemicals on their lawns.

So, with the Meadowscaping program, we’ve found a way to reach out, by offering creative, innovative, fun and engaging activities carefully interwoven with the facts.

At last year’s Massachusetts Environmental Educators Society Conference (2016), our workshop was called “Pollinators in a Pickle!” We wanted to show educators how to teach students about climate change and other serious issues without depressing them into inaction–the present state most of their parents’ minds. We started out with a rap that detailed why pollinators are in a pickle–and people need to take action to improve the terrible loss of pollinators.

We played a jeopardy-like game with the categories PLANTS, POLLINATORS, PEOPLE, AND ECO-HEROES. We played the pollinator relay game, and more. Attendees applauded us and learned why we need them to teach parents and their children about the critical issues that pollinators (and people) are facing today.
Plants can’t move like animals; some self-pollinate, and others rely on pollinators to find them. After gathering pollen (for food) and nectar (for energy), pollinators move between plants, dropping pollen from one member of a species to another member of the same species.

The trouble now is that human development is ferociously limiting the amount of land available for plants to grow. Worse yet, the plants available are invasive plants or ornamental plants (i.e., NOT NATIVE), so that the offspring of native pollinators (for example, the larvae of native butterflies and moths) co-evolved with native plants and can’t eat the leaves of non-native plants. And because of climate change, plants are blooming earlier, so that when the pollinators are ready for them, the pollen isn’t there. Thus, the bees and butterflies are starving. Bees are dying from neonicotinoids and other pesticides.

Monarch butterflies numbers are starting to increase after record lows. Milkweed plants are host plants for monarchs–actually the only plants for which monarch larvae (caterpillars) can eat. Midwest farmers have planted their fallow land in corn to take advantage of the biofuels booms. 93% of the Monarch population that takes the eastern migration route has died.

There is hope here too because large groups are working together either through direct joint efforts of through internet groups to solve some of the issues that are causing a shortening of our future on Earth.

So ask yourself, why buy plants or anything from Home Depot and many other big box stores that continue to sell plants treated with pesticides that kill pollinators, get into the soil, and kill the microbes that keep the soil healthy? Is the savings of a few cents or a few dollars more important than the future of the food supply?

Especially, think for yourself. DON’T BELIEVE TV OR INTERNET ADS. Consider why you need to buy Scotts’ 3 in 1 or 5 in 1 killer systems for your lawn. Here’s a secret Scotts doesn’t want you to know: One of the Scotts systems kills off clover and the next one re-introduces nitrogen back into the soil.  Another secret, Scotts is providing $1000 grants to schools to plant school gardens even though their MiracleGrow is an extremely dangerous product.

Your child could be working in the garden and also eating the food grown with pesticides. Here’s another secret: YOU DON’T NEED PESTICIDES TO GROW A GREEN LAWN OR A GOOD CROP. READ UP ON ORGANIC PRODUCTS.

Among the only foods that don’t require pollination  are corn, wheat, and rice. Boring and unhealthy foods, these could make up a large part of your diet of the future, unless you take these issues seriously and fearlessly.