Posted by: theoriginalmiss | June 23, 2013

The birds, the bees, angel wings and everything in between.

Making images through editing, for me, stimulates my thought processes and allows me to download somewhat, therefore there are often links, some more tenuous than others, between my written text and image.  This series of images is a collaboration between myself and an IG and AMPt Community friend Armineh that did just that.  Original photo is by Armineh (@armineh29 on IG) and all edits by me (@theoriginalmiss on IG).  Whilst it essentially has nothing at all to do with my interests, Armineh’s beautiful clear image allowed me to play about with issues that are on my mind, giving me an opportunity to do things that I love to do, namely creative photo editing, and research and writing.  

The text I superimposed on Armineh’s angel wings was taken from famous ecologist Charles Kreb’s text book “The Ecological World View”.  It is a short essay on “DDT and Bird Populations”, which opens with reference to that environmentalist classic “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson.  I chose it due to a link to trees, and birds, that I saw in Armineh’s beautiful original photograph via the angel wing with its leafy background.  From it I took the opportunity to take a closer look at issues to do with the birds and the bees, but definitely not angels (sorry, Armineh), and to explore an issue that has been in the headlines a lot recently. 

“Silent Spring” was written in the 1960s and, although Carson’s book spawned the modern environmental movement and as such has had a huge and positive effect on how we treat our environment, pesticide (over) use continues today, with new strains constantly being added to the agriculturalist’s armoury, much to nature’s detriment.  Around the world, bee populations, in particular, appear to be suffering immensely due to a strain of pesticides called Neonicotinoids.  These pesticides are dusted onto seeds before planting so that the chemicals can be taken up by the plant’s vascular system as it grows, and are thus systemic (Mercola, 2013).  

In a bold move earlier this year in April, the European Union took the drastic measure of banning three types of neonicotinoid insecticides for a two year period (EEA, 2013) in spite of opposition from several member states including the UK.  The European Food Safety Authority has deemed that these pesticides are such a threat to bees that they should only be used on crops that do not attract honeybees (Mercola, 2013). 

Whilst the ban was criticised by many, especially farming communities, who believe the science is uncertain (sound familiar?), a research associate at the University of Cambridge points out that that this is appropriate use of the precautionary principle (McDonald-Gibson, 2013).  The precautionary principle, in effect to manage scientific risk and uncertainty, is one of the core tenets of ecologically sustainable development that sprang from the 1992 Rio Convention.  It would be good to see Principle 15 being used with more rigour in environmental decision-making: “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” (UNEP, 1972) 

Furthermore, a recent article in The Guardian highlights the results of a study by Dave Goulson of the University of Stirling, published by the Journal of Applied Ecology (Goulson, 2013) that implicates the pesticides in bird deaths.  The study points to the continued existence and build up of the pesticide in the soil long after its application (Gray, 2013), which may be playing a role in the decline of species in farmland in the UK.  The essence of this study and article is that Neonicotinoids are having a detrimental effect not only on our bee populations, but, frankly unsurprisingly, on other species, including certain bird populations, such as grain-eating partridges (Gray, 2013).

Goulson aptly points out that “Reconciling conserving biodiversity with food production requires a balance to be found” and more poignantly concludes:

“Overall, there is an urgent need to re-evaluate whether current patterns of usage of neonicotinoids provide the optimum balance between meeting the demands of food production and farming profitability in the short term, vs. the need to sustainably manage global biodiversity to ensure the long-term health of ecosystems (including farmland) upon which all life depends.”

Healthy ecosystems include healthy bee populations, which, according to the European Commission’s top health official, are reported to contribute €22 billion annually to European agriculture (McDonald-Gibson, 2013). The sooner we really take on board that our continued survival depends on healthy ecosystems for our food systems, the better.

Original photo by Armineh, edit by Paula Broom

Original photo by Armineh, edit by Paula Broom

This last photo is a final edit, just for the sheer pleasure, by me, using another of Armineh’s beautiful photos, entitled “Quiet Moment” – I think that is just what I need right now!

A big thank you to Armineh for the collaboration.

Bibliography:

Gray L, “Neonicotinoids harms birds and soil”, The Telegraph, available online at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/10119237/Neonicotinoids-harm-birds-and-soil.html (Accessed 20 June 2013)

Goulson D, “An overview of the environmental risks posed by neonicotinoid insecticides”, Journal of Applied Ecology. Doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12111, or available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12111/abstract  (accessed 20 June 2013)

McDonald-Gibson C, “’Victory for bee’ as European Union bans neonicotinoid pesticides blamed

McDonald-Gibson C, “’Victory for bee’ as European Union bans neonicotinoid pesticides blamed for destroying bee population, The Independent, available online at http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/victory-for-bees-as-european-union-bans-neonicotinoid-pesticides-blamed-for-destroying-bee-population-8595408.html (accessed 22 June 2013)

Mercola J, “GMO Agriculture and Chemical Pesticides re Killing the Bees – US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Slapped with Lawsuit”, Global Research, Centre for Research on Globalization website, available at http://www.globalresearch.ca/neonicotinoid-pesticides-ongoing-death-of-the-beas-epa-slapped-with-lawsuit/5334816  (accessed 20 June 2013)

United Nations Environment Programme, “Rio Declaration on Environment and Development” 1972, available online at: http://www.unep.org/Documents.Multilingual/Default.asp?documentid=78&articleid=1163 (accessed 22 June 2013)

European Environment Agency (EEA), 2013, “Neonicotinoid pesticides are a huge risk – so ban is welcome, says EEA”, available online at http://www.eea.europa.eu/highlights/neonicotinoid-pesticides-are-a-huge (accessed 22 June 2013)

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