Walking in my front door after a long evening in the library, I was immediately pelted by a rolled-up magazine. “Read it. It's interesting,” my older brother shouted from the couch as I reached down to pick up the latest issue of Time. I expected the cover story to be on scientific breakthroughs in quantum supercomputers or cancer research, but instead there was only an enormous picture of a bee. “Trust me,” Heesung added, noticing my confused expression. Little did I know that the next half hour would change not only my perspective on the environment, but also my entire academic focus. Who would have thought that honeybees could be so captivating that I would stay up all night researching the impending crisis? After reading the article, I decided that I absolutely had to write my independent term paper on the history of colony collapse disorder, an ailment that is currently plaguing the world's honeybees. I pored over reports issued by the government's agricultural sector to catch up on the mysterious demise of these essential bees. I was shocked to learn that many agricultural crops, including almonds, apples, and onions, are 90 to 100 percent dependent on honeybee pollination. In fact, pollinator-dependent crops made up an estimated 23 percent of the U.S.'s total agricultural production in 2006. In addition, alfalfa, a crop entirely dependent on insect pollination, is used as an inexpensive feed for cattle herds, meaning that bees are responsible for our meat supply as well. Moved and a bit unsettled by the urgency of the situation, I brought up the topic of honeybees over lunch in the cafeteria the following day. I was disappointed, though not surprised, when my friends were rather apathetic and tried to steer the discussion back to sports scores and weekend plans. Still, I persisted and tried to explain how Varroa mites and the use of neonicotinoids, a substance that attacks the bees' nervous systems, are to blame. When my peers think of environmental problems, they are quick to cite pollution and climate change, since those get the most media coverage. To them, my views seemed outlandish. Gauging my friends' reactions, I knew I had to cultivate not only awareness, but also genuine concern. I decided to start by having my high school environmental club partake in activities to promote the cause. I got my fellow club members involved in planting bee-friendly flowers, such as lilacs and honeysuckles, in gardens, as well as eliminating the use of pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, a class of nicotine-derivative pesticides, and chemicals in gardens. I also started supporting local raw honey producers and setting up small water basins for bees around campus. My classmates were a bit confused about why I would try to attract bees when most people want to repel them, so I typed up and printed pamphlets to distribute in the student center. The honeybee crisis particularly upsets me because it is man-made. We have been short-sighted, and even though the consequences are dire, we ignore them. The government needs to step in to make large-scale policy changes, but it will only do so if people campaign on behalf of the bees.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.
This piece won the September 2014 Teen Ink Environment Contest.