Everyone knows the plight of the honeybee. They are dying off at an alarming rate. The New York Times has a running news feed on their Science page of the articles they have published about the decline of bees. The latest news is that, recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is providing almost 3 million dollars to Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Michigan to aid farmers to grow cover crops to feed the bees. Scientists from those states will study the bees to see if the theory holds true that a healthy diet can boost their immune system.
It is suspected that colony collapse disorder is the culprit in killing the bees. Commercial crops have replaced much of the wild flowers that honeybees have thrived on in the past. Without healthy vegetation, bees are then forced into areas sprayed with insecticides and fungicides for their regular diet. Add to that, a virus found on tobacco and soy plants that the bees carry back to the colonies, infecting the malnourished/poisoned bees leaving them with little chance to survive.
The Huffington Post reports that honeybees are a $30 billion industry in the U.S. not to mention the crops we are losing from the plight. In 1947, there were an estimated 6 million colonies, 3 million in 1990, and 2.5 million in 2013. This is important to us in our food chain … honeybees pollinate more than 130 fruits and vegetables.
While America works on resourcing farmland for the bees and studying the effects, social entrepreneur, Oliver Maxwell has come up with a honey of an idea—the urban pollinator. Adding bees to city life makes so much sense. The beehives are contained on rooftops, high above the heavily trafficked areas, and they supply the parks, rooftop gardens, and city landscapes with pollination for flowers, seeds, herbs and vegetables, and trees. Beekeepers are hired to take care of the hives and aid in the health of the colonies. Maxwell states, “We make sure that the beekeepers and honey producers come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Plus, the bee-flower-honey relationship is about the best metaphor for sustainable growth there is.” There is a sense of pride that shines through in Maxwell’s writing as he explains the new life of a, once homeless, beekeeper. “When a formerly homeless person stands on the roof of Bella Center with a smoker and veil, teaches kids about pollination or sells honey to biochemists in Lundbeck’s canteen he feels in his own words “a part of society.” Businessmen and women, homeless and children meet on a level plane.”
Maxwell’s bee project is set up in Copenhagen. Five businesses offered space for the hives, backing for the project, in 2011, and offered to buy the honey when it was produced. The city chipped in offering production space, a vehicle, and assistants to aid in the startup venture. This year, up to 40 employees have been hired and trained with backgrounds from homeless people, to Red Cross refugees, and to people from a deprived housing estate. He has also hired “honeypushers” to sell the honey to local businesses and residents. The honeypushers are people who need experience to get into the job marketplace. While working, they gather much needed experience, pay taxes, and prove a solid working background for their future ventures.
Maxwell’s company Bybi, also teaches schoolchildren about bee culture, honey making, the important relationship between man and nature, and how an Eco-business can run and succeed—working hand in hand—giving back to society at the same time. In essence, he is training the youth of Copenhagen how to be social entrepreneurs.
The company, established in 2011, won the “Danish Social Enterprise Award 2013,” and 10 other nominations and prizes. It appears Maxwell and his award winning company is no fly-by-night operation; they are here stay. That is a good thing for people here in the U.S., Europe, and the world, knowing that there are sustainable options to keep the bees alive and healthy, even in an urban environment.
To sum up Maxwell’s philosophy . . . “There is no really good excuse for wringing our hands and continuing the way things are. Good change starts with what you do. It is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting, and I hope that Bybi is a small step in the right direction.”
As you can see, little ideas can make a big change in the world—for man, for the plants, for the animals, and even for a little tiny bee.