A few months back, I told you about the terrible toll pesticides and genetically modified (GM) crops take on the monarch butterfly and honeybee populations.
Well, last month the Obama administration created a bit of a buzz about a new strategy aimed at restoring the nation’s struggling bee and butterfly populations. Unfortunately, the plan has two critical flaws, as I’ll explain in a moment.
Mainly, the Obama Administration plans to expand the amount of land devoted to wildflowers and milkweed, which are critical to their survival. They envision adding or improving wildflower habitat on seven million acres by the year 2020.
Most of the proposed area falls in the central U.S., where about two-thirds of honeybee colonies spend the summer, and through which monarch butterflies travel on their annual migrations to Mexico and back.
The President even appointed a “Pollinator Health Task Force,” which worked relatively quickly (in Washington time) to come up with some recommendations.
First, they want to encourage schools to plant milkweed and wildflower gardens.
Second, they want to turn land along Interstate Highway I-35 into a continuous stretch of wildflowers running from Duluth, MN to Laredo, TX.
Third, they want federal agencies–such as the Department of Defense and USDA–to include garden habitats on government property, such as around office buildings and military bases. They also want garden habitats added to the land when restoring fire-damaged national forests.
Fourth, they want state highway authorities and utility companies to plant wildflowers and milkweed along rights of way, instead of wasting water and money on toxic chemicals to maintain non-native grasses.
The government plan aims to cut annual losses of honeybee colonies to just 15 percent, which is about what was lost annually during the late 20th century. In other words, the government wants to slow the hemorrhaging, hopefully, to non-fatal levels.
Environmental scientists count the world’s population of monarch butterflies by how many of them arrive in the one Mexican forest where they spend the winter. A healthy monarch population occupies only about 15 acres (or about 20 football fields). Last winter, the monarch population occupied only 2.8 acres in the Mexico forest. So a plot of land that houses any random, oversized, suburban “McMansion” holds the fate of an entire species.
Unfortunately, the plan falls short in two critical ways…
First, the plan doesn’t address pesticides and GM crops, which are the root causes of the crisis. And any plan that doesn’t address the dysfunctional farming practices in this country is simply putting a Band-Aid on the problem. Ultimately, it will solve nothing.
Second, the seven million acres the Obama administration wants to earmark for new wildflower and milkweed habitats isn’t enough. In 2007, farmers in the Midwest took over more than 11 million acres of undeveloped federal conservation land to begin planting GM crops. Curiously, around the same time our “environmentally conscious” President took office. What happened to these 11 million acres of conservation lands on his watch?
Now–here’s an idea…
The new “Pollinator Panel” recommends restoring seven million acres, which is roughly the size of the state of Maryland. How about we just convert all of Maryland and the District of Columbia back to Nature? That move would solve lots of problems…in addition to helping the bees and butterflies. It would eliminate hundreds of thousands of useless and counterproductive federal, state and county jobs. And it would staunch the flow of interference by Washington, D.C. with the rest of the country.
The second best solution is to do nothing along federal and state highways.
The land will naturally revert to wildflowers and milkweed all by itself, simply by leaving it alone.
So how about we save a little money, too? Stop cutting the grass on protected federal land. Stop applying pesticides, which poison soil and water. And stop wasting water by irrigating non-native species. (Take note California.)
We could also stop cutting our own lawns. And certainly stop spraying pesticides on them.
Your yard too will naturally revert to wildflowers and milkweed. The wild plants will naturally reseed themselves each year to make an attractive ground cover. And you won’t have to spend a dime on water or energy to maintain it.
I took this approach once with my lawn in Maryland. But my toxic neighbors and county officials quickly put a stop to my environmentally sound practice (in a supposedly environmentally obsessed state and county) with their intrusive inspections, fines, threats, and other jack-booted abuses. Of course, the first solution I offered–about converting all of Maryland and D.C. back to Nature–would have eliminated all those pesky “inspectors” in the first place.
In France, where they know something about bureaucracy, they have a phrase for these clueless, useless, petty government inspectors, “Les inspecteurs des travaux finis.” It means “inspectors of work already done (by somebody else).” They also know a little something about wildflowers in France.
According to the chaos theory of environmental science, something as small and seemingly insignificant as the flapping of butterfly wings in the Amazon can affect the formation of a hurricane off the coast of Africa. If those butterfly and bee wings ever stop flapping, it will be a far bigger and more widespread natural disaster than any level 5 hurricane.
“U.S. Details New Efforts to Support Ailing Bees,” New York Times (www.nytimes.com) 5/19/2015