"And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." Genesis 2:15.
Christians and worshippers of all faiths (and none) have mostly adopted this ethic of caring for our environment called stewardship, the belief that God’s Biblical charge to humans above is to take care of all the Earth. So, how are we doing with that project? I wondered that on a recent summer’s walk where I noticed the silence. No bees. My bane as a barefoot boy, where have they gone?
My internet search startlingly revealed that Tennessee is number two in honeybee loss after only Arizona. (1) Two local experts I contacted indicated that the problem is bad, hurting local agriculture and that the Trump administration and the Tennessee state legislature are part of the problem. Lee Maddux of the Tennessee Farm Bureau told me that bee keepers are quitting right and left due to “colony collapse,” the overnight disappearance of entire hives.
The chief villain, along with pesticides, is a mite ominously called Varroa destructor which cause the bees to freeze when the temperature drops. Agriculture makes up roughly thirteen percent of Tennessee’s economy and one of every three bites of food depends upon these pollinators. The national bee keeping count I read online that revealed Tennessee’s staggering losses has been cancelled by the Trump administration. According to Mike Studer, the official State Apiarist (i.e., chief beekeeper), the Tennessee Bee Keeping Association in desperation even brought in Howard Kerr, a retired Oak Ridge scientist who worked on the atomic bomb to present to the Tennessee legislature requesting funds for UT to study what’s happening to Tennessee’s bees. (2) Unfortunately, no dice. Better luck next year Dr. Kerr.
Worse yet, the Trump administration has recently approved use of the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor on nearly 14 million acres. This pesticide, in 2015 , has found a friend in the White House. (3) Not bad enough? Recent research mimicking the effects of climate change on bee populations revealed that we may lose an additional thirty to seventy percent of our bees in response to excessive heat. (4)
When it comes to stewardship, we need leaders in government who will be fact-based decision makers, ones who believe that the more we know, the healthier we can be. To get such leaders, we need to support such candidates. Could you be one of those candidates? What else can you do? Well, if you’d like to become a bee keeper, the Middle TN Beekeepers Association meets right here in Williamson County or if you care about climate change, support the Carbon Fee and Dividend Bill that helps address this problem.
A useful approach when it comes to stewardship is one borrowed from the Lakota tribe. Make each decision by first considering the kind of world you want for the seventh generation from now to enjoy. That’s real stewardship!
If you are interested in the Climate Caucus of the Williamson County Democratic Party, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org