#YEEinterview: Bee The Change
“If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” You’ve probably seen this quote, usually attributed to Albert Einstein. Although there is no evidence the famous scientist actually said this, there is no doubt that the message is real and alarming. So what would happen if bees disappeared? Let´s talk about bees with the team of Bee The Change, a Swedish youth-led non profit organisation raising awareness on the importance of pollinators and removing barriers related to beekeeping.
Who is the the team behind Bee The Change (BTC)? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Hi! Bee the Change was originally founded by three students from Lund university; Mathieu Mal, Sarah Hite and Elsa Fraysse with the help from a beekeeper from the local area, Christer. Today we are a small working group of about five to ten people in which I (Adrian), and my friend Johan are the main project co-ordinators. Both of us are studying environmental engineering at LTH, Lund University (Lund, Sweden) and have been in the organisation since the autumn of 2018. Ever since then we’ve been hooked!
How did you come up with the idea of BTC? And what do you focus on?
The project arose as a result of a practical component of what is known as the “LUMES course”, a masters degree in sustainable development at Lund University. As part of the course, students were encouraged to come up with an initiative that benefits the local community – and as such, Bee The Change was born. Since then, the organisation has grown although the main aim remains the same; to remove the barriers commonly found with engaging in beekeeping, such as a lack of access to hives. We also wanted to increase the awareness of pollinators and the threats they face.
We used to say that the organisation stands on two legs; a social leg and a practical leg. Practical in terms of teaching people how to perform beekeeping. Every Sunday throughout the beekeeping season (roughly from March to October) we invite the community to participate in the maintenance of our two hives and learn about the lifecycles of the bees as well as of the beekeeping. The social aspect refers to the work made to increase the awareness on the importance of pollinators and the threat they face. We host lectures and workshops which aim to do this. And when the weather gets cold we run insect house building workshops too!
Collective decision-making, social biomimicry, women in leadership … looks like there’s so much to learn from bees! But how can we promote beekeeping and which actions can we take to protect pollinators?
There is! Throughout history bees have always been in close relationship to humans. It has long been the symbol of an ideal society, with the monarchy at the top and the hard-working bees at the bottom. There is even an expression “Go tell the bees”, which refers to a tradition that dates back hundreds of years, in which people who owned beehives would go and whisper all the latest news to the bees; for example, if someone in the family had died, well then, someone had to update the hive and whisper the news to them!
Thus, we’ve always had a connection to bees but in some ways, it’s been lost in society. I think that re-establishing this relationship is incredibly important as bees provide us with one of life’s essentials: food, through the pollinating service they provide. Often, bees and a range of other pollinators, are completely overlooked for providing this service. If people were educated more on this and really understood their importance, I think people would be more willing to buy organic (which is great, as it typically avoids harmful pesticides!), leave the garden a bit messier with leaves and grass piles (which provides a home to bees, other pollinators and bugs!) and be more reluctant to use harmful chemicals in their gardens (which again, avoids harming the bees!). These are just a few of the reasons to protect bees and other pollinators!
This education needs to start at school to really show kids where food is coming from but it’s also important for adults and kids to have access to beehives all through their lives; and this is something we feel very strongly about providing. We want to provide all members of the community with an opportunity to see how a beehive works and to interact with it. This usually really gets the message across. To further our cause, we would love to see more similar initiatives being adopted, especially in cities and urban areas where that exposure to beekeeping is typically harder.
Which is the biggest challenge you have faced (or you are facing) since setting up this organisation?
The most dangerous thing for an organisation is to be dependent on only a few people. Beekeeping seems to spur up a lot of interest in people and many attend our events however, finding people who are willing to engage in the organisation for an extended period of time is harder. People have busy lives and unfortunately, life can get in the way of a more solid commitment to the organisation and beekeeping.
Which kind of reactions and/or feedbacks has BTC received?
Only positive! Bees are an incredible species and have very intricate solutions to the adversities experienced in life. But as most people do not encounter bees from a close perspective, it becomes a very novel experience to interact with them at BTC. We get many reactions about this; seeing the small pollinators every summer but not knowing anything about them, the exposure and knowledge they gain from BTC is often very rewarding! It is also a fascination that ranges across generations and nationalities, which enables us to meet people from all over the world and of all ages.
In your opinion, what role does youth play in raising awareness about environmental issues?
I think it has been quite clear over the last year that the youth movement will be a decisive factor if we are to combat the climate crisis. Breaking habits is maybe the most important measure we can take in spurring more sustainable ecological development; how we consume, what we eat, how we travel. Everything we do now has to, and should be, done with the environment in mind. And I think that youth has a higher chance of adopting that mind-frame and forcing a change of societies habits. And finally, there is more of a need to act NOW than ever, as the younger generations are having to live through the ugly truth of a climate crisis, which some adults haven’t and won’t have to do.
It’s especially important to us to create a new generation of beekeepers; both in rural areas and cities! Although people may not think that cities will be appropriate places to have bees, green roofs and community gardens are becoming more common and are a great place to start! So, we encourage anyone with an interest to reach out to nearby organisations to start getting involved with beekeeping. And if you can’t find one, perhaps you can start a beekeeping and pollinator friendly organisation yourself. Even if you can’t keep bees, there are many other activities that can be done to increase pollinator awareness and protection.
Looking back at when you started the movement, is there something you would do differently?
When I engaged with the organisation, it was only half a year old. Since then, the organisation has grown quite organically. Routines have slowly established and knowledge on how to run the organisation and keep bees has been obtained. Things could have gone faster and grown more stable but what I think is beautiful with BTC is that it is a very agile organisation and can adapt to what the active members prefer.
What’s next for you and BTC?
To secure the future, in short, we’ll need to organise the organisation. Today we are too dependent on just a few people in both knowledge and administration. This is a too important issue for BTC to be a pop-up organisation.
Which advice would you give to the young people like you who want to be more active in environmental protection?
Start anywhere! Environmental protection is such a complex issue and we need to be on the forefront on all sides. And allow yourself to do it in a joyful way. This doesn’t have to be a war we fight but rather an opportunity to get to know the beauty of the planet we live on. I engaged in Bee the Change because I thought it served a great purpose but stayed because I feel in love with beekeeping and the bees.
Thanks to Adrian and the rest of the team for taking part to this interview. Reconnecting with the wonderful world of bees can be extremely interesting and fulfilling. Let’s not forget the environmental services bees and other pollinators provide to humans: it’s our duty to protect them and guarantee their existence. Good luck with your future projects!
Don´t forget to Follow Bee the Change on Social media
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