Why animals are more than resources

Howdy, friends! bumble here. I've been mulling this post over for a while now, and it feels ready, so here we are.

Speaking for myself as a bee, and for the rest of the animals, we're tired of being used. I have to be bold and speak up for all the animals who are being raised, processed, bought, and sold in this world we all share. Maybe you've noticed fewer insects, fewer caterpillars or grasshoppers, fewer birds, less wildlife? Next time you're out for a walk, take some time for a closer look. Then think back to your childhood. See any difference? Us bees, and our other animal friends are under pressure, and our numbers are falling. We're finding out the earth isn't infinite.  

So, how did we get here?

Well, that's a long story we can talk about over the next batch of posts, but here are a few pieces of the puzzle.

First, humans are in the habit of seeing everything around them as a resource. Something to be gathered, counted, exploited, used up. Everything is there for human use. For a long time they (that's you humans) barely bothered with counting at all, because the things they wanted seemed so plentiful they would surely never be exhausted. (Nobody had even come up with the idea of extinction.) The only reason to count things was to keep track of how much money you made.  

Now, fast forward to post-WW 2 and the modern human lifestyle. So people could get any kind of food at any time of year, and pay less and less for it, a global food system based on  large-scale factory farming was created. Farmers were encouraged to use the new fertilizers and pesticides, and to specialize in fewer and fewer crops (this is what they mean by monoculture - I know, I know, that's a big word for a bee). The family farm of old became an industrial operation. But no matter how big the farms got, people kept a storybook picture of a happy farmyard in their heads.

Take it from me, for bees, the monoculture system is serious business, and doesn't look anything like that idyllic farm.  It means millions of bees are shuttled around from place to place as pollinators-for-hire, feeding for weeks on a single crop, sometimes with flowers that don't have much nectar to offer. This can mean very stressful, near-starvation conditions. Does that seem sustainable? And imagine having to eat the same thing day in day out for weeks on end. No wonder we bees are struggling, and some don't make it.

The human journalist Bill McKibben coined the phrase "the defiant reflex" to describe the popular idea that somehow, technology will save the day and fix a broken planet, without anyone having to change the way they live day to day. Humans seem to hunt perpetually for the next species to convert into a resource. And once they do that, it's only a matter of time until it's used up. Then they move on to the next one (my cousins the crickets are the latest victims), and the headlines crow about how sustainable each new target species is. It seems to mean only that there are plenty of them for now. But that won't be sustainable unless the whole food system is made sustainable, until the resource mindset changes. Animals (including us insects) are more than just resources: we're part of an intricate web of life that seemed limitless, but it turns out has limits.

So, what can individual humans do? Well, one thing you have control over is what you decide to put on your plate. Try to eat more plant-based meals to tread lighter on the earth and its creatures. Encourage your family and friends to try it too. Say it with me: better choices, better planet, brighter future.

Let's work together to make a different world. A truly sustainable one that can keep going for untold generations. A compassionate one where animal and human suffering are rare, and people see that compassion is true strength. A healthy one, where most meals are plant-based and delicious. A fair one, where everyone has the basics, we help each other when we can, and everyone honours and values a diverse community where we all have a role to play. 

Fantasy? We don't think so. We can't afford to.