As monarch butterfly populations decline, honeybee mortality regularly makes the news, and the consequences of climate change come into ever-more dire view, public attention is well attuned to the threats faced by pollinators. Inaction tends to plague climate politics, but the story is different when it comes to how people respond to bees, and pollinators more generally. As ecosystems silently – yet often calamitously – fail all around us, what does “saving the bees” signify about society’s attempts to achieve sustainability? In my book-in-progress, Ending the War on Nature, bees are our lens through which to view the heated politics of protecting pollinators and salvaging biodiversity. Through using bees as a prism, readers are witness to the fumbling attempts of both international policy and grassroots-level actions that strive that to do right by nature.
I became a beekeeper in 2011 when I was given a hive to install on the roof of our school. Since then, I started a honey co-op, helped form a student club on campus, the AU Beekeeping Society. My hobby quickly turned into a research interest in bees. I write about them through a big-picture scope, aiming to illustrate issues of international environmental politics including biodiversity protection, urban sustainability, and global food systems. The book journeys into rural ecovillages, bee-friendly cities, and industrial agricultural settings to bear witness to the practical ways in which people strive to protect pollinators. At the same time, it understands bees as ethical signifiers, which capture humanity’s deeper struggle to live harmoniously both with each other and the more-than-human world. Ending the War on Nature critically interrogates how attempts to save the bees reflect upon humanity’s desire to save itself from the planetary ecological crisis of its own making.
This contribution offers both an ethical framework and policy prescriptions for correcting course amidst an ecological crisis gone catastrophically awry. It is the culmination of over a decade of research on honeybees and wild bees alike. In settings that range from backyard gardens to the halls of the European Food Safety Authority, Ending the War on Nature builds new politics of repairing the relationship between humans and the natural world through the central idea of ecological rapprochement. To end the war on nature, I argue, we must begin by thawing the tensions that have traditionally plagued humankinds’ relationship with the insect world.
Related Writing and Talks:
Beekeeping In, Of, or For the City? (with Douglas Sponsler), People and Nature (2021)
Saving the Other Bees: The Resurgence of Melipona beecheii in the Zona Maya Conservation and Society (2021).
TEDx- American University talk, Behind the Buzz: The Honeybee in Global Politics. (2015)
One of my very talented students, Lauren Neville (Environmental Studies and Communications double major, Class of 2015), made this great video about our campus beekeeping work. In her words, “It’s a character-driven documentary.” I feature prominently in it, for better or for worse!
The AU Beekeeping Society keeps a blog here, and they also have a Facebook group, open for anyone to join. If you dig around a bit here, you’ll also find many posts from my early musings about beekeeping as I first learned the art.