Faced with the infinitely complex pollination system globally, how is it possible to pin down accurately what is happening with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)? And even more difficult, how can this be communicated widely, increasing people’s awareness of the challenges that honey bees face without blinding them by facts?
I started by reflecting on CCD. Why is it keeping me up at night?
- Complexity: of the system of pollination, of the possible causes, of the myriad effects and unintended consequences if pollinators die off.
- Frustration: of not being able to pin-point an enemy, of the agricultural system which privileges profit over ecosystems, and with consumers who want their food faster, cheaper and bigger than ever before.
- (Fear of) Loss: what happens to all the things we like to eat, the plants we do not eat but are a vital component of our Earth’s biodiversity and provide habitats to other animals.
How can I channel this into an art/design piece?
When I came to thinking about strategies for an ‘advert’ analogy seems to be the most effective in communicating a future-scenario. What will happen if honeybees die off? Wholefoods illustrated this, by removing all products from their shelves which relied on pollinators to create a striking series of images. They also have a website which educates on the importance of pollinators. Is it hitting home? Is it enough? Are all of Wholefoods’ products actually good for bees….based on their advert for ‘Pollinator Friendly Almond Butter’ I would conjecture that all the other almond butters they sell are not pollinator friendly. And finally, only a small section of society can afford Wholefoods…
This is where the difficulty of advocating for changes in our food system kicks in – the way food has been produced and sold for the past 50 years or more has been almost solely down to price. It is after all a necessity. Unless you have disposable income, you shop where you can afford which makes it difficult for people to choose higher priced, but potentially healthier, more environmentally friendly products.
An advert for CCD?
I made a couple of quick ‘adverts’ to bring awareness of CCD (below). The concept behind them was take something well known (Campbell’s soup cans) and twist it – what would be left if the pollinators die off? Well, potatoes would still be around…
There are lots of criticisms that I could make about these ideas. You could read this as saying ‘the worst that would happen is having to eat potato soup’ which is the realm of climate change catastrophes does not seem very large. More broadly, they do not show the absolute lack of biodiversity and food culture that would come about due to honey bee extinction, and any unforeseen consequences of this.
Back to the drawing board….