It Has Come To This…

How much do bees cost human society?  It is an important question.  Bees provide a profound service to humans – they pollinate flowers and therefore are directly responsible for a significant amount of food production around the world.  While performing this service, they also produce honey, a very significant benefit to humans.  Wild bees cost nothing – throughout the history of  man they have provided these services at no cost to  man.  Kept bees do cost humans something, in the sense that their beekeeper charges farmers for placing hives in their orchards and fields.  But the cost is almost insignificant in comparison to the value of the yield increase and the value of the final agricultural product.  Any rational equation is going to show that bees are not a cost but a provider of services and a generator of value for mankind.

The fact that bees have performed magnificently for man makes it a huge problem that, all over the world, they are dying out.  Pollution is a problem, but the real culprit is the ever-more-toxic pesticides used by industrial agriculture the world over.  The trend has been clear for some years now, but the solution has not been clear at all.  Pesticide companies have taken a page from the playbook of tobacco companies and have denied the problem and called for more studies.  Agricultural producers (especially those whose crops do not depend on direct pollination, like corn, wheat, oats or potatoes) are disinclined to stop using new-generation pesticides for the simple reason that killing bees is an intangible, whereas stopping pesticide use means a dramatic reduction in crop production (students of basic economics will recognize a “tragedy of the commons” problem here).

This week a possible solution to the disappearance of bees was announced:  micro-drones specially designed and programed to pollinate flowers.  You can read an in-depth article about the subject here.  The proposal, however, is fatally flawed (as this highly critical article in Newsweek outlines).  Micro-drones are not efficient, not reliable, not self-replicating, and they don’t make honey.  And of course, they are not free.  Actually, they aren’t even cheap.

All over the world, we are seeing the things that have provided us with services disappearing.  Bees, birds, soil, stable weather – they are all declining and going away.  And our response is to propose much, much more expensive and unreliable solutions than what we had (and valued so little) in the first place.  Not only that but, as with all the “brilliant” ideas man has, our solutions have significant unintended consequences that only create larger problems in the long run.

But then what did we expect?  In a world whose organizing principle is selfishness, the decay, decline and eventual disappearance of everything good is a fate that we inexorably progress toward.  Most of Christianity today does not make a spiritual link between the accelerating decay of the natural world and the effects of sin.  Moreover most of the Christian world is not cognizant of the extraordinarily altered world we live in, whose organizing principle is antithetical to the character to God.  Most Christians do not stop and think that the world we live in, functioning as it does, is mostly reflective of the character of Satan.  Few ever stop to consider what happened between its creation in perfection and wonder to the state it is in today.  Fewer still seek answers in scripture.

But here we are, living in a world where micro-drones are proposed to replace bees.  The solution is not advanced because it makes sense, it is advanced because we are in a rapidly growing crisis and have to do something.  Expect to see more such losses across the natural world as time winds down and the gaps in natures functioning become more obvious and more of a crisis.  Expect also to see similar proposals to have technology stand in for what creation once provided for free.  We have, at long last, come to this.

–Scott Christiansen