Rethinking our Consumption Patterns Through Bees and Urban Agriculture

As part of Bee Week, the MicroHabitat team took a closer look at the issues surrounding the condition of bees, pollinators, and more broadly the stability of our ecosystems. 

A small creature with a big problem

The protection of pollinators, especially bees, is a fight that we hear more and more these days. In the madness of our fast-paced daily lives, we often forget the important role that such small animals play in our societies and ecosystems. Simply put, pollinators work to fertilize plant flowers through foraging, and are thus responsible for fertilizing our crops. Without them, the yields of fruit, vegetable or nut crops would be deeply affected, if not eliminated. 

However, in recent years, we have observed an increased decline in their population as a direct result of climate change and human activities. In an interview with Alexandre Mclean, co-founder of our partner Alvéole – an urban beekeeping company founded in Montreal – we asked him what the main issue bees were facing today. His answer was simple and brief: conventional agriculture. Its intensive practices such as monoculture, pesticide use and degrading soil management are seriously affecting bees. For example, pesticides sprayed on the fields permeate the plants and are then carried by the bees to the hive, where many of their sisters will also be exposed to them. This contact with the chemicals inflicts disease on the bees and increases their mortality rate. 

Our food, an important part of the solution

When we understand how critical the work of bees is to our food security and the well-being of our ecosystems, the only priority becomes to help reverse the trend. Among the main actions that can be taken to help our winged companions, we often find the planting of melliferous flowers that are particularly prized by pollinators or the reduction of pesticide use. However, as Alexandre Mclean points out, these initiatives are great for improving the immediate conditions of bees, but do not address the heart of the problem, which is our methods of food production. 

“The best thing we can do today is to think about these questions. What do we consume as food? How is it produced? Where does this vegetable come from? Or this one? Starting to ask these questions will force all the actors along the food chain to adjust the value of their products. “Alexandre Mclean

Urban agriculture and urban beekeeping: drivers of change

As you will have understood, whether it is for the health of our pollinators or more broadly for our ecosystems, a major change in our consumption patterns is necessary. However, there is nothing more complex than inducing a change in our habits, especially in a society subject to the pressure of the lowest cost. It is however at this precise intersection that beekeeping and urban agriculture meet. 

The main objective of one is not the production of honey, just as the objective of the other is not to replace rural food production. No, their common goal is to initiate a change in people’s behavior by bringing nature, beehives, and vegetable gardening back to the city. Through contact with the land and nature, the observation of seeds that become plants or the understanding of the role of each small animal in the sustainability of our ecosystems, urban agriculture and beekeeping raise awareness of the environmental issues that mark our century. 

“Just putting a beehive on a roof is not going to solve everything, we agree, but this beehive among a billion will have a much greater impact than a traditional hive. Hundreds and thousands of people will interact with it and it is these interactions with the bees that make us wonder about the impact of our actions” Alexandre Mclean

Not only do these two initiatives pursue the same mission, they also support each other through complementary links. The bees in the hives help the vegetables and plants to grow, while the vegetable gardens are places of salvation, nourishment and fresh water, helping pollinators to drink, feed, regulate their temperature and reproduce. 

The goal of all this? To succeed in transforming the world of agriculture so that eco-friendly, sustainable and nature-inspired practices become the new norm on a large scale. This is the mission that us and several players in the field, are now pursuing and working to share with the world. 

For this Bees Week, we invite everyone to think about the impact of their food choices on the environment and biodiversity, and to start taking small actions now to improve the situation!

As with the work of the bees, it is the accumulation of many small initiatives that leads to big changes!