“If bees die out, humans have only four years to live.” This statement has been widely quoted and is often attributed to Albert Einstein, although there seems to be no evidence that he actually said it.
But whoever said it, and whether or not the “four years” figure is correct, the sentence points to an incredibly important truth: over three-quarters of food production around the world depends on the actions of natural pollinators (mainly bees); but also, that pollinators are dying out at an alarming rate, around 30% per year. This is jeopardizing our food supply (that’s $600 billion worth of agricultural activity) and 1.4 billion agriculture-dependent livelihoods.
And, no one actually knows why this decline is happening.
There are several plausible hypotheses, including pesticide over-use, global deforestation, the increase in mono-agro practices (farming a single product) and even the actions of individual beekeepers in encouraging the wrong sort of bees (non-indigenous ones) in their hives. It’s probably a combination of these. But no one actually knows.
Evidence is badly, and urgently, needed.
A non-profit organization, The World Bee Project (WBP), has been launched to try to address this problem, backed by scientists from the University of Reading in the UK. Oracle, through its Tech for Good initiative, forms the third leg of the project, supporting the WBP by giving it free consulting, some money for kit (e.g., sensors) and, perhaps most important, use of its cloud storage and analytics tools.