I would much rather use almond milk than cow milk for my muesli in the mornings. I would rather use almond flour in breading than processed all purpose flour. I prefer roasted almonds to roasted peanuts in my mixed nuts. This is one horn of the dilemma. Modern bee-keeping practices are killing the European honeybee. Specifically, the money that beekeepers make freighting tens of thousands of hives per year to the California valley where ninety percent of the almonds are grown on the planet is killing the world’s bees. Modern farming practices that emphasize monoculture (raising just one plant on a huge area), chemical fertilizers (artificial manure), and chemical pesticides and herbicides in order to glean one more bushel per acre of crop, save one penny of expenses per dollar are destroying the honeybee. This is the other horn of the dilemma.
I don’t know of an alternative to the California almond. When I choose my beef or chicken, I can choose a pastured variety, buy from a friend. There is no dilemma when I buy meats. When I purchase lettuce or vegetables, I can pick them up at the local farmer’s market, where they are grown locally. To my knowledge, my beef provider and vegetable growers are not causing irreparable harm to the world.
How bad is the damage that modern bee-keeping is really doing to the hives of the world? Watch this documentary. In the documentary “More Than Honey” (free on Netflix) you will see that the problem is more comprehensive for the bees than any chemical, but the problem is the totality of the way that the bees are treated. The problem is money. The problem is the shortsighted way that our society treats something as vital to the world as the honeybee.
If we are willing to allow this VITAL world resource to be abused this way, then what would we not allow in the name of profit? It speaks to the warped sensibilities of the market mentality. Can I really have an effect on the almond groves in California if I go to the trouble of moving my purchases to a less reckless alternative? If I do so in this case, what about all of the similar places that the market incentives have destroyed sustainable farming? I can’t know about all of them.
I actually feel guilt, because I really worry about the bees in the world. I hate it that currently I am buying California almonds, that are made possible by rapacious bee keepers, and almond growers that don’t give a thought to their effect on the hives. The primary, the only, concern is money.
There are lots of things like this in the world today–cheap oil, because we are bringing it out of the ground so quickly that the market is in a glut; cheap salmon because the fish are farmed in pens in South America and then freighted half way around the planet, while the real salmon stocks have plummeted due to climate change; cheap electricity because we have abundant coal, the burning of which causes climate change. Low prices cause waste, and things like stores leaving their doors open so that customers will be lured in from the heat of summer by feeling the cool breeze. Forty percent of all food in the US is eventually thrown out.
As a world citizen, I feel in part helpless, but also I know that if I can get away from corporate foods I am helping myself, while at the same time sending a tiny message to the all-powerful market. The loss of dollars makes a place like Panera Bread change the foods it is buying to sell to you. We can save the bees, but it will be hard to give up my almonds.