Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!

12 June 2021

  • Share:

Exactly what is meant by sustainability and biodiversity? If we take sustainability first a definition will vary from whom you ask. If we put 10 professors in a room and asked them what sustainability meant they would all have a different view. Some would define it within their own insights and particular area of interest. One or two others would define it, sadly, as something that would be of an advantage to those who are funding their research goals (not all researchers are highly ethical!) So its definition will vary. We can only give our own personal view. If you have a different view please do share it with us on our discussion Q&A board [I am still working on this so please send an email an I will upload].

We define it at Cilgwenyn simply as humanity meeting its needs without impacting negatively on anyone individually or anything else on this planet now or at any time in the future, be it 100 years or 10,000 years or 1 million years. It’s not just about CO2 emissions or other greenhouse gasses. It’s not just about environmental pollution including plastic building up in our environment. Its not just about depleting natural resources where it cannot be replenished or will take a very very long time to come back. It’s not just about making sure there is enough social and economic resources available to everyone.

IT IS ALL OF THESE THINGS.

What do we do to play our part?

Firstly, we are 100% Carbon Neutral. But not just in business we try to do this in our way of life too. We recycle everything we can that cannot be reused or given away (there are some good websites out there like Freecycle !) and we minimise all plastic usage whenever we can (sadly sometimes we have no choice).

Recyclable packaging
Recyclable packaging

All of our products to the consumer is fully recyclable. The glass is, the lid is, the paper label and even the delivery box is made from cardboard fastened with paper craft tape. All secured by recyclable cardboard. No plastics, no bubble warp.

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!
Reducing the use of natural resources

We also value the resources that we have available to us and try to lower our reliance on hydrocarbons for either fuel or in materials. We strive and ask for non-plastic materials, but not everyone can accommodate this. These hydrocarbons not only emit a lot of CO2, but even if that were not an issue it would take millions of years for it to be replenished. We try to get hold of materials that can be grown naturally (fairly quickly) without much processing if we cannot use recycled materials. Take wooden parts for our beehives, they come from trees that are between 40 and 70 years old. A long time maybe, but completely sustainable as they can grow again and time is short in a geological sense.

Treating people with respect and dignity

All of our staff are treated fairly, with respect, dignity and integrity. We also pay a salary that allows ethical choices to be made for a healthier and sustainable living. But it’s not just staff we help.

We are proud to support a long list of retailers again with respect, dignity and with integrity in our area, supplying them with good quality produce at a fair price that is then affordable to the consumer and to help their retail business grow. Our suppliers are also treated with respect and dignity to support them economically from all parts of the UK.

What then is Biodiversity?

To us, if it were to be simplified as not to create a book out of this paragraph, biodiversity encapsulates every living form we see today. This is not just humans or mammals, not just living creatures, not even just plants but it includes cell life of all sorts like bacteria. But in terms of biodiversity what does that single word (an amalgamation from two words - biological and diversity) mean to us now and why is it important?

To begin to contemplate that we must understand that biological life on earth is over 3.77 billion years old and could be 4.22 billion. Let’s just think about that for a moment. That number in full is 4,220,000,000 years. If we were to use 50p that are 1.78 mm thick pieces and put them on top of each other with each one representing a year, the height is equivalent would not just meet the international space station but go past it 18 and a half times! Its that big. If we go by this year of 2021 to the year 0, that amount of time would fit it 2,088,075 times, and look what happened in just 2,000 years in the UK (Romans, Dark ages, Normans, Renaissance, Industrialisation to modern contemporary technology).

Even if we looked at our human achievements in the last 200 years we have come far. But living organisms are so much more complex and it has had millions, well billions of years to evolve. The lessons learned from genetic mutations with each thousand years contributing to different species are staggering and, let’s be honest, not fully understood. To go from single cell organisms to complex life is astounding. Imagine how all these living things have developed, together, and only by living side by side.

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!
A massive change by human force

Humanity however is changing the face of the earth at a rapid scale. So rapid that we are unlikely to not even know about species that exist as they are going extinct, so we will never know about them. After all, once they are gone they are gone forever. Why is this important? By changing even a small sub species is likely to cause a massive affect on us, but we just don’t know about it yet.

If we took all the bacteria out of the soil we would die. Why? The bacteria breaks nutrients down. But above that there are larger living creature that breaks larger parts down, like insects do and the pyramid grows. But likewise, without the nutrients being broken down no new plant life can grow. No new plant life no animals. We are so intrinsically linked.

Just to put us into perspective. By mass 97% of the worlds vertebrate land animals are either human or are kept by humans. But we are just one of 1.7 million species of living things such as animals plants and fungi that we know of. Research seems to indicate that this number is realistically likely to be some 8 to 9 million by some and 100 million by others. And that is not even considering bacteria, so organisms may number billions.

Cilmate emergency

Should we affect many of these the knock on effect to others can be huge, and we don’t even know about it. For those that are familiar with the game Jenga, just take one incorrect block out and it all comes tumbling down. Imagine a Jenga version that interconnects our whole ecosystem of millions of species? One wrong move and it will be calamity. And we seem to be heading for it.

Honeybee drinking
So why bees?

If there are that many organisms why are bees by themselves important? The affect we have seen on a single type of honeybee is noted because we get honey. With honey being reduced over a few hundred years we notice it as it’s a commodity that we enjoy and savour. But there are many factors that affect it. If bees are affected what about insects that we don’t tend to look at? What are the consequences of this? It is hard to tell until it is too late. Many believe that human affect on living creatures have gone far enough that we have entered a period of mass extinction, it just moves slow in our lifetime. Yet in our lifetime it is speeding up.

But it’s not just about bees and honey. Looking at just one species how would its removal affect life on earth? We understand that pollination is essential for many living plants on earth If pollination reduces so does the number of plants. The chances of different plants change to existing pressures such as weather reduces, in other words evolution slows down. If plants do not evolve they could die out completely.

Should that be a particular food we eat, we will eventually die. If it’s for feeding livestock, they will die. If it feeds smaller creatures, they will die, and then we start affecting the pyramid of living creatures again. Prospects are not great unless we actually do something about it, and with food, given a CHOICE which direction we want our producer to give us. Surely food producers have the biggest chance of changing our futures through consumer CHOICE?

How does keeping bees help?

By keeping more bees we are stopping the decline of pollinators. We are making sure that bee numbers are increasing, to an amount that is completely sustainable as numbers have dropped so low even in the last 50 years. There is little we can do to help in terms of rearing and breeding solitary bees and other pollinators. But we can’t rear solitary bees without charitable aid.

Sadly, many honey beekeepers do think of themselves as charities and love to persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash for little in return. Beekeepers are not charitable business’. To us charitable is to help others achieve goals not fund their own pockets purely (can you really adopt a honey bee or a hive? Try taking it away and find out what happens!) If you want to contribute to a good beekeeping charity, then do consider www.beesfordevelopment.org.

As beekeepers do not need charitable funding for doing their job, we can instead sell you a wonderful product for you to enjoy, something that is good for you, a plant based sugar and is produced in excess naturally by the bees (if we do our job right). So, to us at Cilgwenyn it is a no brainer in that keeping bees alive and well can only be of benefit to humanity. Einstein (a physicist not a botanist or biologist) even apparently noted the importance of bees on the survival of human life (but whether the quote is attributed to him is another question!)

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!
Can bees really help against climate change?

The simple answer is yes. It’s not because honey ‘locks in CO2’ but because of their role as pollinators. If we did not pollinate plants, plants would not produce seeds. Without seeds blowing in the wind or carried (one way or another) then plant life would not spread naturally. Should plant life reduce the ability to lock carbon in plant life is therefore reduced. This is locked in by its leaves, in its stems, in its roots and is stored naturally in the earth. If we do not lock in this carbon, as many trees do, they will not store CO2 and therefore CO2 in our atmosphere would increase further speeding up climate change faster, far faster than what our evolving plants can do.

Can bees help against the decline of biodiversity?

Again, the answer is yes. The same argument as with helping against climate change, the more pollinators are reduced the same will happen with plants. Conversely, the more plants that are pollinated the more plants exist and diversify. The more plants exist we are creating a natural habitat for other organisms to thrive. This is one of the pillars why we feel keeping bees as organically and natural as possible is so important. Its not just about the food that we as humans eat, its about the who ecosystem.

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!
Organic beekeeping

We love our bees and do the very best to protect them. Beekeepers’ skills vary as well as their approach. Is it money, or is it management? We try to do the latter in the most natural way as possible, but we do get lower yields of honey compared to larger intensive commercial bee farms as a consequence. For us that acceptable.

We are not able to be certified as an organic product due to strict historic European rules that notes that all the farmland around the apiary for miles must also be farmed organically. This is impossible for us in Wales due to a low number of large farmers that farm organically. However, we do our best by looking after the bees in an organic way for everything else as set out by the Soil Association.

What does it involve?

This means that we treat our Apis Mellifera bees with respect and dignity, which includes not deforming them intentionally in any way. Our bees have been bred so they are suitable for the conditions around them environmentally. We only use organic beeswax foundation in every colony to make sure they will not be contaminated through this avenue.

As beekeepers we have plans in place should pests and disease present themselves to limit bee health problems including keeping them in hygienic conditions. Veterinary medicines are minimised, and if required only using organically certified products (usually plant based) and treated immediately.

Enough stores are always left for the bees, honey and pollen to make sure they survive the winter. In the event that their very survival is challenged or endangered due to adverse or prolonged weather some feeding can take place using organic sugar only. But to date we have not fed our bees since 2016. Many beekeepers just take the lot and feed with sugar syrup to bring their stocks back prior to winter. We do not use sugar from sugar cane as larger plantations have been reported to be exploiting children to work within the industry from the age of 5, child slavery. We would rather not be part of this unethical world and purchase organic sugar from sugar beet which does produce a lot more CO2. However, we will mitigate all of these actions as set out in the 100% Carbon Neutral Welsh Honey.

Honeybees in the hive

Each apiary is site is in a clean environment with bees having plenty of access to naturally clean flowing water. Our preference is to place colonies where there are no arable crops. As discussed elsewhere our colonies are mainly made of wood and any further purchases will be of wood only. Internal frames will also only come from FSC certified wood parts. We don’t use any harsh materials when burning for smoke to calm bees such as hessian potato sacks as the acrid smoke stresses them (and the beekeeper). We opt for naturally dried rotten wood or similar materials we find in our forest.

During extraction the bees are not taken away from the apiary nor killed en masse for ease either flying or within the brood. And in the honey house only organic and approved sanitising substances can be used in the cleaning of equipment keeping the honey and any other part of it chemical free.

We must remember that bees do not communicate verbally with us beekeepers. Our role is to observe and test and understand. This is where the skill of a beekeeper comes into it. Think of it as an unqualified vet! It’s a difficult job and with food as an end result the beekeeper is an artisan.

Our overall view

So overall we do believe in what we do here helps pollination that helps biodiversity and we enact sustainable practises. Beekeeping is not something that has a low environmental impact but a very high one. It just happens to be in a good way!

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!

12 June 2021

  • Share:

Exactly what is meant by sustainability and biodiversity? If we take sustainability first a definition will vary from whom you ask. If we put 10 professors in a room and asked them what sustainability meant they would all have a different view. Some would define it within their own insights and particular area of interest. One or two others would define it, sadly, as something that would be of an advantage to those who are funding their research goals (not all researchers are highly ethical!) So its definition will vary. We can only give our own personal view. If you have a different view please do share it with us on our discussion Q&A board [I am still working on this so please send an email an I will upload].

We define it at Cilgwenyn simply as humanity meeting its needs without impacting negatively on anyone individually or anything else on this planet now or at any time in the future, be it 100 years or 10,000 years or 1 million years. It’s not just about CO2 emissions or other greenhouse gasses. It’s not just about environmental pollution including plastic building up in our environment. Its not just about depleting natural resources where it cannot be replenished or will take a very very long time to come back. It’s not just about making sure there is enough social and economic resources available to everyone.

IT IS ALL OF THESE THINGS.

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!
Treating people with respect and dignity

All of our staff are treated fairly, with respect, dignity and integrity. We also pay a salary that allows ethical choices to be made for a healthier and sustainable living. But it’s not just staff we help.

We are proud to support a long list of retailers again with respect, dignity and with integrity in our area, supplying them with good quality produce at a fair price that is then affordable to the consumer and to help their retail business grow. Our suppliers are also treated with respect and dignity to support them economically from all parts of the UK.

What then is Biodiversity?

To us, if it were to be simplified as not to create a book out of this paragraph, biodiversity encapsulates every living form we see today. This is not just humans or mammals, not just living creatures, not even just plants but it includes cell life of all sorts like bacteria. But in terms of biodiversity what does that single word (an amalgamation from two words - biological and diversity) mean to us now and why is it important?

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!

Just to put us into perspective. By mass 97% of the worlds vertebrate land animals are either human or are kept by humans. But we are just one of 1.7 million species of living things such as animals plants and fungi that we know of. Research seems to indicate that this number is realistically likely to be some 8 to 9 million by some and 100 million by others. And that is not even considering bacteria, so organisms may number billions.

Should we affect many of these the knock on effect to others can be huge, and we don’t even know about it. For those that are familiar with the game Jenga, just take one incorrect block out and it all comes tumbling down. Imagine a Jenga version that interconnects our whole ecosystem of millions of species? One wrong move and it will be calamity. And we seem to be heading for it.

So why bees?

If there are that many organisms why are bees by themselves important? The affect we have seen on a single type of honeybee is noted because we get honey. With honey being reduced over a few hundred years we notice it as it’s a commodity that we enjoy and savour. But there are many factors that affect it. If bees are affected what about insects that we don’t tend to look at? What are the consequences of this? It is hard to tell until it is too late. Many believe that human affect on living creatures have gone far enough that we have entered a period of mass extinction, it just moves slow in our lifetime. Yet in our lifetime it is speeding up.

But it’s not just about bees and honey. Looking at just one species how would its removal affect life on earth? We understand that pollination is essential for many living plants on earth If pollination reduces so does the number of plants. The chances of different plants change to existing pressures such as weather reduces, in other words evolution slows down. If plants do not evolve they could die out completely. Should that be a particular food we eat, we will eventually die. If it’s for feeding livestock, they will die. If it feeds smaller creatures, they will die, and then we start affecting the pyramid of living creatures again. Prospects are not great unless we actually do something about it, and with food, given a CHOICE which direction we want our producer to give us. Surely food producers have the biggest chance of changing our futures through consumer CHOICE?

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!
Can bees help against the decline of biodiversity?

Again, the answer is yes. The same argument as with helping against climate change, the more pollinators are reduced the same will happen with plants. Conversely, the more plants that are pollinated the more plants exist and diversify. The more plants exist we are creating a natural habitat for other organisms to thrive. This is one of the pillars why we feel keeping bees as organically and natural as possible is so important. Its not just about the food that we as humans eat, its about the who ecosystem.

Organic beekeeping

We love our bees and do the very best to protect them. Beekeepers’ skills vary as well as their approach. Is it money, or is it management? We try to do the latter in the most natural way as possible, but we do get lower yields of honey compared to larger intensive commercial bee farms as a consequence. For us that acceptable.

We are not able to be certified as an organic product due to strict historic European rules that notes that all the farmland around the apiary for miles must also be farmed organically. This is impossible for us in Wales due to a low number of large farmers that farm organically. However, we do our best by looking after the bees in an organic way for everything else as set out by the Soil Association.

Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!

Each apiary is site is in a clean environment with bees having plenty of access to naturally clean flowing water. Our preference is to place colonies where there are no arable crops. As discussed elsewhere our colonies are mainly made of wood and any further purchases will be of wood only. Internal frames will also only come from FSC certified wood parts. We don’t use any harsh materials when burning for smoke to calm bees such as hessian potato sacks as the acrid smoke stresses them (and the beekeeper). We opt for naturally dried rotten wood or similar materials we find in our forest.

During extraction the bees are not taken away from the apiary nor killed en masse for ease either flying or within the brood. And in the honey house only organic and approved sanitising substances can be used in the cleaning of equipment keeping the honey and any other part of it chemical free.

We must remember that bees do not communicate verbally with us beekeepers. Our role is to observe and test and understand. This is where the skill of a beekeeper comes into it. Think of it as an unqualified vet! It’s a difficult job and with food as an end result the beekeeper is an artisan.

Our overall view

So overall we do believe in what we do here helps pollination that helps biodiversity and we enact sustainable practises. Beekeeping is not something that has a low environmental impact but a very high one. It just happens to be in a good way!

Rainforest
What do we do to play our part?

Firstly, we are 100% Carbon Neutral. But not just in business we try to do this in our way of life too. We recycle everything we can that cannot be reused or given away (there are some good websites out there like Freecycle !) and we minimise all plastic usage whenever we can (sadly sometimes we have no choice).

Recyclable packaging

All of our products to the consumer is fully recyclable. The glass is, the lid is, the paper label and even the delivery box is made from cardboard fastened with paper craft tape. All secured by recyclable cardboard. No plastics, no bubble warp.

Reducing the use of natural resources

We also value the resources that we have available to us and try to lower our reliance on hydrocarbons for either fuel or in materials. We strive and ask for non-plastic materials, but not everyone can accommodate this. These hydrocarbons not only emit a lot of CO2, but even if that were not an issue it would take millions of years for it to be replenished. We try to get hold of materials that can be grown naturally (fairly quickly) without much processing if we cannot use recycled materials. Take wooden parts for our beehives, they come from trees that are between 40 and 70 years old. A long time maybe, but completely sustainable as they can grow again and time is short in a geological sense.

Recyclable packaging

To begin to contemplate that we must understand that biological life on earth is over 3.77 billion years old and could be 4.22 billion. Let’s just think about that for a moment. That number in full is 4,220,000,000 years. If we were to use 50p that are 1.78 mm thick pieces and put them on top of each other with each one representing a year, the height is equivalent would not just meet the international space station but go past it 18 and a half times! Its that big. If we go by this year of 2021 to the year 0, that amount of time would fit it 2,088,075 times, and look what happened in just 2,000 years in the UK (Romans, Dark ages, Normans, Renaissance, Industrialisation to modern contemporary technology). Even if we looked at our human achievements in the last 200 years we have come far. But living organisms are so much more complex and it has had millions, well billions of years to evolve. The lessons learned from genetic mutations with each thousand years contributing to different species are staggering and, let’s be honest, not fully understood. To go from single cell organisms to complex life is astounding. Imagine how all these living things have developed, together, and only by living side by side.

A massive change by human force

Humanity however is changing the face of the earth at a rapid scale. So rapid that we are unlikely to not even know about species that exist as they are going extinct, so we will never know about them. After all, once they are gone they are gone forever. Why is this important? By changing even a small sub species is likely to cause a massive affect on us, but we just don’t know about it yet. If we took all the bacteria out of the soil we would die. Why? The bacteria breaks nutrients down. But above that there are larger living creature that breaks larger parts down, like insects do and the pyramid grows. But likewise, without the nutrients being broken down no new plant life can grow. No new plant life no animals. We are so intrinsically linked.

Honeybee drinking
How does keeping bees help?

By keeping more bees we are stopping the decline of pollinators. We are making sure that bee numbers are increasing, to an amount that is completely sustainable as numbers have dropped so low even in the last 50 years. There is little we can do to help in terms of rearing and breeding solitary bees and other pollinators. But we can’t rear solitary bees without charitable aid. Sadly, many honey beekeepers do think of themselves as charities and love to persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash for little in return. Beekeepers are not charitable business’. To us charitable is to help others achieve goals not fund their own pockets purely (can you really adopt a honey bee or a hive? Try taking it away and find out what happens!) If you want to contribute to a good beekeeping charity, then do consider www.beesfordevelopment.org.

As beekeepers do not need charitable funding for doing their job, we can instead sell you a wonderful product for you to enjoy, something that is good for you, a plant based sugar and is produced in excess naturally by the bees (if we do our job right). So, to us at Cilgwenyn it is a no brainer in that keeping bees alive and well can only be of benefit to humanity. Einstein (a physicist not a botanist or biologist) even apparently noted the importance of bees on the survival of human life (but whether the quote is attributed to him is another question!)

Can bees really help against climate change?

The simple answer is yes. It’s not because honey ‘locks in CO2’ but because of their role as pollinators. If we did not pollinate plants, plants would not produce seeds. Without seeds blowing in the wind or carried (one way or another) then plant life would not spread naturally. Should plant life reduce the ability to lock carbon in plant life is therefore reduced. This is locked in by its leaves, in its stems, in its roots and is stored naturally in the earth. If we do not lock in this carbon, as many trees do, they will not store CO2 and therefore CO2 in our atmosphere would increase further speeding up climate change faster, far faster than what our evolving plants can do.

Cilmate emergency
What does it involve?

This means that we treat our Apis Mellifera bees with respect and dignity, which includes not deforming them intentionally in any way. Our bees have been bred so they are suitable for the conditions around them environmentally. We only use organic beeswax foundation in every colony to make sure they will not be contaminated through this avenue.

As beekeepers we have plans in place should pests and disease present themselves to limit bee health problems including keeping them in hygienic conditions. Veterinary medicines are minimised, and if required only using organically certified products (usually plant based) and treated immediately.

Enough stores are always left for the bees, honey and pollen to make sure they survive the winter. In the event that their very survival is challenged or endangered due to adverse or prolonged weather some feeding can take place using organic sugar only. But to date we have not fed our bees since 2016. Many beekeepers just take the lot and feed with sugar syrup to bring their stocks back prior to winter. We do not use sugar from sugar cane as larger plantations have been reported to be exploiting children to work within the industry from the age of 5, child slavery. We would rather not be part of this unethical world and purchase organic sugar from sugar beet which does produce a lot more CO2. However, we will mitigate all of these actions as set out in the 100% Carbon Neutral Welsh Honey.

Honeybees in the hive