Define for me sustainability and biodiversity!
12 June 2021
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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!