This week’s photo challenge from WordPress is to “show us change in progress.” Sad to say, these cheerful photos of bumblebees sipping nectar reflect profound change . . . climate change.
You see, scientists say that bumblebees are abandoning their southern habitats due to the warming climate, but they are not expanding their northern range. In other words, they could be squeezed out of existence.
And when bees are in trouble, the crops and wild plants that depend on them for pollination also suffer. And who is at the top of that food chain? Yeah, the species that builds coal plants and fracks for oil.
“We play with these things at our peril,” says bee ecology expert Jeremy Kerr of the University of Ottawa. “The human enterprise is the top floor in a really big scaffold. What we’re doing is reaching out and knocking out the supports.”
Kerr says that the shrinking bumblebee habitat is clearly related to climate change, and he’s amazed at how fast it’s happening. In the past forty years, some bees have retreated more than 185 miles from their southern homes. They’re also escaping to higher alpine altitudes — but all is not well in the mountains, either.
Another study shows that the deep, tubular flowers that alpine bumblebees prefer aren’t surviving the warming temps — up 3.6 degrees fahrenheit since the 1960s — so the bees now have to rely on more general foraging. Amazingly, in just forty years, the tongues of bees have shrunk 24%, which enables them to drink from different flowers. The pace of this change is “dramatic,” reports study author Professor Candace Galen in the journal Science.
“The finding of rapid adaptation is a glimmer of hope for bumblebees, whose populations worldwide are declining,” Professor Galen says.
And we can sure use the hope.
I’m hoping there is another type of change in progress, too, brought on by the straight climate talk from Pope Francis last week. It’s the old-fashioned concept of repentance, defined as “to feel such regret for past conduct as to change one’s mind regarding it.” The word is derived from the Latin “to think again” or to “re-think.” In ancient Greek, it’s translated as “to turn around.” All of this would be appropriate for humankind when it comes to our environment.
Greed, denial, and creaturely comforts are tough to turn away from, but I think the Creator of the Bumblebees is up to the challenge, and so I pray: Great Lover of the Bumblebees, please change our hearts and minds and make us instruments of peace instead of purveyors of destruction. Amen.