Environmental Quality / 2013
PesticideFree Los Angeles 2050
Since 2006, more than one-third of honey bee colonies have collapsed worldwide—a global phenomenon now called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. There is no one smoking gun causing CCD; in fact, scientists now widely agree that it is a combination of factors. The best science tells us that if present trends continue there will be no more bees by 2035. That is, if we fail to act—if we fail to recognize this disaster in the making and don't take strong action to counter the slow march to extinction.
At HoneyLove we have made it our mission to inspire and educate urban beekeepers as a means of conserving this critical species. Whereas bees used for pollination in the migratory beekeeping industry are suffering from colony collapse disorder, bees living in urban environments—especially Los Angeles—have been spared this fate. Why? Because the reasons contributing to the decline of the honey bee are absent (or significantly reduced) in the city environment. Urban bees can find more than enough forage in our gardens, landscaping, and weedy areas to feed themselves throughout the seasons (commercial bees are fed an artificial diet of sugar water, confectionery sugar and high fructose corn syrup). Because there is plentiful forage, urban bees are spared the stress which has contributed to the species' vulnerability. And since the vast majority of the forage in the city is pesticide-free—because most homeowners aren't dumping industrial-strength chemicals on their yards—bees have one less critical enemy to contend with. While the city represents the bees' best shot at surviving and thriving, at HoneyLove still have a lot of work to do to ensure they will have a healthy ecosystem in the future.
In spite of being relatively pesticide-free compared to big agriculture, Los Angeles still uses an alarming amount of consumer-level pesticides that pollute our soil and waterways and affect our already poor air quality. Consumer products are often harmful to pollinators like the honey bee and yet they do not have to be labeled as such. HoneyLove's vision for 2050 is of a pesticide-free Los Angeles, achieved through grass-roots campaigning and led by beekeepers in each of LA's 95 communities. We believe that by creating educated urban beekeepers we're also creating stakeholders in our communities who can represent our concerns about pesticides. It is our belief that by training and educating beekeepers as ambassadors of the pesticide-free Los Angeles message, we can begin to tackle this enormous problem one household at a time, one lawn at a time, one school at a time, until we've built a critical mass which will simply not accept the use of chemicals in our backyards, parks, and public spaces. Taking pesticides out of the equation will have unquestionable benefits for our environment; soil will be free of chemical contaminants, run-off after storms will lack the poisonous punch it once had, and citizens will breathe freely knowing they won't be inhaling carcinogenic toxins. The only indicator a pesticide-free LA in 2050 doesn't touch on is proximity to parks and access to free space, but it does ensure that those places will be cleaner, healthier environments for people to enjoy. Our parks can become shining examples of pesticide-free, natural environments and serve as the inspiration for citizens to think differently about the products they use at home and in their gardens.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Since being founded in April 2011, HoneyLove has been leading the grassroots effort to legalize urban beekeeping in Los Angeles, beginning with an extensive feasibility study and outreach campaign in Mar Vista. From there we gained the additional support of 10 Neighborhood Councils throughout Los Angeles: Del Rey, Greater Griffith Park, South Robertson, Silver Lake, Hollywood United, Atwater Village, West LA, Boyle Heights, Lake Balboa, and Chatsworth. Our thorough campaign work resulted in Councilman Bill Rosendahl putting our motion before the Los Angeles City Council where it is currently being studied by the Planning and Land Use Committee. And while we can’t say that we have achieved full legalization yet, in creating the community model and approaching it from a grassroots level we’ve created momentum which cannot be stopped.
Our most important achievements are not measured in legislative changes but in the number of people we reach, teach, and impact. In that respect we have been enormously successful. In a short time we’ve connected with people all over the world through monthly workshops, mentoring sessions, honey bee rescues, education outreach, neighborhood council involvement and social media connections. Our proudest single achievement is creating a global community of conscientious, active urban beekeepers who now share HoneyLove’s mission with an ever-growing audience. In 2050, we hope to look back on our work and be proud to say that we helped lead the change toward a pesticide-free Los Angeles.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
HoneyLove’s success can be attributed to our eagerness to partner with other local orgs and community groups. In addition to working with other beekeeping clubs, we’ll collaborate with groups like Surf Rider’s Ocean Friendly Gardens, Tree People, and LA Green Grounds. In order to bring LA up to speed with other great cities around the world, we will build on the work of Capital Bee, Pesticide Action Network, Beyond Pesticides, Pollinator Partnership, Xerces Society, and more. We intend to work at the community level so we’ll actively seek partnership with each of LA’s 95 community councils. Our strategy is to create advocates (beekeepers) in each community so our true partners are the individuals advancing the cause on a hyper-local level.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
As we’ve learned through our legalization efforts, you can’t just take on all of Los Angeles all at once; it works much better if you build your case community by community. Since the first step of our Pesticide-Free Los Angeles campaign is to target the use of pesticides on city and county property, we’ll start by approaching community councils to gain support for our motion to suspend city-sponsored pesticide applications in parks, medians, and other public properties. The metrics for success are fairly straightforward: we can gauge progress by the number of councils reached and where our motion stands in the Los Angeles City Council legislative agenda.
Another benchmark we’ll strive for is the creation and training of beekeeper ambassadors in each of Los Angeles’ communities. We will evaluate our success on the basis of having a representative in each community who can persuasively make the case why Los Angeles must rid itself of pesticides.
The third piece of our campaign is to create an educational curriculum about pesticides we can share through our school outreach, workshops, and marketing materials. These opportunities will provide the feedback we’ll need to constantly evaluate the efficacy of our materials. It will require us to continuously refine our approach, and tailor it to the various audiences and demographics.
The effects of our project—cleaner soil, air, and water—will be very difficult to measure, but the progress toward freeing Los Angeles of pesticides will be evaluated by asking ourselves the simple question, “do people still use pesticides?” If the answer is anything but “no,” we haven’t yet reached our goal.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
The conventional wisdom is that Los Angeles is polluted, smoggy and utterly beyond repair. Residents who don’t know anything else succumb to apathy and do little to invest in the quality of their local environment. Beyond helping to create a healthier ecosystem (air, water and soil quality), we believe that Pesticide-Free Los Angeles will elicit an enduring investment in the local environment from a significant and meaningful number of the city’s denizens. People are always shocked—then pleasantly surprised—to learn that the city is the last, best hope for the survival of the honey bee. A HoneyLove project will educate, enlighten and inspire the hearts and minds of current and future residents of Los Angeles and as a result will garner the magnitude of investment we need to reduce pollutants and restore the health of our communities. Our project’s most tangible offering to the Los Angeles community will be a mobile app that allows users to track the use of pesticides in public spaces, and receive a score card for how their local park, green space, or high school sports field is performing.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
The year is 2050 and Los Angeles has fundamentally, beautifully transformed; has successfully reinvented herself like so many Hollywood starlets throughout our city’s history. Bursting with rooftop gardens downtown, raised beds that feed entire families and sustainable suburbs alive with native plants, there is not a useless grass lawn in sight. Los Angeles has morphed from the consumer/commuter culture of yesteryear into a hyper-local, walkable, sustainable, responsible city with a healthy future. Not only has Los Angeles undergone a physical transformation from a concrete jungle to a local-food-producing haven, it has also taken on a new cultural personality. Shedding their former consumer identities, Angelenos now think of themselves as producers capable of growing their own food and providing for themselves. Residents of Los Angeles have become fiercely protective of their local environment and are proud of the fact their city was the first to be 100% pesticide-free. Honey bees and beekeepers have become symbols of this newfound identity, representing the catalyst that was needed to forge the new Los Angeles. Our city will have become the gold standard for living alongside honey bees and we will be globally renowned for our bountiful honey harvests. And rather than being cast as killers and pests, honey bees will be returned to their rightful role at the very center of our existence.