(Yes, OK, that headline was just too bad a pun, even for this blog.) Bees are getting wiped out, in America and Europe. British bee-keepers lobbied Parliament on Wednesday. Beekeepers have asked for £8 million 5 year research programme. This is a pretty modest sum by government spending standards but the Environment Department (DEFRA) says it couldn’t possibly afford it.
American bees are apparently dropping like flies….. This is blamed on Colony Collapse Disorder, which is basically another way of saying that a whole colony dies and no one knows why. It has also happened in the European mainland, but not yet in the UK, according to DEFRA, although some British beekeepers think that they are experiencing it.
In case bees seem like an irrelevant luxury, especially if you don’t eat honey, the Independent pointed out that:
Without the presence of bees, much of agriculture would be impossible, and this is a sobering thought right now, as feeding the world is suddenly becoming more difficult because of rising demand and the transfer of much crop production into biofuels, especially in the US.
DEFRA’s response is to devise a strategy which involves setting up some sort of “Dad’s Army” for Bees – volunteers looking out for diseases- and – you may have guessed it, on current government form – setting up a database. (Is there a database administrator anywhere who could volunteer to explain to the UK government exactly what databases can and cannot do? )
It looks as if no one knows why bees are dying off, There are any number of possible explanations, some of which – blaming the use of mobile phones – strike me as ludicrous. (Although I have to admit that banning mobiles to save world food production would have two upsides.)
Finding out would seem to be a matter of some urgency, you would think. But apparently not worth £8 million, in contrast to the sums spent on other government projects, for instance:
…. the Identity and Passport Service has carried out nearly 90,000 interviews with first-time adult applicants at its new, multi-million pound network of centres.
The centres cost £50m to set up and £30m a year to run. (from the BBC)
So far 90,000 people have been interviewed and none have been knocked back. That’s £80 million spent on illiberal stupidity that has actually done nothing except make last year’s passport provision incredibly more costly. (Oh, and set up even more “joined-up government” databases, of course. )
Why is it always so easy to find government money for vanity projects or extending the apparatus of repression, but seemingly impossible to find any money to protect the environment?