Beyond Toxics’ idea to ask local governments to ban neonicotinoids started in Eugene with our proposal to the City Council. You remember…Eugene became “America’s Most Bee Friendly City!” in the early part of last year. Then the idea spread to Seattle, Spokane and Sacramento, as well as towns in Alaska, Minnesota and other states.
And today, the big news is that the Portland, Oregon has made good on their promise to Protect Portland’s Pollinators! The city’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to ban neonics immediately on all city-owned property. What’s more, they will no longer purchase plants that have been doused with this toxicant. The City’s commitment is a move that creates strong market incentive for plant suppliers to use organic pest management methods. That directive is especially important because these long-lived insecticides can persist in the tissues of plants for years! Bees visiting the flowers of a tree or plant that was once sprayed can be harmed long after the original application.
But it is not just about cute creatures like butterflies and bumble bees, ‘though we love them dearly! At the most fundamental level, neonics destroy the very web of life. They accumulate in water and soil, killing the small things – water bugs, caddis flies, worms– that form the first link of the food chain. Without such critters, there is nothing for the birds and bats, the salmon and trout, to eat. The use of neonics harms the near-invisible and helpful soil bugs that create ecosystem balance. We need these bugs to give life to the soils and to fend off infestations that are more likely to occur when the environment is stressed or out of balance.
In the spring and summer of 2013 and 2014, Oregonians became unfortunately familiar with the term neonicotinoids, a poison that caused hundreds of thousands of bumble bees to tumble out of the sky to a spasmodic, nerve-paralyzing death. Their tragedy spurred Beyond Toxics and others to tackle the root cause of the problem: the heavy-handed marketing of a new class of systemic, long-lived nerve poisons.
Happily, tomorrow, the second day of April, the earth will sing a sweet song celebrating life in gratitude for the precautionary action taken in Portland. We can all join in that song by giving respect to the interconnectedness of all living things, and doing all that we can to avoid life-killing chemicals.
Thank you to Commissioner Amanda Fritz and her chief of staff, Tom Bizeau, for their vision and their hard work to Protect Portland’s Pollinators!
Lisa Arkin, Executive Director