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The New University
The New University

California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) hosted a #SaveTheBees Photo Booth last Tuesday and Thursday to help raise awareness of their Save the Bees campaign and garner support for their plan to get UCI certified “bee-friendly” by Bee City USA.

The seven steps to getting certified by Bee City USA include: establishing a committee and developing a habitat plan, hosting awareness events, sponsoring and tracking student service-learning projects to enhance pollinator habitats​, offering pollinator-focused courses and/or workshops​, posting signage to educate campus ​and broader community, maintaining a web presence to share Bee Campus USA news and activities and applying annually for renewal.

According to ​Rory Stewart, the CALPIRG campus organizer, making UCI bee-friendly will require developing a habitat plan that involves introducing more pollinator-friendly plants, banning the use of neonicotinoids (a class of pesticides that has been linked to being addictive to bees that is also a neurotoxin, like all pesticides), implementing a course at UCI that includes facts and information on pollinators and creating educational events around the issue.

Their campaign goal is to submit the application by the end of this school year and then move on to making Irvine bee-friendly next year.

CALPIRG doesn’t need the help of the administration to meet all of the requirements of the certification process, but support from the administration is something that would help. CALPIRG  is going to meet all the requirements on their own, but they are also contacting Chancellor Howard Gillman to urge him to help with the process.

“If folks are interested in posting these photos online right now, we are going to have them put the hashtag #SaveTheBees. We’re collecting all of them and we’re putting them into a collage that we’ll give to Chancellor Gillman on top of the paper petitions that we’re collecting,” Stewart said.

“We know this is something the school would support, so we just want to show that we have student support behind it, so there is a reason for them to do it.”

Many of the steps to achieve the certification on CALPIRG’s end are already underway.

“We are identifying folks to build a coalition to make the habitat plants, and we are going to write it up … and give that to the groundskeepers. We’re running educational events on our own. We’re going to get a professor to do a pollinary course. So, we are doing all the things on our own,” Stewart said.

The issue of bees dying at a rate of 30 to 40 percent each year has the attention of CALPIRG because bees pollinate about 70 percent of the food that we eat. The foods affected include everything from apples and broccoli, to coffee beans and chocolate. Bees also pollinate alfalfa, one of the main crops on which dairy cows feed, meaning that foods like milk, cheese and ice cream would also be at risk.

Although the recent decline in the bee population has been able to be regenerated, this may not alway be the case. The dramatic loss of bee population comes down to a few sources, one of which is the pesticides we use.

The problem CALPIRG is focused on concerns use of a certain type of pesticide called neonicotinoids (neonics). Neonics are neurotoxins that weaken the immune systems of bees, making them more susceptible to disease, and also disorient the bees meaning they can’t find their way back to their hives. Neonics acts just like nicotine in cigarettes — it can be addictive to bees. As a result, when bees are exposed, they go back and back again to plants that have been treated, which increases their exposure and speeds up the die-off.

The Save the Bees Campaign is just one of four campaigns that CALPIRG is currently working on. The other three campaigns center around getting UCI to use 100 percent renewable energy, defending Net Neutrality and promoting college affordability.

The 100 percent renewable energy campaign is working on getting UCI to make a commitment for 100 percent renewable energy of all energy sources by 2050 and promoting a state bill called SB100 that would commit California to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045. Support for this campaign is coming from students, faculty, ASUCI, the administration and student groups.

The Defend Net Neutrality campaign is focusing on a bill in the California legislature called SB460 that would cause all internet service providers to follow a set of regulations to keep the internet an open marketplace for consumers and businesses in order to sell in the state. The aim for this is to build support in Irvine Assembly member Harper’s district to urge him to follow his constituency and vote yes on this bill.

The College Affordability Campaign involves protecting $2.6 billion of Pell Grant funding so that lower-income students (7.5 million this year) can still afford to attend college. As this vote is pending, CALPIRG is now focusing on textbook affordability by promoting open resource textbooks as well as looking to stop the use of access codes in classes at UCI. Access codes hide course materials behind a paywall, causing some students to not be able to take certain classes or even fail classes due to the inability to afford to pay for extra course add-ons just to access course materials. This campaign is being implemented by getting faculty to sign on in support to not use access codes in their classes.

Related Chapter

CALPIRG at UC Irvine