The California Public Interest Research Group, or CALPIRG, a statewide student-run nonprofit aimed at promoting civic engagement through activism, commemorated UC Berkeley becoming the 80th Bee Campus USA affiliate Thursday.
As of Sept. 3, UC Berkeley became one among five other California campuses certified with Bee Campus USA, and must renew this designation yearly. Through the Xerces Society, a nonprofit environmental organization, “bee campuses” raise awareness of the role pollinators hold in communities and how communities can sustain healthy habitats for pollinators.
Leading the event for CALPIRG was sophomore Taylor Rein, events and visibility coordinator for Save the Bees.
“UC Berkeley is a long-standing advocate for environmental protections — it’s been at the forefront of some of the biggest movements in our nation,” Rein said. “Right now, we’re supporting a pollinator conservation movement.”
An estimated 1,200 to 1,500 native bee species reside in California, according to the Xerces Society. Bees are fundamental to food supplies, as they pollinate 70 percent of the world’s crops and provide $20 billion in yearly U.S. revenue, according to a Save the Bees press release. A mass extinction of about 30 to 40 percent of bee colonies die off each winter. The reasons for mass extinction among bee colonies, according to the release, include loss of habitat, urbanizing landscapes and the use of chemical pesticides.
Event speakers discussed how the campus is still in the long-term process of making UC Berkeley an “ecologically-rich” landscape through efforts where native species can thrive in their native habitats.
Faculty sponsor for the Save the Bees campaign and campus environmental science, policy and management professor Niel Tsutsui works closely with ants and bees in his research. To him, these organisms are “the tiny things that run the world.”
“We all recognize that we live in dark times for people that are interested in preserving the environment and who are interested in environmental action,” Tsutsui said at the event. “This certification that we are here for today is a beacon of hope in that darkness.”
Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison also spoke at the event about city plans to reconstruct road medians with low-maintenance pollinator plants in order to beautify neighborhoods and encourage pollinator populations.
Tim Pine, a campus environmental protection specialist, is a long-time staff adviser for the Strawberry Creek Restoration Program, which first began in 1987. Part of his job includes removing invasive areas of monoculture plant life on campus — such as ivy or periwinkle — that prevent ecological biodiversity and reinstating native plant palettes to support native food webs.
“The more intact and natural your surroundings are, the more peace can come and the more we can learn about the value of landscapes not only for their economic value — but for the resilience of biodiverse landscapes,” Pine said.
Theron Klos, operations manager for landscape services on campus, has been working for over a decade to transform campus landscapes into bee-friendly habitats that also bolster native plant species. At the event, Klos discussed UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan to further transform campus into a bee-friendly environment.
Moving forward, CALPIRG intends to extend the bee-friendly initiative to the city of Berkeley and Alameda County.
“It’s a new day — congratulations number 80,” Klos said.