For a short introduction to the evolution of flowering plants, read this little primer on Science Daily. The side articles are also fascinating, and include topics like how pollinators and flowers co-evolved, how insects are good for crops, and other related things. And here’s a cool article in the New York Times from 2009 about Darwin’s understanding of flowers.
As the author of the second article points out, modern humans get the majority of their calories from flowers. Corn, rice, wheat, and other staples are the products of flowering plants, and our population would collapse without them. Thus we owe flowers a great debt of gratitude, even though a smaller human population is both inevitable and, for me, desirable.
A quote often falsely attributed to Albert Einstein states that if bees were to disappear from the face of the earth, humans would be soon to join them. The logic of such a statement should be easy to follow; no bees means no flowers, and no flowers means much less available food, especially considering the fact that we’ve poisoned or outright destroyed most of our other food sources and their habitats.
So as bees are dying en masse due to a “mystery illness,” we might want to ask ourselves what our options are, if we have any.
I for one do think we have options, some of them not even that radical. We could, for example, educate kids about sex, provide free contraception, and choose as a community to limit ourselves to one child per couple, i.e. halving our population gradually. This would not only curb our need for so much food to be produced, but would shrink our overall encroachment on the habitats of pollinators (bats are also dying in large numbers due to a “mystery illness,” hmm…).
To those shouting “This will never happen!”, ask yourself why not. And to those screaming “Get real!”, ask yourself what could be more real than bees and flowers.
Another simple option is to plant flowers. This one was in my garden last summer. While committing the deadliest sin in writing, I will attest that when you see flowers, it’s usually a good idea to stop and smell them.