'What's described as ‘carbon tunnel vision’ has clearly taken a hold, keeping us busy with national targets and tick-box actions, and making us believe that carbon credit trading and green-washing are going to save us from a looming catastrophe'

I’ve always loved bees – not just because of their undeniably great appearance, but because of their importance to our wider natural ecosystems and food production.

I have grown to become even more fond of them in recent years because they are having such a hard time surviving nowadays, with entire bee colonies collapsing all over the place.

Did you know that the global collapse in the bee population is leaving vast areas of arable and horticulture land so desperately unpollinated that people in Southern China and elsewhere find themselves having to manually pollinate their crops?

Did you know that because of the shortage of bees in South America, a system called ‘migratory beekeeping’ was introduced which involves bees getting shuttled around on the back of trucks from plantation to plantation, released to pollinate, shut up, and carted to the next place?

This one is quite interesting since it means that technically, Avocado and Co are not strictly ‘vegan’ because their production relies on arguably unsustainable factory beekeeping, with questionable animal welfare standards thrown in.

Anyway, a few years ago I decided to join the local beekeepers' association to learn more about it and get my own bees. The idea was not to make money from selling honey, but to have bees simply because I enjoy them and want to see them thrive.

Because Mull is one of the last places in the UK that is not affected by the nasty varroa mite, I was happy to wait until a local colony would become available so that I would not risk bringing varroa into the area.

It took almost three years of sitting on a waiting list before finally last July I got the long awaited e-mail that a starter colony of hairy hardy little black bees, headed by a very attractive queen was available.

So I duly ordered all the equipment – a hive, protective gear etc, and the collection day arrived. Unfortunately, my protective gear had not. To cut a long story short, I managed to move my new crew from their transport box into their new home but my face looked like a zombie tomato by the time I was finished.

Despite an interesting start, we’ve been getting on well together. I left them all their honey as it was only their first season and I’ve been spending a lot of time watching them. They are even more amazing than I ever imagined.

Did you know that all worker bees are females and the sole purpose of the male bees, the drones, is to mate with the queen and then that’s it? They don’t look after the baby bees, they don’t go collecting food.

Somebody told me that apparently they just sit around in the hive, eat and grow fat. You will be chuckling right now and wondering where I’m going with this – and it isn’t where you think!

Because, come autumn or early winter time, when food sources are depleting, something exceptionally brutal happens. The worker bees start to kick the drones out of the hive and leave them to starve or freeze. They use brute force where needed and will chew off wings and legs of drones persistently trying to get back in.

It’s a silent massacre initiated by a greater entity working towards the ‘greater good’. The survival of the whole justifies the death of the individual once they have fulfilled their purpose.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that the colony disregards the contribution of the individual, or view it as being of lesser value.

The drones are just as important to the survival of the colony as the worker bees and the queen bee, but once their cycle has been completed, they have to be sacrificed so that there can be a future generation. The colony as a whole is more important than its individual members.

As Allan Savory, arguably the father of the modern concept of holism, would say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And nature and every species forming part of the natural environment, including humans, functions in wholes and patterns.

There is a tendency amongst many of us to focus on the detail instead of the whole. That makes it very difficult for us to see the bigger picture and this silo-thinking can sometimes get us into the mindset that we can resolve a bigger issue simply by dealing with the detail.

We think of nature like a machine where you can simply upgrade or replace a cog to make the system work better.

But that is not possible in nature because one part is not independent from the whole and the relationships between the two are often far too complex for us to understand the potential unintended consequences from our actions.

The current political call to arms to halt climate change is a fabulous example of the shortfall of our imagination and comprehension of what is around us.

What some describe as ‘carbon tunnel vision’ has clearly taken a hold of us, keeping us busy with our national targets and tick-box actions and making us believe that carbon credit trading and green-washing are going to save us from a looming catastrophe we are yet to fully understand.

But it’s fine, because as long as we can tick the boxes and allow companies and investors to buy carbon credits so they can claim to have net zero emissions without having to change their practices, we’ll be fine.

It is sad to think that our species as a whole has lost its loyalty to generations yet to come. We are willing to ignore issues for as long as we can and when we finally have to address them, we try to ‘solve’ them by capitalising them.

Meanwhile, we blame previous generations who did not know, but won’t acknowledge the severity of our own inaction despite knowing, because the status quo has been good to many of us. Why rock the boat of comfortable living?

Overcoming the environmental challenges we face will require us to take a step back and realise that carbon credits and zombie forests won’t save us.

Like the drones and the worker bees and the queen who work hard to give the next generation the best chance of surviving, we all have our parts to play whether we like it or not. Only when the parts play their part will the whole succeed and endure.

We have a lot to learn from bees.