The Pollinator Pathway

LOCATION: Seattle, Washington, USA

SUMMARY: The model by which humanity has designed the ecosystems of the planet has produced global-scale domestication, fragmentation, and extinctions. The Pollinator Pathway imagines and develops a new ecological relationship for the Anthropocene, one where humanity generates a system of connected ecological design for the planet, offsetting domesticated systems.

PROBLEM SPACE: “I want to tell you about a design problem. To do so I’ll begin with the honeybee. When most people think of bees, they think of the honeybee. Few know that in North America, the honeybee isn’t a native speciesäóîor that the honeybee is just one of 20,000 species of bees in the world. There are many other pollinators such as bats, moths, and butterflies which, as the sex life of plants, essentially hold up planetary ecosystems.

Historically humans used honeybees for honey and wax. In recent years, something changed, and it has everything to do with design. We began using honeybees for pollination services to farms. The reason? Monoculture has no biodiversity; therefore it blooms all at once, then dies all at once (which means food, then as suddenly no food, to a pollinator). In a landscape absent of biodiversity, there are few pollinators to perform the pollination to plants that provides us with seed and fruit. This led to the development of an industry that bypasses this problem of missing ecology and provides pollination services at crop bloom times honeybees, which are trucked to location, brought in to pollinate, then removed again.”

SOLUTION: “In 2006, Colony Collapse Disorder caused mass die-offs to honeybees around the globe. This was concerning, for obvious reasonsäóîbut what this tells us is important: that monocultureäóîand dependence on one species for our foodäóîis a vulnerable system. Why weäó»ve needed to use the honeybee at all as a pollinator is even more important: it’s an example of what it looks like if we design out biodiversityäóîresulting in reliance on one species. Monoculture may be described as an endpoint of a larger global trend; the transformation of landscape from wild and biologically diverse to agrarian and urban dotted by fragmented green spaces, and with it, a globalized, uniform ecology. As a major ecosystem, humanity is designing domestication across the planet.

Adding biodiversity to the farmäóîvia rows of plants that might provide more biodiversity to the crop, is a step toward easing dependence on honeybees. But doing so does something moreäóîit curates a new ecosystem of semi-biodiverse landscapes, that will only ever be so biodiverse as what is necessary to make the farm functionäóîthus not creating a long-term solution.

This is where the Pollinator Pathway comes in: it’s a plan for a counter-landscape of connected ecology designed to offset the globalized domestication of landscape. It works to connect landscape (each project connects two or more fragmented green spaces) to standards of ecology and design. Rather than only add biodiversity to farms, the Pollinator Pathway is designed to connect the globe’s ecology, providing an insurance plan against honeybee collapse, and effectively expanding the entire notion of the ecosystem service to include the whole health of the ecosystem. Cities are unique participants in the project, contributing by using only underused space to connect landscape, or utilizing development dollars to connect landscapes outside cities, thus developing more sophisticated ecological exchange between cities and outlying areas.”

CONTACT: [email protected]