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Image: © woodypino via Pixabay

Bad economies = good for bees?

The Economist says Cuba’s honey is so good because of its ‘agricultural backwardness’

What it means: Bees matter. Ninety percent of the food the world eats requires bee pollination to grow. So fewer bees means less to eat. Which is why lots of people are super concerned that bees seem to be dying off. The US, for example, has lost 60 percent of its hives since 1947.

But in Cuba, bees are doing just fine. The country gets 7,000 more beehives every year, each of which produces twice as much honey (52kg, if you’re curious) as the US average. They also make lots of moolah for the Cuban government, which buys each tonne of honey off its farmers for a fixed price of $600 and sells it abroad for $4,600, or $14,000 if it’s organic. (As Cuba is a communist country, beekeepers are not allowed to export the honey or set the price themselves).

The Economist says the reason Cuba’s bees are doing so well is that the Cuban economy is so rubbish. Out of 182 countries, Cuba ranks 95th in terms of GDP, which is a measure of how much stuff a country produces and is a widely used (but much criticised) measure of wealth. Cubans are too poor to buy much pesticide, which kills bees. And because they’re not allowed to make personal profits, they’re not as keen to turn lots of their land into farms, which destroys the wild flowers that bees need to live.

Whether or not you think Cuba would be a nice place to live, the fact that it has much healthier bees than richer countries shows that there can be unintended consequences from focusing too much on economic growth (producing more stuff) and forgetting to price up the cost of environmental damage.

This is why some people are keen on ecological economics, which tries to fix this bias by switching the idea of a success economy to one that focuses on sustainability (finding a way to use natural resources without damaging the environment or using them up).

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Reader Comments

  • RW

    Your right to a degree. You mentioned “the wandering Jew”.

    I elaborate that the Jewish people, historically have tended to migrate almost exclusively to locations that are economically and culturally vibrant already. I would speculate that Jews have thrived in these places and have often improved the bounds of their economies and knowledge base.

    You can also ask; how many massive entertainment conglomerates, Nobel winners or billionaires has Isreal developed? If Jews are so capable, why isn’t Tel Aviv the Rome of our time?

    Jews are successful because they value education, maintain a strong social cohesive, they actively monitor and have a good sense for Zeitgeist wherever they are and they carefully choose the places they settle and congregate themselves heavily in these choice locations.

    But most importantly (haulocaust increased the importance of this aspect), they actually designed their culture for success. They not only attend Harvard, they use what they learned to better the group as a whole. With as much, they studied intricate networking systems, adapted to it and in many cases improved upon them. (See how Japan acquired Aegis warships and made them better).

    Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s when you elaborately gain disproportionate power in any society where you would stand out, you must take care when attempting to make a society better (Civil Rights movement) and rewriting that society all together (mass immigration). Ask blacks in China, Mexico, Philippines or India how much opportunity they have? Go to businesses owned by their American diaspora and see how many blacks they hire. Go to Silicon Valley and see how many East or South Asian tech workers wish they could work with more black people. California might work as a state, but as a nation, I think your rolling the nuclear dice here. I hope we can succeed as a tolerant pluralistic superpower but at this stage in human societal development, it’s a pipe dream.

    And if Jews really are the icon for success, they would see that fundamental human successes happen over generations. Just look at the rest of the planet? Are we ready?