When you see a popular celebrity being surrounded by bees, it may startle you. But if you observe closely, you’ll realize that there’s a bigger picture behind it. It highlights the crucial relationship between humans and pollinating insects, which play a vital role in our food ecosystem.
Angelina Jolie took part in a National Geographic photo shoot in 2021 to raise awareness for World Bee Day and the pressing need to safeguard bees. The UNESCO-Guerlain program, which teaches women how to become beekeeper-entrepreneurs and conservationists of native bee habitats worldwide, is also involved in this effort. Photographer Dan Winters found inspiration in a renowned 1981 portrait by Richard Avedon of a bald California beekeeper whose bare chest was covered in bees. Jolie’s vision, on the other hand, was based on bees as a crucial component of our food supply that is endangered by parasites, pesticides, habitat degradation, and climate change – as well as a worldwide team of women who will be trained to protect these vital pollinators.
In an interview held in Los Angeles, a well-known actor, director, and humanitarian activist discussed the interdependency of a healthy environment, food security, and women’s empowerment. She also drew attention to the staggering number of bee species, with an estimated 20,000 worldwide, including 4,000 native to the United States. The activist emphasized that it is our responsibility to protect these crucial pollinators that sustain life on earth. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, three out of every four leading food crops depend on pollinators, and more than a third of agricultural land worldwide is reliant on them. It’s not just fruits, nuts, and vegetables; alfalfa consumed by cows and crops used for clothing and medicine are also pollinated by bees. The American Beekeeping Federation estimates that honeybees alone contribute $20 billion to the US crop production, while pollinators support over $200 billion worth of food production across the globe.
The last ten years have seen a drastic decrease in bee populations across numerous countries due to colony collapse disorder, which was initially detected in 2006. The culprits behind this phenomenon include large commercial monoculture, parasitic varroa mites, and pesticides, with neonicotinoids being a significant contributor. Furthermore, climate change has been detrimental to native bee species globally, with several of them currently listed as endangered in the United States alone. Tragically, bumblebees are at high risk of extinction during these tumultuous times.
Actress Jolie has been selected as the “godmother” for a new initiative called Women for Bees. Launched by UNESCO and Guerlain, the program aims to train and aid 50 women beekeeper-entrepreneurs in 25 UNESCO biosphere reserves across the globe over the next five years. A donation of $2 million from Guerlain will support the project. These women will work towards creating 2,500 beehives by 2025 while also protecting the environment.