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magazine / dec08

December 2008 issue


FEATURE - BUMBLEBEES


Plight of the bumblebee
As the die-off of pollinators threatens our food supply, one scientist has found a solution down in the dump
By Candace Savage

It’s a pleasant afternoon in July, and a group of us — a city councillor, a landscape architect and a handful of university types — are scuffing up a dirt track in a decommissioned municipal landfill on the outskirts of Guelph, Ont. Under our feet lies a four-decade accumulation of household trash capped with soil and clay to create a rising landscape of small hills and gentle valleys. Were it not for the frequent intrusion of leachate-monitoring stations and methane-gas wells, tightly enclosed by fences and locks, we might forget that we are walking over a midden of spent and wasted things, a graveyard for years of gotta-have-it dreams.


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Yet the members of the hiking party are lighthearted, inspired not by what this place is but by what it could become. In their eyes, this wasteland is crying out to be transformed into flower-rich habitat for bees, butterflies, beetles and other flower-friendly bugs. Already, they can envision a sign at the entrance welcoming visitors to “Pollinator Park,” the world’s first sanctuary for the insects that feed us.

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