The Birds and the Bees: Urban Youth Corps is Building a Pollinator Habitat
Unlike most people, I was never told the story of “the birds and the bees” during my childhood. You know, “the talk”. From television to movies, and even music, this running joke always seemed to elude me, and while I could understood the general gist, I was always curious about the details of the story. So if you are like me, and you feel like you missed out, here goes:
Birds and bees are pollinators – this means that they are an animal that causes plants to make fruit or seeds. They do this by moving pollen from one part of the flower of a plant to another part, and this pollen then fertilizes the plant. The relationship between plants and pollinators is magical, really. And I think you get the idea.
So what does this have to do with GYF, besides the fact that apparently this is how all of us got here? Well, pollinators are in big trouble. Newsweek recently published an article detailing a report sponsored by the United Nations that draws on the research findings of about 3,000 scientific papers. In this report, the UN finds that 40 percent of invertebrate pollinator species—such as bees and butterflies, not birds and bats—are facing extinction. In addition, 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators, including a number of species of bats and birds, are also threatened with extinction.
What does this mean for the environment? It means that one third of our food supply that relies on pollinators would be at risk. It also means fewer Monarch butterflies, less honey, and overall diminished biodiversity.
As an organization that creates environmental stewards, we have taken the initiative to do our part in creating a vibrant pollinator habitat right here in Atlanta. The Agriculture and Conservation Entrepreneurship (ACE) program, a project of Greening Youth Foundation’s Urban Youth Corps, has partnered with Atlanta Botanical Garden to learn about milkweed and other native pollinator plants, and to gain the skills to build a pollinator space at the Urban Conservation Training Institute. It will be a home for Monarchs and will provide a sanctuary for a variety of pollinators, the first of its kind built and maintained by youth in the city of Atlanta.
In the last few weeks, we have visited their nursery in Gainesville, Georgia and their Atlanta garden, and got a behind the scenes look at how they care for and propagate the plants. We also visited the Chattahoochee Nature Center where our crew members learned all about taking a systems approach to milkweed distribution. It has truly been an excellent learning experience and has offered each of us a new appreciation for the work of pollinators in creating a healthy ecosystem. It also confirmed the need for youth to be engaged in learning about how they can be a part of changing the world around them for the better.
So back to the birds and the bees. It is a clever story, for sure. And now that I know what it means, and pollinators’ importance to our everyday life, it is a story that I plan on telling to every youth who comes through the Urban Conservation Training Institute. Probably not the way your mother told you. Who knows, perhaps like me, they haven’t heard it. But if we are to empower youth to be at the forefront of environmental stewardship, then, “the talk” is a great place to start.
– Whitney C. Jaye