Saving The Bees Or Saving My Rent?

In the last decade or so, there has been a massive increase in the number of campaigns and protests and such, by varied groups of people towards making our world a better place. I have great respect for people who live their lives completely or in bits for the restoration of human dignity, or compassion for animals. This brings to mind the people who work in the field in the communities and countries that require these interventions. It also brings to mind the people you find on streets in the city centres in different European countries; they wear brightly coloured raincoats and hold clipboards ready to stop you and talk to you about how you need to sign up to end game hunting in Zimbabwe, end the war in Iraq, to bring clean water to children in Lebanon, or to feed pregnant mothers and their children in Sudan.

All these causes are meaningful and contribute in no small measure to the many humanitarian interventions that are improving the lives of ordinary men and women. I know that these causes are important, because I have worked in international development; I saw how these contributions helped women make the choice between small creativity driven businesses, and commercial sex work. I also saw how the distribution of free condoms reduced the incidence of HIV infection. I saw how the funds collected by a small group of women in a small town church in North America contributed to the purchase of anti-shock garment that saved lives of pregnant women during prolonged and difficult labour.

However, that is not to say that there aren’t some disadvantages to this consistent request for funds from people. I have spoken to people who think it is all a huge racket to take advantage of people and pay big fat wages to development professionals, or to enrich individuals with no scruples who misappropriate these funds for personal gains; cars, houses, fancy holidays. I shall try to do a post on these types of issues soon enough. Someone also said to me that he was 33, and from when he was 10 years old, he saw the adverts on TV calling for aid to support African children. He was distraught that after 23 years, African children were still starving. I said to him that it continued to happen because those children who were barely able to feed have gone on to become struggling adults with their own children, and it is a vicious cycle; not entirely their fault, governments continue to be irresponsible and climate change is throwing us new challenges that make food production increasingly difficult on the planet. Very complicated.

Anyway, yesterday I was in the town centre and a really good looking man in a shiny yellow rain coat with the usual clipboard came over to me. I knew he was a campaigner looking for my money. I did not feel like stopping but what can I say? He was good looking and flashed me a smile that stopped me in my tracks. I asked him what he was campaigning for/about.


“Save the bees”, he said.

What? I thought it was a joke, I chuckled a little bit. But then I realised he was serious. He went on to tell me about how bees in the UK were going extinct. Bees are important and we need them for cross-pollination of crops. It was going to cost the UK over a billion pounds in the near future to conduct artificial pollination if nothing was done about saving the bees. Now at this point, I was struggling between keeping a straight face, and imagining homelessness and hunger in the UK and Ethiopia respectively. All these social issues are real and important, including bees. But the question is; what is more important, and to who, or at what point?

“We ask you to save the bees by giving five pounds by TEXt to …. right now and we shall give you a bee saver kit”.

He flashed that smile again, he was a really good looking kid. I think that these charities have found other styles too; hire only the hot ones with perfect straight teeth. I was distracted o. But man, I thought about it again, I have people in my distant extended family who are struggling to pay rent and school fees of their offspring, there are people who are so sick in Naija and are praying and drinking agbo because they cannot afford to go to hospital, hell I am struggling to pay my rent here as a student and buy books! I decided that I had no interest in saving the bees. The bees are not priority for me at this time, and I guess for many people. I shall eat bananas and the crops that bees do not need to pollinate, should I be unable to make saving bees a priority in the near future.

“No thanks, I shall not be saving the bees today”, I said and walked on, calculating how much more I needed to save to pay my fast approaching rent and buy that used book on Amazon.


  1. moi

    Chuggers… Charity Muggers. That is what we call those people, prancing around the street, trying to catch your attention so they can talk to you about whatever cause. I understand why they do it, but it annoys me. If I want to donate then I’d donate, I rarely talk to them, if I did I’d have 10s and 10s of direct debits all for £3 a month or whatever they are asking for these days.

    I understand the guy’s feelings about starving kids etc, I’ve known nothing else in my lifetime too, always money needed, money sent etc and yet no light at the end of that tunnel seemingly I am sure that the money that is donated does good, but you have a much deeper understand of this area having worked in it and seen the good and I guess the bad that comes from it.

    Perhaps most aid does get through, some is caught up in corruption etc but that is going to happen everywhere, whilst it maybe blinkered thinking I believe that we should sort out our own issues in our own country before donating money to a pot that we never know the end result of.

    It is like I don’t understand the thinking around the UK building 2 aircraft carriers at 5 billion + (that we don’t really need as we are not a global power any more) and yet all the government speak of are austerity cuts.

    I am sure most of the causes are worthy ones but when you really think about it, local, worldwide issues that have been there for years and years and years, it just seems like one very large mess.

    1. Anne Chia

      Chuggers hahaha never heard that before. Aid does some good work, but there’s always a con to most things. I had no idea that the UK was building 5 billion worth of aircraft carriers; really? Why would it need something that expensive? I would imagine that those funds could be channeled towards something immediately beneficial; like revamping the NHS (which I have heard people moan about since I arrived). In terms of sorting out your oen first before aid to other countries, well in the big scale of things, countries with a better GDP have the responsibility to support struggling otherwise what you have is a repercussion that affects everyone. That is the curse of globalization isn’t it? But the aid also is part of foreign policy of most developed countries; it is the carrot often dangled to get access to the developing countries business environment and such.

      1. moi

        Yeah 2 aircraft carriers, 6.2billion for both. then also upgrading. Then also about 20 billion updating trident, A nuclear deterrent that is well pointless in today’s world I think.

        I get the things about better off countries helping out not so better off countries but there has to be a better way of doing things, surely it would be cheaper and easier for the UK (in terms of their donations) to have several teams that go in, set up infrastructure, buildings, crops and train the people how to sustain themselves rather than pouring money into essentially a money pit.

      2. Anne Chia

        I see what you mean. Although people moving in to set up infrastructure and train people is really not sustainable; besides seeming like colonisation, these are sovereign nations and moving in may not be an option. Also, it is no longer a problem of infrastructure or building really, those exist (albeit imperfect), it is more of a systems strengthening, accountability, reforms and capacity building matter. Usually there are ongoing technical assistance programs as well as British sub-contractor companies who hire people locally for ongoing programs in public health, economic development, secure livelihoods, education, etc. But again there are loads of British people living in diaspora supporting humanitarian and development efforts, it is not something that will be sorted out overnight and each donor has to comply with international standards.

  2. Carrie Rubin

    I’ve heard about the bee plight, too, and like you, I find it difficult to feel passionate about. On the other hand, I suppose it’s good there are people championing the cause. Otherwise it would be overlooked, and I suspect there is merit in their concerns. But there are so many other issues to get worked up over, particularly those directly involving human suffering.

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