Att rädda världen och skapa ett ’bi-tydelsefullt’ vi
Grow Together: Save the World While Building a Meaningful ‘Bee-lationship’
Keywords: insects; interspecies relationships; human-animal studies; community gardens
Collective gardens – in which individuals work collectively to cultivate and care for a common gardening area – have become a growing phenomenon in recent years. At these sites, the cultivation of community is often as important as the cultivation of organic, local produce. However, observation and digital research carried out in the context of a transnational study of such gardens demonstrates that this community is not limited to human participants, but instead also includes other animal species at these sites. The article investigates the relationships cultivated with one such group – insects. How might we understand the interest shown by gardeners in building hotels and cafés, sowing meadows and arranging festivals for insects? Do participants only see insects for their use-value, or is there something more occurring in the relationship they cultivate, and how it is represented and discussed? Beginning with a discussion of the built environment of the studied collective gardens, the article analyses how certain design choices are specifically oriented towards the use and benefit of insects – especially bees. Progressing from physical space to digital space, the empirical discussion then investigates this interest in bees and their welfare further through several paradigmatic examples. In so doing, discourses communicated in manifestos, social media and news interviews are analysed. This is done in order to explore the worldviews from which individuals and groups understand the importance of bees, as well as the backgrounds that influence their actions and the fantasies for the future that provide a focal point towards which to orient their efforts. Finally, I contrast the discourses about bees with the lack of similar discourse about another group of insects which are readily observable at many sites – wasps. I discuss how differing cultural heritages related to each affect how they are valued and reflect on the possibilities available to us as humans to see ourselves and our future as being dependent on one species, while being comparably indifferent to the presence and important contributions of the other.