Is Climate-Themed Fiction All Too Real? We Asked the Experts – New York Times

China, 2098: Tao is up a tree, hand-pollinating its blossoms with a tiny brush. The bees are long since gone. Maja Lunde’s first book, published in 2017, chronicles three generations as they exploit, try to save and eventually mimic bees, whose extinction has become a familiar device in climate-themed fiction.

“It’s a crazy idea, and it’s being done,” said Jeremy Kerr, a biodiversity researcher at the University of Ottawa, describing the hand-pollinators of Hanyuan County in China’s Sichuan Province.

Pollinators like bees (and birds, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, beetles, bats and mosquitoes) are crucial to the food chain because they move pollen between fruit, vegetables and nuts. Plants that depend on pollination are 35 percent of global crop production. While Colony Collapse Disorder — previously believed to pose a major threat to all bees — has declined substantially in recent years, Dr. Kerr said it was conceivable that five or six “keystone” species, which pollinate crops like canola, tomatoes, blueberries and strawberries, could be lost, in part because of global warming.

But hand-pollination? “The question of whether you could do something like that on a planetary scale,” Dr. Kerr said, “Holy moly, if that’s where we got to, I think other things would probably kill us first.”


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