One-in-three foods on our plates rely on bees for pollination. But bee populations are in trouble. Mounting scientific evidence points to a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids (“neonics” for short) as the culprit for honeybee decline. Executive Director of Environment America Margie Alt joined Rachel’s Network to explain what needs to be done to protect our pollinators, and what her organization is doing to advocate for this and other environmental causes.
What’s the biggest challenge in banning the pesticides that are killing bees?
The major challenge in banning neonics is that the companies that make them are strongly pressuring the EPA not to act. In addition, the science isn’t fully developed on the issue so rather than being pre-emptive, the EPA is demonstrating an abundance of caution and waiting for additional testing/science to develop.
If you could remove one obstacle that prevents us from implementing solutions to this challenge, what would it be?
We need to keep the companies that profit from making and using neonics from lobbying the agency.
How have your priorities changed since you started your career in environmental advocacy?
When I started my career I was almost exclusively focused on organizing — educating, motivating, and mobilizing people to build power. I’m still passionate about organizing and think it’s the most important action, but now I spend more time meeting with decisionmakers, fundraising from foundations and major donors, and managing staff. All these things are critical to our success, of course!
What are you most proud of in your work?
Frankly I’m proud that we have so many committed members and staff. At eight years old, we’re relatively new to the environmental scene, but we’ve grown a lot in that time.
What woman environmentalist inspires you? Why?
I’m going to give you two.
First, Wangari Muta Maathai. She was a Kenyan environmental and political activist. She founded the Green Belt Movement, an environmental organization focused on tree planting, environmental conservation, and women’s rights. She was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”
And second, Frances Beinecke, the recently retired President of NRDC. Frances was a true leader of the national environmental community. She’s hard working, great on policy and on the politics of protecting the planet, and terrifically motivating.
As the executive director of Environment America and the Environment America Research & Policy Center, Margie Alt oversees all aspects of the organization, including policy and strategy development for major campaigns; building the organization’s membership, visibility and field power; and recruiting and training of staff and activists.