What's in a name? Challenging the commodification of pollination through the diverse economies of 'Bee Cities'

Authors: ,


One million species are threatened with extinction globally,including more than half of the native bee species in North America. In Canada,as of July 2020, 42 municipalities have signed a resolution to commit to the standards of the Bee City Canada program which includes creating and enhancing pollinator habitat, along with celebrating and raising awareness about pollinators in their communities. Our central argument is that the commodification of pollination has detrimental effects on people, pollinators,and ecosystems, and that a diverse economies framework is one conceptual model that can help shift our perspective. Within the 'save the bees' narrative, a capitalocentric, unidimensional image of pollination persists, driven by particular forms of market power and domination. Well-intentioned individuals and groups may be constrained by industry-dominated messaging that limits their understanding of appropriate interventions. Meanwhile, Bee City Canada offers municipalities the opportunity to engage in conservation efforts by starting where they are and building on a network of Bee Cities across the country. We conducted a collective case study involving in-depth interviews with members of Ontario Bee Cities. Our thematic interpretive analysis shows how a diverse economies framework can help us to understand the value and contributions of this initiative in previously undervalued and under-recognized ways and how they help to advance a whole-of-community approach. It is only through decentering the hegemonic market-based view of pollination that true conservation of bee diversity, and associated pollination services, can be prioritized. Our findings show that Bee Cities can animate a vibrant political ecology through a collective municipal identity, by centering bees (and other pollinators by proxy).

Keywords: diverse economies, political ecology, biodiversity, commodification, pollinators

How to Cite: Marshman, J. & Knezevic, I. (2021) “What's in a name? Challenging the commodification of pollination through the diverse economies of 'Bee Cities'”, Journal of Political Ecology. 28(1). doi: