A bee feeding on a cornflower in the middle of diverse grassland, with many other flower species visible in the background.

ZooSoc Takeover: Should the law mind its own B(ee)sense?

A look at the role of regulation in facing pollinator decline.

The vital role of science in researching the importance of pollinators and their role in food production and the protection of the environment is well established. However, a further trans disciplinary approach is required to spread the message of their importance and to convince society at large that we all need to play a part in addressing pollinator decline. As a Law student with a strong passion for the environment, I am interested in the practical realisation of such an approach.

Upon my selection for the Trinity Hall environmental team this year, I was encouraged, by my reading of the All Ireland Pollinator Plan, to attempt to create a pollinator friendly haven on the grounds of Hall. By cordoning off an area of Hall’s land and encouraging the growth of pollinator friendly plants, we could do our bit to reverse the decline in Ireland’s pollinator population, thus benefitting both the environment and the population of Hall.

A pollinator friendly grassland! Image credit: Wild Flower Lawns and Meadows.

My desire to implement such an initiative was surprisingly compounded by my first year legal studies. At the end of our final lecture in my favourite module of the year, entitled Legislation and Regulation, our lecturer imparted some apt words of wisdom. He acknowledged that even though both legislation and regulation are oftentimes used to break down and tear apart human behaviour, they can also be used to create and to positively influence both individual behaviour and society at large.

This sentiment may appear aspirational, particularly in the context of environmental law. However, application of some of the substantive lessons taught in the module revealed to me that attitudes towards the environment may be altered without having to rely on the imposition of explicit legislation or regulation.

A different approach, that of reliance on a duality of subtle regulation, must be adopted. This duality includes, first and foremost, regulation by norms.

Convincing people that it is socially beneficial to act in an environmentally friendly manner begins with the implementation of schemes such as the Pollinator Plan. Educating people on the importance of pollinators and publicly displaying pollinator friendly gardens affects a subconscious attitude change in how people understand pollinators and their important role in biodiversity. Over time, and through the increased advertisement of this message, it becomes the norm to adapt one’s garden to become more pollinator friendly. Once this norm takes hold, it is regulated by people, for people, through peer pressure and desire to maintain a reputation.

The importance of balanced regulation in addressing the environment. Image credit: Cabinet Salès.

This method of regulation is compounded by the next – regulation by architecture. The introduction of pollinator friendly gardens on the rooftops of high rise apartment buildings and office blocks could augment the behaviour of their residents and workers respectively. Just as architectural changes like speed bumps make people conscious of their driving speed, the clever placement of such gardens has the power influence one’s desire to affect positive pollinator change.

A pollinator friendly rooftop garden. Image credit: Amanda Carlucci, theNatureFan.com.

Dependence on such indirect forms of regulation could allow an environmental attitude change to be achieved not through reliance on a forced rhetoric of environmental awareness, against which people often feel compelled to rebel, but through the implementation of visible environmentally friendly initiatives, designed to subconsciously encourage people to be increasingly mindful of their own environmental impact.

Buoyed by recent success in creating pollinator friendly plots in Trinity Hall and by the ecological areas blooming with pollinator plants here on campus, I believe that the Trinity Campus Pollinator Plan can be the start of such an environmental mindfulness movement.

This week ZooSoc are taking over CampusBuzz! Expect a new blog everyday written by student members of the society. Today’s entry was written by Caoimhe White (@ZooSoc). Caoimhe is in her 1st year of Law at TCD. Her main areas of interest are environmental and animal welfare policy.




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