This is Michael Barone and Carlos Barone Cortés, creators of what we think is an important project for the planet. It’s a bio project, to be more specific, which they’ve created and continue to build and maintain on their own piece of land in Småland, Sweden – complete with a meadow that’s dedicated to providing a protected and thriving habitat for bees. We recently spent time with Carlos and Michael and here is some of that conversation.
Carlos: The bio project is part of a larger project, which is our holiday home. We began to think about everything to do with the environment and how we could make a contribution, because we felt frustrated about not doing enough. And then we began with the holiday home that we bought three years ago, and looked into what we could do for wildlife. We came up with the idea for this project – a meadow that creates a habitat for bees.
Michael: We are doing it because it’s enjoyable but it is primarily for the bees. Not only here but also in large parts of Europe. There is a documentary that shows that if bees disappear, we will lose the whole planet. It is such a long ecosystem that is collapsing. All of the animals play a role in the delicate balance, and all are key to its survival. Unfortunately, a lot of species are disappearing – not only insects, but mammals, too. Of course, this will have an adverse effect on the planet. If the bee disappears, the whole cylce is destroyed. It's that simple. Since we have land, we realized we have an opportunity to help prevent the complete disappearance of the bee. So this is what we can do in our small way.
Their habitat is what is called “mown meadows,” or dry, sandy soils that are poor in nutrients. Many bees extract nectar from specific flowers, and these flowers
aren’t able to compete in places where there are a lot of nutrients. This is why you have to cut and remove flowers and grass every year – so the nutrients don't return to the soil, and the flowers that the bees need can flourish and reproduce. This, in turn, produces food and nectar for the bees, as well as a habitat for the bees. With climate change and globalization, there are increasingly fewer opportunities for a large number of insects and animals in the environments that we humans create and leave behind. And this is why we are creating a habitat for the bees.
Carlos: We were a little naive to begin with. The first summer we planted peonies, but this was completely impossible. We really had an attitude that we would make the cottage and the land nice.
Michael: Yes, we planted everything we thought was nice. And then we realized that it wasn’t working at all. And what actually survived was eaten by deer and hares. So now we’ve come to realize that we have to look at temperature, the soil, and pH value – and just accept what we have.
Carlos: What is also frustrating is the fact that you sometimes invest so much time and money and realize that you have created a food shop for rabbits. Afterwards, there is nothing left. For example, we used to have a great apple tree, which the elk very much appreciated. One day we were sitting in the cottage and eating breakfast. This was the first time we had seen an elk. It was just a few meters away. For me, it was like a dream. And then Michael jumped up without me understanding why, and I realized that it was because we had planted an apple tree there outside with large apples. And the elk had eaten them. And not just the apples but actually the whole tree. But it doesn’t really matter as it was such an enjoyable experience. And being townies, we can’t think of everything. But that’s that. You are in the wild, and we can’t control anything there.
I BELIEVE OUR PROJECT IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE NATURE NEEDS HELP AND WE CAN EITHER SAFEGUARD IT OR WE CAN END IT. IT’S UP TO US.
Carlos: I believe that we are in a period in history where we need to get more people to think about what they can do to help. What can I do to create a change? For me it was important, because I didn’t want to feel as if I was not doing anything at all. I can make a small difference. Or at least invest my time in it. Last summer was so warm and it was hard to see everything looking dry and yellow. And then some of the thoughts you have had about the climate and the environment hit you in the face, and you realize that it’s no longer possible to ignore. So I believe that it is important to feel that I have done something to help. You can do much more, absolutely, but this is a beginning.
Michael: This is really small-scale. We have done thirty square meters and will soon increase it by another thirty, so it will become quite a large meadow. It will take three to four years for the meadow to become fully established. So we have to think in the long-term. Perhaps we will see some flowers come into bloom this year. We have removed a good deal of grass to give the bees more habitat for the autumn before the arrival of winter, but we really do have to think in the long-term.
Carlos: If I could change anything in the world? Crush patriarchy. It’s everywhere. If you think about how capitalism appears, you can see the influence of patriarchy. The whole of society is based on patriarchy. We don’t see individuals. We reject everything that is different. Just because it is not within the pattern. Everything that affects nature is a result of capitalism. Everything that affects how the world appears is because we have left some guys to decide how it should function. This goes a long way back. Just look at colonialism. Yes, so fuck patriarchy. I believe that if we take this seriously and help the new generations to understand why the gender issue is important and can break the pattern, we can give them new opportunities. I am gay and I do not wish others to have to go through what I have. And I come from a family with two sisters and it’s not easy being a woman either.
Michael: And we must really begin to use our planet in a completely different way. We consume our annual resources by March, I think they say. Then these are only borrowed resources. This is not sustainable. And this is exactly what Carlos says. The way in which we live cannot continue in the long run. It will end far too quickly. Everything is about choice. What we eat, what we buy. We are surely just as guilty as others, but the lifestyle for everybody must change as resources are running out and then we will have nothing. We don’t have a planet number two, so radical changes are needed.
Carlos: Everybody is talking about Notre Dame. Who’s talking about the Amazon? How many years did it take for the world to create the Amazon? It is us who are subjecting the environment to destruction because we want to grow and sell.
Michael: There are such large parts of the Earth that have been depleted, which can no longer be used. You can harm the Earth a lot and then it needs twenty to fifty years to recover and then you can exploit it again. But there are large parts of the planet today that have been very fertile but which can now never recover. And this frightens me. The percentage of depleted land increases every year. And I become terrified when I read facts such as these. And even more frustrated when I hear people say that these are lies. We have to change a large part of our habits if we wish to continue to live on the Earth.