In 2015, Tzu Chi USA produced “Stung by Climate”, a timely documentary that reveals how climate change is having a direct negative impact on beekeepers and their hives. Bees depend on flowers, trees, and a predictable cycle of seasons. But patterns of nature that used to be reliable are disappearing, and bee colonies are dying around the globe. Given that bees pollinate one third of our food, it’s an issue of great concern.
For documentary director Nils Aucante, who has been working with Tzu Chi since 2012, the interest in this topic was natural – his father Pierre Aucante, a journalist and photographer by profession, also tends to 30 bee hives on the family property in Sologne, France.
The Aucantes share a deep passion for these remarkable creatures, and have not failed to notice that beekeeping, which was once an easy ‘laisser faire’ task, is now quite complicated. Nils decided to investigate and created this remarkable film, which takes us from the USA to his native France, as well as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
In the U.S., we meet beekeepers like Franclyn Heinecke, who is keenly aware of the critical role bees play at the basic level of ecology between plants and animals, and the Hiatt brothers at Hiatt Honey who know that because of erratic climate patterns, you have to maintain bees all winter just to keep them alive. With disease, pests, and insecticides to contend with on top of that, the number of hives in the U.S. is down by 50% from what it was in the late 1940s.
In Haiti, besides climate change, we learn that economic hardship led to catastrophic deforestation. While 60% of the country was forested a century ago, today it’s less than 1% as people continue to chop down what’s left to produce coal for sale to support their families. Even passionate beekeepers like Huguette Charles, who cares for her bees like a mother, and Admiral Wilson, who struggles financially but feels rich because of his bees, can’t heal the drought and deforestation in their homeland.
The problems beekeepers in the Dominican Republic face are no different from those others around the world contend with due to the unpredictable weather resulting from climate change. This is a global story, and the response to this documentary indicates that people are concerned and ready for change.
And that was just the beginning of this documentary’s success in terms of generating public discussion. The film screened in Chaon, France on November 20th, shortly before COP21 began in Paris. Organizers at La Maison du Braconnage, a museum that only shows one movie related to nature and the environment a year, were thrilled because the story of bees drew more people than ever before.
The momentum in France continued into 2016, when the film screened on January 8th in Sanary Sur Mer.
“Stung by Climate” will be shown on February 18th at 7:00 pm, February 19th at 10 am, and February 20th at 7:00 pm. If you are in Golden, Colorado please attend the screenings in the Foss Auditorium at the American Mountaineering Center, 710 10th Street. Filmmaker Nils Aucante looks forward to meeting you!