Sant Hilari Sacalm, Spain – If you were at Greenpeace’s Digital Mobilisation Skillshare (GPDMS) you’d know this topic was all the buzz.

A campaign to save the bees that originated from a Greenpeace Switzerland volunteer network is now being adopted at the international level as part of Greenpeace Europe’s Sustainable Agriculture and Genetic Engineering (SAGE) campaign. It’s the first time an international Greenpeace campaign has come from the bottom-up, and many people are excited by the potential it presents.

Save the Bees campaign founder Sarah Banderet was at GPDMS to share her experience and take part in conversations on building people-powered campaigns. She also received much recognition from Greenpeace staff for her perseverance in getting the issue of bee decline heard by decision-makers. We caught up with Sarah to learn more about her journey, from when she realized there was a problem with the bees to the perseverance and networking she and her volunteer group did to build the issue into an inspiring campaign.

Here’s Sarah’s story:

Sarah had no idea that her sweet hobby of beekeeping would inspire an international campaign.

Two years ago, the office administrator was researching how to raise bees and learning it wasn’t an easy time. The bees were dying, and while beekeepers had suspicions, the issue was still largely a mystery.

Then Sarah’s bees died. She wanted to know why.

She began researching the issue, speaking with more bee keepers, reading newspaper articles and watching the Swiss documentary More than Honey that pointed to a specific pesticide as a major contributing factor.

Sarah brought the issue of disappearing bees up to her Greenpeace Switzerland Vaud volunteer network and the group of more than eight decided to work on the serious issue. Bees are responsible for pollinating one third of our food. If they disappear, it won’t be soon after that human beings will feel the effects.

Understanding bee extinction was not a regional or local issue, the volunteer group decided the best approach would be to launch a national petition with Greenpeace Switzerland’s backing.

In order for the petition could be accepted by Greenpeace, the volunteers were asked to back up their belief with research and evidence. The group spent several months scouring research papers and the Internet, while keeping in touch with Greenpeace to let them know their findings and build relationships with key contacts.

This networking and lobbying effort would last for more than six months but the group didn’t give up.

After testing the bee petition in their network and showing the issue was relevant and important to the public, demonstrated by the petition’s success, Greenpeace Switzerland picked up the campaign and helped build it out into a national Save the Bees campaign.

The campaign calling for an immediate stop to using pesticides harmful to bees, greater chemical transparency and a national strategy for pesticide reduction is turning out to be one of Greenpeace Switzerland’s most successful yet collecting 26,000 signatures in six weeks. The volunteer network continues to be involved, hosting conferences, public awareness events, and helping promote the campaign.

Sarah says she feels a sense of pride in seeing the issue of global bee decline taken to the international level.

“It’s a great experience,” she tells Mob Lab, adding that volunteers wanting to create a campaign need to have plenty of free time and a love for the subject to see it to fruition.

“If you have an idea it could go far, this has become a great campaign.”

This is the second article in a three-part series with Greenpeace volunteers attending GPDMS.

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