11-year-old launches campaign to save the bees

Author: Michael George / CBS
Harper is seen with a swarm of bees. Credit: CBS News

Scarlett Harper is fearless, especially when it comes to bees. When the 11-year-old Illinois resident learned the bees in her neighborhood were being wiped out by mosquito pesticides, she launched a campaign to save them.

“Go make some phone calls, get some state reps on board, let’s do this!” she said on Instagram in May.

Harper helped create the “Bee Bill,” officially known as Illinois HB 3118, with State Representative Robyn Gabel. It aims to restrict mosquito control pesticides that can be lethal to bees. After cold-calling lawmakers, Harper was able to secure 22 co-sponsors β€” and the bill made it out of the state’s Energy and Environment Committee with a unanimous 29-0 vote.

“Bees are completely vital to humans,” she said. “They pollinate a third of our food supply, and without them, we really can’t survive.”

Harper’s parents say she developed a passion for the environment all on her own. It started at an early age, when she realized her love of gardening. When she was nine, she said she learned of a plan in her town to cut down trees for a construction project. She joined her town’s Environmental Forestry Commission and spoke to officials to try and stop the project.

Harper is much younger than most of the people who are fighting to pass bills. But she said she sees her age as an advantage.

“As a kid trying to make an impact stopping the climate crisis, I have been lucky to be given a little extra leeway to be blunt and impatient with how slow progress is,” she said. “I realized that early on and started using my voice to state the elephant in the room.”

“Instead of thinking of my age as a disadvantage, I try to use it as a tool, because I’m a little bit younger,” she added. “I can not get bogged down in what might go wrong.”

While the Bee Bill started off strong, it faced opposition from pesticide companies and landscapers, and the session ended with the bill stalled. But that’s left Harper even more determined to fight for the bees. She said she hopes that the legislation will be reintroduced next session.

“We’re going to win,” she said.

“You’re not giving up?” asked CBS News.

“Not one bit,” she responded.

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