Somebody once told me that in Japan, there are no bees, and so all pollination is done by hand. It turns out that's not true, but I'm pretty sure I know who steered me wrong and how it happened. She must have read something to the effect that "In Japan, pollination is done by hand," and took it to mean that it was done ONLY by hand. She then passed that tidbit on to me, in that breathless and plausible way she has, such that I found it amazing instead of merely incredible - result? I didn't look it up!
Now, it is true enough that in Japan, pollination is done by hand - but not exclusively, and not only in Japan. Japan does have bees. I apologize to any of you who I may have misled on that score, in the past. Blast my credulity! Blast yours too, while we're at it.
In the process of hunting and pecking around the internet to research this topic, I also came across an interesting and hilarious tidbit: an estimate to the effect that converting the pollination industry from bee-based to humans-only would cost a cool nine-hundred billion dollars.
Estimates like that are delightful to me, because come on. No way would it cost that much! There isn't that much money in the world! Push come to shove, they wouldn't try to spend no nine hundred billion dollars. They'd just bring back slavery.
First: make it multiracial, of course. That would kill two birds with one stone, really. You do realize that today, people consider that slavery was wrong because it was racist? It's true! So we fix that. Institute quotas: no racial demographic can be overrepresented by more than 5 percentage points, in a comparison of the general population to the slave population. Once you hit that ceiling, anybody of that racial group wanting to sell themselves into slavery would be turned down cold.
Secondly, no matter what, nobody would be captured and made a slave. That's unjust. It would only be people who have consensually sold themselves into it, due to unpayable student loans, or to avoid a prison sentence, or whatever other reason. Maybe they're investigative journalists, and a little too gung-ho about it? Here's how it would work: they'd sell themselves to the government, and whoever needs the slaves would buy them from the government - sterilized, of course! You can't have slaves breeding. You'd be raising generations of children born into slavery, if you did that. It would destroy the market!
Thirdly, let's put some strict anticruelty laws in place. This is a no-brainer. There needs to be regulation and oversight to ensure slaves are being pampered with plenty of nutritious food, adequate clothing, clean and sanitary living quarters with strict limits on overcrowding. Economies of scale apply: clothing, food and lodging doesn't cost nearly as much as they milk you for it at retail! Cap the work-week at 70 hours at the absolute most, with provisions for holidays and reduced workloads for the elderly - I'm not sure what you'd do about the infirm. Perhaps they could tell stories or sing.
Point is, it's clear these solutions can be come up with. If you don't think people would sell themselves into slavery and not sweat the tradeoff, you may not be paying close attention to what life's like. Would you choose a life of drudge work, no pay, no possibility of advancement, but at least you know you'll be clothed, fed, housed and taken care of? If you are many, many people, you're already choosing all the negatives from that list. If you think people wouldn't willingly consign themselves to what they're already pretty much doing in exchange for a guaranteed standard of living, go "google" recidivism, why don't you. Prisons are drastically overcrowded and, we hear, dangerous places. And in case you don't know, people commit crime just to get back inside: where they know they're clothed, fed, housed, and to some extent, taken care of. They say it's because the person has been institutionalized, from years on the inside.
Wrong. It's because the outside is a far worse institution than prison, for many, many people. We will have no shortage of crop pollinators (among other trades), and it won't cost no nine-hundred billion dollars.
But hold on there!
Maybe the crisis won't end up requiring such creative measures, you say? Rather than change the very structure of how we view (or claim to) human life, wouldn't it be more prudent to not? And if it happens, won't the problem take care of itself, as all things do? Five or ten years after the agriculture crash, what we've got left will be - at that point - a sustainable population, won't it?
I have to admit, you're right, there. Some would argue, better to preserve our essential liberties for posterity, in that case - rather than trade 'em all away now, over some b.s. current-events crisis that ten years from now will find itself all taken care of. Isn't it time for us to cure ourselves of the stereotypical modern-era curse of shortsightedness?
Far and away the best solution would be, of course: bees. And plenty of 'em. Bees are better than nine hundred billion dollars that we don't have, or billions of lives lost to pandemic starvation.
Bees are better than slavery, too. Anyone arguing otherwise has something wrong with them.