This May Day, A Special Salute to the Humble, Hard-working Honeybee

This May Day, I want to give a special shout-out to a segment of the working population that may be small in stature, but is huge in productiveness and dedication.

Let’s hear it for the much-beleaguered honey bees!

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It is no secret that honeybees, particularly in the developed world, have been in trouble these past few years.

If you’ve been paying attention, you have probably heard by now of so-called “colony collapse disorder,” which first surfaced around 2005—not at all coincidentally, just around the time that a powerful new class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, was introduced to Western commercial agriculture.

Neonicotinoids are pesticides that are incorporated into the plants themselves.  According to their patent-holders, they only harm the kinds of insects that actually chew on the plants.

But growing scientific evidence suggests that these highly toxic chemicals also harm bees, who have to stick their heads into pollen-laden flowers and tassels in the course of their day-to-day work routines, and who bring back to their hives  insecticide-laden pollen to feed the next generation of workers.

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European bees just got a huge concession from the European Union, which, as of this week, will be restricting the use of three of the most prevalent neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for the next two years, while more stringent studies are conducted.

The United States, where commercial beekeepers are reporting the loss of 40 to 50 percent of their colonies, must do the same.

Not only could the loss of the hardworking honeybee be a total disaster for agriculture, but we also have no idea what the effects on humans may be of eating chemically engineered plants.

Where health is concerned, the burden of proof should rest on the chemical companies to prove their products are safe.

Instead, what we are living—and dying—with now is a deeply flawed version of “innocent until proven guilty.”

imagesHow many billions of bees have to die before the federal agencies responsible for the health of humans, our agriculture and our environment get the message that something is seriously wrong with the toxic brew being inculcated into our crops?

It has been suggested that exposure to such chemicals may be playing a role in the explosion of autism that is plaguing American society, with neo-natal exposure and toxic breast milk a major concern.

Do you want really want to give the chemical companies the benefit of the doubt?  Or would you rather play it safe with the next generation?

This May Day, I serenade the humble honeybee.  If you care about this mighty little worker, and all of us who depend on her production, you can take individual action on her behalf.

Buy organic.

Confronting taboos: death and the afterlife, American-style

It is one of those unspoken social contracts that Americans won’t say anything to each other that might indicate any doubt that life as we know it will continue.

If you dare to bring up the subject of climate change, with its attendant erratic weather, major storms, sea-level rises, wildfires and crop losses, people roll their eyes and change the subject.

If you voice any doubt that the economy—local, national and global—will recover, you are dismissed as a negative Pollyanna, and again, the subject is changed.

If you were, just hypothetically, to express the opinion that our increasing reliance on digital technology might have the quality of an unhealthy addiction, and to worry aloud at the effect that all that unrelenting screen time is having on the current generation of tiny tots, you are dismissed as a raving Luddite.

Nobody talks about the fact that both of our political parties are thoroughly corrupt, and our Supreme Court even more so.

No one mentions the disappointment so many of us feel with President Obama, who has proven himself incapable of effectively standing up to Beltway politics—if indeed that was ever his goal.

We are living through a massive period of collective denial of social and physical reality, with no exit in sight from the crazy funhouse we inhabit, with its motto, “Everything is going to be OK” blazoned on every door.

It’s about time we accepted the fact that everything is not going to be OK.

Not by a long shot.

I have been a little bit quieter than usual this past month, with my attention turned to the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, but I have been paying attention nonetheless to what’s going on in the world.

The elephants of Africa are under siege and conservationists are now using the E-word to describe their future.

American bees are dying off at record rates due to pesticide poisoning, which is now not only killing the adults, but also the larva of the bee colonies.

The ice at the poles continues to melt at an accelerated rate, while down in Australia it was by far the hottest summer on record.

Just this week, record rainfall brought flooding to Argentina that killed scores of people.

There will be no escape from the severe weather that our degenerating climate system will wreak upon all of us.

As retiring climate scientist James Hansen has testified over and over, we are already at the tipping point from which there will be no return to what was “normal” for the past 10,000 years.

I totally understand the impetus to denial, because really, what can any of us do about all this?

What should we be doing?

Marching on Washington DC?  Setting up survivalist camps in the wilderness?  Sabotaging pipelines and coal-fired power plants?  Buying hybrid vehicles and solar panels?

Damned if I know.

I am on a list-serve that broadcasts a newsletter written by Alex Kochkin, who focuses more on the spiritual side of our current crisis on Earth.  Kochkin insists that we should not be wasting time worrying about the physical issues here on the planet, but instead should be focusing our attention on getting ready for our transition into the spiritual realm—in other words, for death.

Kochkin predicts that there will be a massive die-off of humanity in the coming years, but he casts this in positive terms, as a necessary cleansing that will enable the Earth to reboot and start on yet another spiritual and evolutionary journey.

Believing firmly in a nonphysical afterlife, he is unafraid of death.

This is so counter-cultural that it gives me pause.

Unafraid of death?  Really?

Our culture is so fixated on avoiding death at all costs that it is hard to wrench my mind around to another way of seeing things.

11857232-life-after-death-religious-concept-illustrationWhat if death were just a transition to another (non-physical) stage of existence?

What if it were in fact the best thing that could happen to our planet if the majority of human beings transitioned out of physical existence?

What if the tenacity with which we Americans hold on to our lives was entirely misplaced?

What if instead of focusing all of our technical and intellectual know-how on physical survival, we began to focus on learning more about the non-physical realms that we have so far relegated to the backward precincts of religion, New Age quackery, and woo-woo tales of near-death experiences?

There is a noticeable trend in popular culture reflecting an uptick in interest in explorations of the spiritual/non-physical dimensions.  From Harry Potter to Twilight and beyond, we have a fascination with stories that can take us beyond the bounds of ordinary physical reality.

So strong is the cultural taboo on discussing this seriously that it is hard for me to push the “publish” button and let this blog post out in the world.

But another part of me rebels and is just done with listening to the soothing murmur of the mainstream: don’t worry, dear, everything is going to be OK….

No, everything is not going to be OK.  Just like the elephants and the bees and the polar bears, human beings are going to face a massive die-off due to the changes in our climate system, and soon.

It is that, above all else, that we should be preparing ourselves for.  How? I am not sure.  But one thing is certain: insisting that all will be well, despite all the evidence to the contrary, is just silly and delusional.

It’s time to wake up.

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