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  • You can add clairvoyance to the list of Wendell Berry's many talents. Eleven years ago, in

  • an essay for "Orion Magazine," he wrote, "If we make the world too toxic for honeybees,

  • some compound brain, Monsanto perhaps, will invent tiny robots that will fly about pollinating

  • flowers and making honey." This spring, Harvard University announced the first successful

  • controlled flight of a "RoboBee" that could take the place of real bees and natural pollination.

  • It would be funny if it were not so sad. This past winter, a third of US honeybee colonies

  • died or disappeared in a phenomenon scientists call Colony Collapse Disorder. More and more,

  • the culprit is believed to be certain pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that may be killing

  • bees or adversely affecting brain and nerve functions. In April, Europe announced a ban

  • across the continent, the first in the world, to prevent the use of a kind of pesticide

  • known as neonicotinoids. Activists in the United States are suing the EPA to impose

  • a similar ban.

  • The world would be a lesser place without the honeybee. A quarter of our diet depends

  • on their pollinating skills, but we also admire their beauty, and grace. Observe. The environmentalist

  • and writer Bill McKibben narrates this short film, "Dance of the Honeybee."

  • BILL MCKIBBEN: Let's think about bees in a hive, they go

  • out every day when the temperature is high enough. There're not like other farm animals,

  • they're this weird wonderful cross between wild and domestic and they head out into the

  • open world and they come back as it were, with reports about that world, you know, what

  • it's like miles away. So one little bee yard some place is a kind of hub for understanding

  • whole huge swath of territory. Understanding whether it's been farmed well, or treated

  • as kind of a monoculture. Whether it's being saturated in pesticides or whether it's producing

  • a wide beautiful variety of flowers of all kinds.

  • There're sort of accomplices in figuring how healthy and together our landscapes really

  • are. One of the reasons I like being out with bees is that you do sort of slow down and

  • enter their world a little bit. I think they're quite beautiful, I like watching -- I confess

  • -- I like watching in early spring the first few days of bees coming back with pollen and

  • just sort of looking at the pollen in their saddle bags as they return and seeing what

  • color it is and figuring out where--what tree it must of come from whatever. And there're

  • beautiful and that you get a sense of indefatigability, I mean, this is an impossible task to, you

  • know, three grains at a time produce enough honey at time to keep the colony alive over

  • the winter, and yet they do it and there is something quite beautiful about that too.

  • I think most bee keepers are fascinated by bees themselves. This perfect example of the

  • idea that humans could cooperate with another species to both of their mutual benefit we

  • don't have very many examples of that in our society but that's what a bee hive is.

  • I mean honey bees are, like everything else on our planet, under all kinds of duress.

  • I mean, the world in which we jointly inhabit is changing with enormous speed, so none of

  • the patterns that any of us are used to exist in same way anymore. Bees are under treat

  • because landscapes keep changing, we get better at everything that we do and take more cutting

  • of hay, you know, we leave less time for clover to just sit there in the field. Life is speeding

  • up for them just like it is for us and really neither us is coping very well with the results

  • of that.

  • So, I mean, what we could do to help bees is exactly what we can do to help ourselves,

  • try to slow down the pace of change in the world around us. Human societies aren't going

  • to be able to cope with rapid climate change and neither can most animal societies, bees

  • included. Human societies can't cope, turning everything into monoculture, neither can bees,

  • they are a remarkable reminder for the need for a certain kind of stability, in terms

  • of things like climate and the need for a certain kind of variety, in terms of landscape

  • and what's around us. We need to be making at this point in our society some wise decisions

  • about the years ahead and so we need to be using some of that same focused and determined

  • decision making that bees has successfully employed over a great many millennium.

You can add clairvoyance to the list of Wendell Berry's many talents. Eleven years ago, in

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Dance of the Honey Bee

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    Kaian cheong posted on 2016/03/31
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