Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Plight of the Honeybee

Dan Rather did an excellent report on the honeybee crisis, also known as colony collapse disorder (CCD).  For several years, honeybee colonies have been dying off in alarming numbers but no one has been able to conclusively determine the cause.  Turns out that scientists within the EPA have been voicing concerns over a class of insecticides called  neonicotinoids since they came up for registration 15 years ago.  But, instead of asking for independent third party studies of the insecticides, EPA administrators accepted the studies done by the chemical companies themselves.  This, as was noted in the report, is like asking the foxes to design the chicken coop.

Obviously, this is just one example, among many, of how politics and economics trump science in the determination of the safety of pesticides, of which there are over 20,000 currently registered with the EPA.  My favorite quote from the report, which I think perfectly encapsulates the problem of letting short term economic gain drive policy, comes from retired EPA scientist Bill Caniglio: "(The EPA) judged the risk to be not as important as the benefits, and in that balance, risk-benefit balance, it's obvious that they are not considering the collapse of the entire food chain.  They are dealing with the benefits from a short term perspective." 

The entire food chain!!!  Ah, capitalism...gotta love it.

PS-the video below is the entire episode of "Dan Rather Reports." The story on honeybees is the first among several stories and runs for less than 30 minutes.
PPS-"The Plight of the Honeybee" is a way better title than "Bee Aware."  Just sayin'.

Bee Aware from Greg Stanley on Vimeo.

Other relevant links:
PAN North America
Huffington Post, Dan Rather Reports
Dan Rather Reports

Thursday, September 8, 2011


The emotion surprised me.  I was making bread dough, and listening to a radio program in which they replayed the air traffic communication of that day, interspersed with present-day commentary from the people who'd been directing the planes, and that feeling came back.....the empty, heavy, hopeless sorrow I now associate with that day...it filled me up, and I wept.

That's the feeling that remembering that day brings now, because at the time, of course, it was unbelievable. I don't think I felt anything at first because it was so hard to understand and make sense of...it was hard to wrap myself around it and make it a part of my reality.  It may have taken me days to finally cry, as stories emerged of people jumping to their death, and the terror that I saw on peoples' faces as they ran away made its way deeper into my consciousness, and vigils were held, and everywhere there was sadness.  

I remember where I was, of course.  I lived in DC at the time, and was taking a break from an office job, working as a professional landscape gardener.  On that day, we'd driven out to a job in the rich suburb of Potomac.  My co-worker and I had stopped at a garden store to buy plants and they had a TV on.  No one knew at that point what was happening, because only the first plane had hit.  A horrible accident, we speculated.  We made our way out to the job site, and soon enough, our boss called us and told us to come home.  At that point, all the planes had crashed and it was clear we were under attack.  The drive home was surreal.  It was a beautiful day and practically no one was on the road.  

The sorrow is also deeper now because of what has happened in the aftermath. We are divided in ugly ways. Our fear is normalized and manifest in our behaviors, actions, and reactions. Threats are seen everywhere and fear seems to trump reason more often than not.  We figure better safe than sorry as our civil liberties slip away, and fear of The Other never really seems to wane.  We've never really recovered, and maybe we never will.  I suppose 'recovery' isn't really an option, but I do wish we'd allowed it to change us in other ways.

On that day, before leaving for the job in Potomac, I'd told my co-workers that I was pregnant.  I had just found out, and was feeling dizzy so I figured they should know.  My son was born in May of 2002, and, in a deliberate act of peace, I named him Elijah. It was a name I'd always liked, but it had a special resonance for me in the shadow of September 11th. Elijah the prophet, a good name in the three major Abrahamic religions, and one that still, when I think of it, feels hopeful.