Thursday, April 29, 2010
To kill a bee
"Nothing you want in there," I said, but the bee proceeded to enter and I followed behind, hoping to move it back toward the open door, but no-- the bee continued its journey into the main room. I walked ahead, announcing, in a calm voice, that a bee had entered the room.
One guy immediately expressed great physical alarm, flinching, flailing his arms and jumping around.
"Oh, are you allergic?" I said.
"No, no, just don't want to get stung."
Another guy grabbed a newspaper, rolled it up and went bee stalking. I continued to the front door, where the bee seemed to be headed, but before I got it open, my brave friend swatted the bee against a window and killed it dead.
"Why did you do that?" I said. "We need bees, bees are good."
"Then why do they always try to sting you?" a woman asked.
"They don't try to sting you, if they sting you, they die, bees are in trouble right now, we need them to pollinate our food." Now came the blank looks: Pollinate? Bees? Food? As if none of these things have anything do to with each other. And of course for many people, they don't.
Coriander and coconut, cocoa and pumpkin, avocado and apricot, almond and cherry: we'd have none of these without our poor, stressed bees.
It was the wrong moment for a nature lesson at Arise-- didn't want to make folks feel either cowardly or cruel-- but the huge gap between our sense of ourselves and our relation to the rest of the world has been much on my mind. If we can't find a way to close this gap, we're not long for this world-- or is it that the world is not long for us?
Now, you might think this kind of conceptual gap is widest among poor or uneducated city people, but that would be a mistake. I know many people who care deeply about the environment but who treat it as a thing in itself, without making deep connections to human life. They may know enough about industrial agriculture to want to eat well, and enough about corporations to know how outgunned we are, but they see human beings as observers of the equation, not as participants unless to do damage. But as Merry said to Treebeard, "You're part of this world, aren't you?"
Layer this on top of the genuine class differences between the lovers of the environment and the dwellers of the inner city. Sometimes I feel like I'm standing astride a chasm.
I'm generalizing madly, of course. Many people do get it-- just not enough, nowhere near, not if we're to have a chance. And that's why I'm a community organizer, not a policy person, though God knows we need them.. We're not going to be able to save this planet, and ourselves on it, until most of us understand that humans and the environment are not just connected, but inseparable. Only then will we be willing to fight for our lives.
Photo from petrichor's photostream at Flickr.