Thursday, April 29, 2010

To kill a bee

This afternoon I was standing by the sunny back door of Arise for Social Justice when a fat bumblebee hovered briefly by me and contemplated the door.

"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."

"It won't sting you," I said.

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.


christoforest said...

Awesome insights as usual Michaelanne

You are inspirational, I mean that.


MoonRaven said...

Absolutely on target: "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." The question is how to get people to see that...

Thanks so much for posting this.

Margaret said...

Every day I realize how important those connections are: human to bee, human to human, across the chasm.

Thanks for being there, Michaelanne!
Meg Sheehan

BunBun4life said...

We also wouldn't have apples, oranges, pears, tomatoes, squash and really almost any fruit or vegetable that flowers!!
PARTIAL list of things bees pollinate:
Onions, broccoli, sunflowers, strawberries, cranberries, elder/boysen/rasp/black/blueberry,black & red currant, vanilla, black eye peas, grapes, egglants, plums, mangos, cactus plants, soybeans, figs, MANY more spices, lemon, lime, carrots, buckwheat, cucumbers, pumpkins, cantaloupes, watermelon, tangerines, coconuts, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, beets, rapeseed (in sweden this is the most common type of oil, and used in pre-packaged foods like mayonnaise as well-even Hellman's uses it here, instead of soybean oil)alfalfa, apricot, avacado, peaches & nectarines.

And also just FLOWERS. Of all pollinating 'animals/insects' bees do the majority of all pollination.

There is a place in china that was always known for it's pears, and 1000's of acres of pear orchards. When they lost their bees (yes like totally in that area, none left) they faced the possible end of a major food export, jobs, livelihoods, etc. and TODAY these trees are pollinated BY HAND by humans. Swear to god. Just try a google search, something like china pear trees pollinated by hand since bees disappeared (something like that)

People are so amazingly ignorant. We have lost SO MANY BEES there is a world wide crisis going on, and very few people even know about it. It's frightening. Can you imagine possibly an Armageddon because of famine based on the loss of bees? Boy people would sure not understand that.

Keep on letting people know this stuff. I had some bees set up a hive inside the wall of my house. I never even noticed, till one day I saw a bee fly out of a little hole in the wood on the outside. I went in and pressed my ear against the wall and the buzzing was ferocious. HAHA I was kind of scared. Then I listed high up, down low and from left to right & the hive was HUGE. They were honey bees. I always wanted at that honey, but I just left them alone.