Toni Morrison (on Trees)

In a letter supporting Barak Obama for president, Toni Morrison said something that made me think about the honeybee crisis:

"In addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it.

"Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace—that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom."

...finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it....
This is our problem—the failure to take in, and take responsibility for, the interconnected whole. This collective lack of wisdom and maturity is what's sinking us fast.


Sleeping Frog Shocks a Brooklyn Mom

You just never know what you're going to find in a head of organic lettuce—and that's a good thing.

Just fer the hell of it, here are a few other interesting lettuce-pairings:Kitty Lettuce Cup by Stumpytown.

Lettuce Sea Slug by laszlo-photo.

The Rare Right-Angled Lavender Lettuce Bird by mexter.

Winter Thoughts

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop."Ovid

Thinking today of the bees clustered in their hive
encircling their precious queen,
beneath the tarp and some snow,
dining on their honey,
beating their tiny wings for warmth,
awaiting the idea of a thing called spring.


What do you think of cloning?

The brilliant and wonderful Verlyn Klinkenborg weighs in in today's New York Times. A taste:

"I think the clearest way to understand the problem with cloning is to consider a broader question: Who benefits from it? Proponents will say that the consumer does, because we will get higher quality, more consistent foods from cloned animals. But the real beneficiaries are the nation’s large meatpacking companies — the kind that would like it best if chickens grew in the shape of nuggets. Anyone who really cares about food — its different tastes, textures and delights — is more interested in diversity than uniformity.

"As it happens, the same is true for anyone who cares about farmers and their animals. An agricultural system that favors cloned animals has no room for farmers who farm in different ways. Cloning, you will hear advocates say, is just another way of making cows. But every other way — even using embryo transplants and artificial insemination — allows nature to shuffle the genetic deck. A clone does not."


I used to bee


Luddite 2.0

Herewith, a brief appreciation of how technology has helped me liberate my inner Luddite.At the most fundamental level, the advent of telecommuting has made it possible for me to spend extended periods of time in an undisclosed rural location, where I can indulge in a range of low-tech pleasures—from beekeeping to gardening to canning to composting—while continuing to earn my income by providing editorial services to clients in the Big City.

As a novice beekeeper trying to find information about beekeeping methods that did not require the use of “extraordinary (chemical) measures” to keep colonies viable, the web was, until very recently, the sole source of information out there. Through the organic beekeepers’ listserv, Michael Bush’s beekeeping website, Phil Chandler’s writings, and many other online resources, I’ve been able to locate enough information to try my hand at organic, top-bar hive beekeeping in ways consistent with my desire to keep in small, simple, sustainable, and green.

The web has also been an amazing source of fellowship. In the old days, beekeeping was bound up with apprenticeship, a skill passed along from one person to another through direct observation. That’s often still the case; beekeeping clubs continue to be a major venue for meeting other beekeepers and sharing knowledge.

Alas, from the reports I hear, too few clubs seem receptive to so-called alternative methods like top-bar hive beekeeping or organic colony management. Fortunately, cyberspace offers a rich portal for communicating with real humans with real experience in these beekeeping methods—and these individuals are generously willing to mentor, explain, demystify, and provide kindhearted support to new beekeepers through the highs, lows, dramas, traumas, mysteries, and thrills of beekeeping. I feel I’m getting something akin to true mentorship through the web, though I’ve yet to meet any of my mentors in person.

One of the hardest parts of beekeeping is leaving the bees behind when the time comes to return to the city; I miss them terribly and feel out of sync with the muddy, grassy, leafy existence I delight in during my rural escapades.Lucky for me, this problem was solved with a quick Google search that lead me to a beekeeping group right here in Brooklyn. The group includes current and past beekeepers, as well as “bee lovers,” and has made it possible for me to commune a bit with honeybees in my own borough of Brooklyn. I still miss “my” bees, but don’t have to endure total honeybee withdrawal when I’m stuck in town.

I’m not a true Luddite in that I’m not opposed to technological change. But I have what I feel to be a healthy skepticism about the uncritical genuflecting to the digital experience, and I do place a very high value—a premium, in fact—on low- and no-tech pleasures.As a Luddite 2.0, I view technology as the means to a very simple end: getting out of the city, being with the bees, ruralizing body, mind and soul.


How Is Global Warming Affecting Your State?

How is global warming affecting your state?

The National Wildlife Federation has created some useful fact sheets describing the effects on a state-by-state basis.

As for me, seeing bees fly in January (when of course there is no food source for them) and watching people riding around in open convertibles (while wearing T-shirts) is not my idea of an all-is-well Winter in the Northeast!


Call of the Wild, Literally

Looking for a more down-to-earth ringtone? The Center for Biological Diversity offers free downloads of the sweet, somber, melodious and unnerving voices of rare and endangered frogs, toads, birds, and mammals (including sea mammals). It's free! Perhaps they'll add some insect sounds one of these days.


Global Warming Ignored By Media in 08 Presidential Campaign

Sign the petition.

Learn more about the League of Conservation Voters.

Form, Function, & Herman Miller's Honey

I found a smart new site today called Inhabitant (wherein you can read about how office furniture designer Herman Miller got into the honey-making biz). Here's Inhabitant's manifesto:


Inhabitat.com is a weblog devoted to the future of design, tracking the innovations in technology, practices and materials that are pushing architecture and home design towards a smarter and more sustainable future.

With an interest in design innovations that enhance sustainability, efficiency, and interactivity in the home, Inhabitat’s attention is focused on objects and spaces that are eco-friendly, multi-purpose, modular, and/or interactive. We believe that good design balances substance with style. We are frustrated by the fact that a lot of what we see being touted as “good design” in magazines and at stores is all style and no substance. A lot of contemporary design merely imitates the classic Modernist aesthetic without any of the idealistic social agenda that made Modernism such a groundbreaking movement back in the early 20th Century. The flip side to this is that oftentimes real technological innovations - the ones which will eventually change the way we live our lives - are often not packaged into enough of a stylish aesthetic to move beyond niche circles and crossover into mainstream popular taste.

Likewise, we are frustrated at seeing an emerging category called “Green Design” - as if sustainability is somehow seperate from good design in general. We believe that all design should be inherently “Green”. Good design is not about color, style or trends - but instead about thoughtfully considering the user, the experience, the social context and the impact of an object on the surrounding environment. No design can be considered good design unless it at least attempts to address some of these concerns.

We believe in the original modernist ideology that form and function are intertwined in design. Style and substance are not mutually exclusive, and Inhabitat is here to prove it!


Narcissus Bee

I've been really missing the bees lately, and dreaming of them almost nightly. Looking at this color-saturated photo from Expectant Alchemist's Photostream on Flickr is like a salve in this bee-less season.


Eye Candy

A lovely animated romp by artist Jeff Scher. What it lacks in bees, it more than makes up for in elephants, flowers, and fun.


Clorox Buys Burt's Bees—The Juicy Backstory

“The magic of living life for me is, and always has been, the magic of living on the land, not in the magic of money.”—Burt Shavitz, co-founder of Burt's Bees

I've always wanted to know the story behind Burt's Bees, whose lip balms have been close companions of mine over many a dry and windy season.
It's been impossible not to notice the company's meteoric expansion over the past couple of years; whereas once the product was found mainly in health food stores and food coops, it now seems that kiosks and endcaps featuring Burt's Bees products are springing up everywhere, from large grocery store chains like Hannafords and Whole Foods to fancy cosmetics vendors in midtown Manhattan. All this has made me wonder who that bearded man on the Burt's Bees package really is and what lies behind the exponential growth of this brand. (Which, by the way, delivers an excellent product.) I've also wondered about the beekeeping practices utilized at Burt's Bees, which emphasizes the idea of "all-natural" in its branding strategy.

Beekeeping practices are not the main subject of the fascinating New York Times article about Burt's Bees that appeared this weekend, but in the article you will learn:

* That all the beeswax used in Burt's Bees products comes from Ethiopia;

* Plenty of (semi-)juicy gossip about the company's co-founders;

* Details of the rather amazing saga of the company's recent purchase by Clorox for a whopping $913 million;

* That Burt Shavitz lives (by choice) in a modestly renovated turkey coop;

* The range of sustainable practices undertaken by Burt's Bees;

* and much, much more.

The article provides an intriguing glimpse into the odd bedfellows coming into being as large corporations seek to "shack up" with green businesses that offer impressive bottom lines and, potentially, a green-hued halo effect for even the most eco-hostile corporation. Only time will tell if Clorox will make good on its promise to embrace some of Burt's Bees earth-friendly practices, or whether this is just another instance of bleaching the green out of Green.