On Seeds and "Human Error"

With fully three-quarters of crop biodiversity "extinctified" in the last 100 years through the infinite wisdom of you-know-who, humankind is hedging its bets with a Global Seed Vault near the arctic.

Buried deep in the permafrost (which global warming may ultimately render not-so-perma), with a bomb-proof entrance, the vault is a repository for crop seeds from all over the world, a kind of biological Plan B in case a natural disaster or "human error" (talk about euphemisms!) wipes out all the seeds on earth.

For more info, check out the New York Times slideshow, or read the article, or see Andrew Revkin's DotEarth blog.

1. Patterns of seeds..., 2. The Seeds of Our Bones, 3. Seeds of Change, 4. Seeds



1. Blasé, 2. popo akari, 3. Marge Simpson clones, 4. Seawood 2

Bee Shapes

1. Wild beehive sky, 2. Grave of Daniel Becker, 3. Erotic, 4. Six Edges and Six Vertices

Hats off to Julie at Eluvium for the how-to.


Honeyland Cartoon, 1935

Ever wonder what really goes on inside the hive?


Ode to a Plastic Bag


60 Minutes-What's Wrong With The Bees?


Hate Wolves?

Hate wolves? Well, then, you'll like this lady.
Her name is Lynn Scarlett. She's the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (whose mission is to "protect" our Nation's natural and cultural heritage), and according to Lynn, "WOLVES ARE BACK!"

Now, let's take out our handy-dandy Orwellian-Doublespeak-Translation Machine and see what Ms. Scarlett might mean by this seemingly jubilant statement.

What Ms. Scarlett means is that, with a little help from Bush&Co., gray wolves—one of the first species to win protection under the Endangered Species Act (having been hunted to the brink of extinction)—have just lost protection in the Eastern Rockies.

And what might that mean? Translation: The hunt is on.

Are we talking about a bit of minor culling from a swelling, healthy, truly established population of thousands? Not by a long shot, if you'll forgive the pun.

Here are the numbers, as reported in an article entitled, U.S. Ends Protections for Wolves in 3 States in today's New York Times.

From a base population of 66 wolves introduced into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in the mid-1990s, there are now nearly 1,300, with an additional 230 or so in Montana that have drifted down from Canada. State management plans allow for wolf hunting, or outright eradication in some places — including most of Wyoming — with a target population of 150 in each of the three states.

Let's just double-check the math on that one: 150 ("target population") x 3 (states) = 450, total target population of wolves. I think I also saw the phrase "outright eradication" in there somewhere, didn't I? Or are my crazy-environmentalist, New York Times-lovin' eyes deceiving me again? In Wyoming, wasn't it? (Wyoming...now let me see, that's Dick Cheney's state of residence isn't it? And Dick Cheney's kind of a hunting fan(atic), isn't he? There couldn't possibly be a connection here with mollifying the hunting lobby or gratifying old Dick's seemingly unquenchable bloodlust or anything like that, right?)

It does not take a rocket scientist (or even a degree is gene pool lifeguarding) to understand that no species can maintain adequate genetic diversity with populations of just a few hundred. (I'd like to see human beings try it for a refreshing change of pace.) Dispersed over vast areas, 450—or even 4,500—is a very small number of wolves.

A fiscally responsible individual such as myself can't help but wonder why we have been paying taxes for the past ten years to enable the re-establishment of this important predator only to wipe it out again. (But I forget sometimes that we are living in the Bush-Cheney era of senseless cruelty, wanton wastefulness, giddy idiocy and tragic irony.)

The only good news here is that a lawsuit is being planned by the Natural Resource Defense Council and many other good groups trying hard to hold what is left of our ecosystem together.

Please support this effort with a financial contribution or by signing on to this petition.

Read more about the wolves here and here and here.


Northeast Bat Die-Off Mirrors Honeybee Collapse

I was horrified and heartbroken to pick up a local paper in upstate New York this weekend reporting of a massive bat die-off suspiciously similar to the honeybee die-off we've been hearing so much of.

As always, "nobody knows why this is happening," and—as usual—we'll merrily continue ravaging, degrading, abusing, exploiting and dissing our ecosystem in a thousand different ways, inexorably transforming this beautiful earth into a lifeless biohazard without ever making the all-too-obvious connection between our actions and the disaster we're bringing down on bats, bees, and yep, ourselves. Learn more. And weep.



Bees in Advertising

Vintage. I grew up singing this jingle.

Also vintage. Completely bonkers. Directed by "Chad." Art Carney listed as narrator. Featuring a very wayward honeybee.


Thunderbird American Indian Dancers

My friend Eva treated me to an amazing evening of Native American dance at the Theater for the New City last night. Featured—and you still have time to experience this for yourself—was the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. (Both photos of the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers are by Jonathan Slaff; more can be seen here.)
The performance program spanned Turtle Island (a.k.a. North America), with drumming, storytelling, and exquisite dances from the native peoples of Alaska, the Northwest Coast, the Southwest, the Northeast, and the Great Plains.

Eva has written about the event and provided links to tickets and related information on her blog, InfiniteBody. If you miss the Thunderbird festivities this year, there's always next year; the event—which raises scholarship funds for Native American students—takes place annually.

For me, highlights of the evening included the Robin Dance (a celebration of spring), the bedazzling Hoop Dance (though safely seated, I almost tripped and fell just watching this amazing feat wherein the dancers appear to float, hop, fly and swim in and out of several hand-held hoops), and the Butterfly Dance, which expresses gratitude for the beautiful gifts nature provides.

Nice synchronicity, too, with elements of Gary Snyder's endlessly re-readable essay, Ecology, Literature, and the New World Disorder, which I happen to be re-reading at the moment.

In this magnificent essay from Back on the Fire (just out in paperback), Snyder writes of performance as "currency"—big picture currency, payback for all nature provides to us, a potential vehicle for paying our respects (as we so rarely do) for the abundant, all-encompassing gifts nature bestows upon us daily, nightly, always. Snyder writes:

"One time in Alaska a young woman asked me, 'If we have made such good use of animals, eating them, singing about them, drawing them, riding them, and dreaming about them, what do they get back from us?' An excellent question, directly on the point of etiquette and propriety, and from the animals' side. I told her, 'The Ainu say that the deer, salmon, and bear like our music and are fascinated by our languages. So we sing to the fish or the game, speak words to them, say grace. We do ceremonies and rituals. Performance is currency in the deep world's gift economy.' I went on to say I felt that nonhuman nature is basically well inclined toward humanity and only wishes modern people were more reciprocal, not so bloody. The animals are drawn to us, they see us as good musicians, and they think we have cute ears.

"The human contribution to the planetary ecology might be our entertaining craziness, our skills as musicians and performers, our awe-inspiring dignity as ritualists and solemn ceremonialists—because that is what seems to delight the watching wild world."

In reading this intriguing passage yesterday afternoon, I found myself charmed, but unconvinced by Snyder's thesis. After refreshing my understanding of "performance," "ritual," "good musicianship" and the ceremonial human-animal connect at the Thunderbird event last evening, I can better appreciate what Snyder was alluding to here. Native American culture is so exceedingly marginalized in New York City that is it easy to forget—or never know—how diverse, creatively potent, psychically fulfilling, and environmentally appropriate the art and culture of Turtle Island's indigenous cultures were and are. I'm grateful for the reminder, which—like all sorely needed reminders—comes at the perfect time.

By that I mean that with spring on the way, I'm giving a good deal of thought to the questions of "etiquette and propriety" in relation to the honeybees, seeking to help them thrive without harsh interventions, going beyond the mentality of "robbing the hive," and finding workable ways of serving the bees' interests and according them the respect they deserve.

Influences like Gary Snyder's writings and last night's offering of dance, story, and philosophy help greatly in this regard.


Honey Tasting!

Wren and I had the profound pleasure of hosting a honey-tasting event for our Brooklyn Beekeepers Meetup on Sunday.

Along with marvelous company from beekeepers and honeybee afficionados, the afternoon provided a sensory festival of textures and flavors for the palate, plus a spectrum of colors on which to feast the eye (we're talkin' serious eye candy here).The weather cooperated, too, sending personalized beams of sunshine to enrich the glorious visual effect of 20 or 30 different varieties from around the world. I've heard it said that bees harvest the sun, and one can't help but see the truth of this phrase when good light meets good honey.Participants brought honeys from the Nation of Brooklyn, Long Island, Connecticut, and down south—along with a global selection from: Nigeria, Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Spain, Italy, England, Australia, and Moldova. We tasted avocado honey, buckwheat honey, fireweed honey, acacia honey, early spring honeys, eucalyptus honey, Japanese knotweed honey, linden honey—and many others.Wren and I provided samplings of our Catskills honeycomb. Matthew made a wonderful treat: macadamian nuts soaked in honey. Our Meetup founder, John, generously provided some lovely mead. We paired the honeys rather freely with various cheeses, including gorgonzola and soft and hard goat cheeses. It was an intoxicating feast. Afterwards, a friend wrote that she felt she had "eaten the whole world today"—it did feel like that. Big fun!