I have been raising honeybees since 1987. Back then we lived in a duplex built out of the red brick first story of an old dairy barn; our landlord was on one end and we were on the other. It was a delightful house. He gave us garden space. He taught me how to raise honeybees. I have raised them almost every year ever since. This would have been the eighteenth year of keeping them since we moved here twenty years ago, but no more.
When we came here two decades ago none of our neighbours used spray on their crops. Starting five years ago that all changed. Over that time they gradually started spraying. Now their fields are sprayed with Round-Up at least three times a year: pre-emergence, post-emergence, and desiccation (killing the plant once the grain is mature, allowing consistency and earlier harvest). All of the wheat and canola and now soybeans (introduced two years ago here) are coated in Round-Up multiple times throughout the growing season. Additionally, any insect infestation is treated with insecticide, which might be applied multiple times depending on the degree of infestation.
I had never had any trouble with raising bees in the past. But starting five years ago I started noticing weaker and weaker hives going into the fall. Hives not surviving the winter became a problem. At the time I did not know what was happening. Last year I installed two new hives from New Zealand at a cost of $250 each, and I had one established hive that was very strong. Going into the summer each hive was thriving with strong queens and lots of eggs. By the end of the summer one of the new hives was almost totally devoid of bees, in spite of there still being eggs and a viable queen, and the other two were greatly weakened and I doubted if they would make it through the winter. They did not.
Now the surrounding crops have an insect infestation. Giant sprayers with incredibly long booms are dumping tons of insecticide on the fields in our region. Driving back from our mailbox the other day one was driving along a field next to the road. A cloud of spray was hanging there. I stopped. I waited. I rolled up the windows on my old 1990 F150 (hand cranked). And when the cloud dissipated I drove on. Suddenly my eyes started burning. My throat began burning. I held my breath and sped off to find fresher air. I say fresher air because I am sure that there is no place that is free of this poison at this time of year.
I would like to go to my neighbours and ask for $500 for the bees they killed, but that ain’t gonna happen.
So that’s the deal with the bees.
But it doesn’t end with bees.
Everything else is affected. Gravely affected.
Ever since we moved into this region forty years ago summer brings with it an onslaught of insects. Mosquitoes carry you away. Deer flies and horse flies drill into your skull with painful bites. Battalions of predatory dragon flies patrol for mosquitoes and black flies. And at night there are clouds of insects that gather around your farmyard light. But no more. This year we have had virtually no biting bugs, and insects are eerily absent from our yard light at night. Even the dragon fly numbers are down. Oh there are some but not nearly in the numbers there used to be.
And then what is really, really weird…in the past we had flocks of cedar waxwings descend on our haskap orchard…perhaps a couple hundred. This year? Perhaps a couple dozen. The waxwings are dead or at least dying.
It is truly a silent summer.
What do I think? I think that we have killed ourselves.
And for what?
But with blinders on, people rush forward lusting after their own devices.
I think that it is quite humorous to see who ‘follows’ this blog. There are very few people who follow simply because they are interested. Any variety of nut-jobs follow. And most of these have something to sell…material goods, opinions, encrusted and twisted bits of self-inflicting goofiness. People who are sorely out of touch with reality. People whose lives revolve around money and urban existence and their own notions. Do they even read what I write? Don’t they know, can’t they figure out, how different we are from one another? They obviously don’t want to change because if they did they’d stop writing their drivel and asking me to enter their fantasy world. False selves. For me, my bees are dead and I am (we all are) awash in poison. We have a half mile barrier between our own food/what we supply to the poor and the corporate kings’ killing of the planet. This is a lot better than what you will find on the shelves of your grocery stores, which unless it is organic, is riddled with poison; and even if it is organic it is full of chemicals since these are now ubiquitous throughout the world. (And incidentally, even my own farm neighbours do not eat their own grain because of the chemical content. Their hypocrisy cracks me up! LOL!!!)
So in the end it all boils down to money. If you buy food in the store you are badly screwed and you don’t even know it, fed a line by a food chain that is driven for profit by those who own it, all the way right down to the folks who work in the fields, because everyone wants to go on vacation to the Caribbean, or own a house, or drive a car, or be supposedly independent in some iconic notion of a democracy which does not exist.
I really wish that the nut cases would stop flashing their blogging-bling at me. It is a prime example of how divorced we are from what’s right in front of our faces. I write about the immediacy of God, people come back with notion; nature is melting all around me, people go to the store an buy their Pringles and soda pop. Thomas Merton wrote that there is no greater tragedy in life than to be lost in unreality. I took that as a psychological mandate back in the 90’s when I went on for my doctorate with training in Object Relations psychotherapy. I take it as a naturalist’s mandate now – we are headed into a biological meltdown and I see it, I touch it, I feel it, I taste it. And no one else cares. Not really. Not enough to forsake their enculturated prejudices and striving after money. Not enough to in humility surrender control over their lives (to God?) and seek to build genuine, engaged, healthy community. That would require humility; a humble stand on the earth in the face of all of this overwhelming psychosis of opinions and destruction.
Over the past several days several people have come to pick berries from our chemical-free haskap orchard. All on their own they have raised these concerns, noticed the same things we have, wondered at the free bounty in front of them, thanked us for our personalist approach to building a genuine community here, and hauled away buckets of free fruit. But all around us is death.
Here’s a link to a recent 60 Minutes piece that unveils the rate at which permafrost is melting in Siberia. It’s scary, very, very scary. Greenhouse gases being released from this process currently outstrip the trillions of tons of fossil fuels that have been burned in the past 100 years. We’re screwed.
We go out to the field today because we have a clear-eyed view of what it means to actually do something in the face of this reality. We do not live in an urbanite dream-scape. Our whole lives we have been gearing up for this.
A brother asked his teacher, Is a person who works for money able to believe in the promises of God? And the Abba answered, No, for if they believed then why would they work to acquire and accumulate themselves? The person who seeks money is divided in their mind concerning God, they work to prepare pleasures for themselves before God gives them to them. They make God’s word to be a lie by their own efforts.True indeed is the word of the Lord when he said, It is as difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven as it is for a camel to go through the hole of a needle. It is impossible to posses both God and money.
– The Paradise Of The Holy Fathers, Wallis Budge, (tr.)